Saturday, October 29, 2016

Book Recommendation: Steelheart

Summary: How far would you go for revenge if someone killed your father?

If someone destroyed your city?

If everything you ever loved was taken from you?

David Charleston will go to any lengths to stop Steelheart. But to exact revenge in Steelheart’s world, David will need the Reckoners—a shadowy group of rebels bent on maintaining justice. 

And it turns out that the Reckoners might just need David too.

Recently, I've been getting more and more into the superhero genre. It's fun to think about people with awesome skills or superpowers--and often, the narrative of a vigilante with a hidden identity raises interesting moral questions. The superhero genre, when handled right, contains a wealth of storytelling possibilities. This book--and its sequels--explores one of the lesser-seen possibilities, and boy is it enthralling.

The premise of Steelheart is that at some point twelve or so years in the past, a weird astronomical event called Calamity occurred--and people all over the world started gaining superpowers, bending and breaking the laws of physics. And then all of these superpowered people (called "Epics") decided that what they really wanted to do with these powers was take as much power as they could for themselves, and subjugate anyone too weak to fight back.

That's the setup for the novel's main story. This certainly isn't the first book to feature a story where people with superpowers go bad instead of good and try to take over the world. But this book takes the idea further than most. In a sense, this is an anti-superhero story: here, the people with powers are the villains, the monsters, the evil ones. The only heroes here are the ordinary people with the courage and cunning to fight back.

In fact, the more I think about it, this story is the antithesis to stories like X-Men, where people with powers are oppressed solely because they have powers. In this story, author Brandon Sanderson takes the idea of "superpowers" to its logical extreme. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. If ordinary people really did start gaining superpowers out of nowhere, who's to say they wouldn't all become tyrants?

Of course, the sequels muddy this philosophical bent quite a bit. But the books still have a very interesting and thus far underused premise. In addition, the characters are all sympathetic and complex, and the plotting of the books is a thing to behold. Seriously, Brandon Sanderson has a knack for weaving an action-packed mystery and revealing a plot twist at the very end that changes everything. He's also good at coming up with intriguing settings; each book takes place in a different city that's been transformed since the coming of the Epics. Each place is unique and drives the action in its own way.

In short, the Reckoners Trilogy--of which Steelheart is the first book--is an amazing series, and I'm glad I had the chance to read it. I would highly recommend it to others looking for a short series to get into, especially if superheroes are your thing.

I give Steelheart four stars out of five (though the Reckoners Trilogy as a whole is more of a 4.5/5).

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