Steelheart is a 2013 novel by noted fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson. It is also the first book in The Reckoners Trilogy. The ISBN is 057510399X and the book was published by Gollancz on 26 Sept 2013. I purchased this novel.
BEWARE OF SLIGHT SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW SO READ THE BOOK BEFORE YOU READ MY REVIEW.
Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills.
Nobody fights the Epics... nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.
And David wants in. He wants Steelheart - the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David's father. For years, like the Reckoners, David's been studying, and planning - and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.
He's seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.
WHY I BOUGHT IT
I bought this on the back of the incredible Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson which lead me to believe that maybe this guy was a decent writer. That series was an excellent adventure epic with a magic system that you just have to experience to understand how creative and interesting it is. Seriously. There was even some talk of a video game adaption though I’m not sure where that is at the moment. I have also read Legion which was ok and the follow up to the Mistborn series which I hope he continues soon.
WHAT I THOUGHT
This book essentially takes a common nerd “What If” and makes it into a gloriously fleshed out thesis. That premise is what happens if Superman went bad essentially a god on earth unable to oppose. Of course if you have ever seen a Superman movie you might wonder how much more damage he could do after destroying half of downtown Metropolis but this book gives you an idea of that.
In this world those with super powers are referred to as Epics, very catchy if you ask me the important thing to remember is that if you are an Epic and you “use” your powers they corrupt you and slowly make you a worse version of yourself. Steelheart of the title is the ruler of Newcago (formerly Chicago before he took over) and is seemingly completely invulnerable having killed or subjugated anyone and everyone who has tried to take him on in the decade or so he has been in control.
Something about Epics that is not necessarily well known is that all Epics have a weakness, yeah like Superman and Kryptonite but some of them are so weird as to be completely unguessable but it completely disables their powers rendering the high level Epics killable when usually they’re pretty much invincible.
We learn that with the emergence of Epics the United States crumbled, it would seem that much the same thing would happen across the world but in the first novel we don’t find out anything conclusive on that front.
The idea of power corrupting people is not a new one and it was one that made me thing, I love comics and I pretty much know that if I woke up one day with some non-lame powers I would quickly probably think I was godlike and do some things I shouldn’t (after thinking up a name and a costume of course).
There is also a movement in that world of people who think that eventually there will be an Epic who isn’t corrupt one who will save the normal people from the brutality of the Epics.
The Reckoners are an almost mythical group of regular people who have killed a number of Epics around the US (possibly Canada?). They are a hidden network of agents who through research and observation find the weaknesses of Epics and then kill them though they tend to stick to Epics who are far from the best of the best.
The Reckoners are an interesting bunch, eccentric you could say but they are all driven but one of the things you come to learn about them by the end of the novel is the secrets built on secrets at the core of the team. You get the idea that this isn’t something that can go on indefinitely especially given what happens at the end of the book.
David lost his father and his innocence to Steelheart when he emerged shortly after the event known as Calamity. Steelheart killed his father after a crazy series of events lead to Steelheart being shown to bleed which seemingly hasn’t happened since. Since then David has obsessively collected information on Epics on their powers, habits, weaknesses and such which is part of his greater drive to somehow kill Steelheart and get revenge for his father.
David is an intriguing character totally focused on revenge to the exclusion of everything else you can quickly tell how socially awkward he is and the fact that he is a loner with seemingly one real friend at the beginning of the book also he has had to grow up pretty fast and though a teenager he is in a lot of ways a lot older. He also has a healthy respect for guns not in an action hero but as someone who respects the danger they represent and strives to know as much about them as possible.
One of the most interesting things about this book is the fact that it is interesting, we all know where it is going and while we don’t know if David will be successful given how powerful Steelheart is we tend to think that whether it be in this book or in later instalments we think that he will kill Steelheart even though we know the trajectory of the plot there are still more than enough subtle plot points and one or two surprises that you don’t see coming that make you glad you read through it, David is adorably awkward any time he isn’t talking directly about dealing with Epics or his research you can see the price he has paid for his obsession and it makes at least me respect him for those sacrifices.
There is so much more to the book but you know that because you have read it I hope, still to others who are fans of superhero comics and want to see a whole other take on all things cape and spandex then grab the first two books of The Reckoners Trilogy and then wait around in a small dark room until the final book Calamity is released.