Review — Steelheart

Brandon Sanderson’s Steelheart is the first of a trilogy, the Reckoners Series. The last of which, Calamity, was published just last month. I don’t like recommending series to people until I’ve finished their entirety, because I don’t want to indirectly disappoint them if it doesn’t end well.

One thing that I’m starting to realize, though, is that established authors know how to write series of books. Books are generally much different from movies as book series are often planned before the first book is written, whereas movie sequels only start production if the first does well. Expecting a book sequel to be as bad as an unplanned movie sequel is a little unfair to the author.

So it would probably come as no surprise when I say Calamity ended the trilogy pretty much exactly how I would have wanted. So I feel safe in talking about the first book, Steelheart.

The premise for the series is that a red star appeared in the sky one day and some time later people started gaining superpowers: flight, regeneration, invisibility. That sort of thing. There’s just one problem.

Everybody that gains superpowers is evil. I’m not saying only bad people got superpowers, I’m saying after it happens, everybody that does have powers is evil, because power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

I’m under the impression that if this happened in the real world it would turn out much the same way. I’m under no illusions that if I could turn invisible, I would (probably) abuse that power. I certainly wouldn’t become a superhero and fight other people that could stand up against me. That’d be like the easiest way to get myself killed. So in the series it makes sense when there are no superheroes.

So the main character, David, wants to join a crew called The Reckoners, a team of normal people whose goal is to instill hope into the people by killing the Epics (thats what people with superpowers are called). Since in this society the Epics are literally above the law, even the police are on their side and even defending yourself could get you killed. But the Reckoners are trying to give hope to the people by showing they can be fought. So David wants to join them because he wants revenge and has a secret that would get him killed if people knew about it.

This book reads basically like a comic book that isn’t one. It has a lot of action, is set in a sci-fi world, and has a lot of fun characters. My favorite thing about the protagonist is that one of his quirks is the fact that he can’t think of good metaphors to save his life. (One of my favorites is when he compared a friend of his to a potato in a minefield). I would actually argue that all of the metaphors he comes up with are very clever, if a little unconventional. The main character is also a nerd that has his obsessions structured in a very organized matter and it warms a little piece of my soul to see it happen. (I like numbers, ranking systems, and categories to explain complex systems. Go organization!)

One of the reasons I would recommend Steelheart to somebody that doesn’t know Brandon Sanderson is because the series isn’t part of the Cosmere, the universe of half a dozen book series that are all culminating together. It isn’t as though the other book series can’t be read as stand-alone books, there are actually two reasons. One, the Reckoners series is done, which is something that can’t be said for basically any of his other series. Two, jumping into one series of the Cosmere will make you want to read the others, and unless you’ve got plenty of other things to tie you over, I wouldn’t want you to be like me and begin six other book series that are not even close to finishing. So, just to be safe, read Steelheart first. Its a great series to get Sanderson’s writing into your repertoire and get your feet wet without jumping into a pool too deep.

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