Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

June 4th, 2013 by Brian Leave a reply »


No, seriously. Wow.

To call Steelheart epic would be a horrible pun and I will resist the temptation to call it that, but it’s an accurate description.

I am an avid fan of sci-fi action stories and yet I have hesitated in picking up the latest spec fic greatness because I’ve been burned out by the genre – more specifically, the overpopulating of the market with Hunger Games/Divergent/Uglies clones. The farther you go down the line of clones, the more the DNA of a good story starts to degrade.

That may not be the most powerful metaphor, but confusing metaphors is one of my new favorite character flaws thanks to David, the protagonist of Steelheart. He’s a standout hero by not being a standout hero. Part of the mystery is David’s background, so I won’t go into much detail. (I realized this as I was typing. There’s a big paragraph that I just erased; now you’ll have to read the book and I can geek out at/with you about how David wasn’t a predictable protagonist.)

We have a dystopia, but instead of a crazy government run by Donald Sutherland, it’s a tyranny of what would happen if Superman was a jerk. The guy can fly, punch through a wall, and shoot lasers out of his eyes. His eyes, people! Why do we trust him? He could turn and enslave us without thinking twice. That’s what the Epic Steelheart has done.

Steelheart is similar to Superman, although he shoots energy out of his hands. Very different. There are a ton of references to comic history throughout the beginning of the book; I appreciated streets named after comic creators and buildings named after people who have portrayed supers on the big screen. The fact that Steelheart can turn things to steel – making him a Man of Steel (wokka wokka) – is no coincidence. The fact that fashion has looped all the way back to a 1940s/50s style adds to the homage.

Don’t be fooled by the references to the comic Golden Age, though. The tone is dark, the opening scene being especially haunting. The characters have depth. At first I tried to stereotype them. (“Oh, this guy’s like Roadblock from G.I.Joe or Gambit from X-Men.”) The characters, while reminiscent of other memorable characters, have their own wants, conflicts, and quirks.

The action is extremely well-paced. The backstory of Newcago and its inhabitants is revealed right alongside the human effort to survive in a superhuman dictatorship. There are high speed chases of helicopters versus motorcycles (what I liked about Yancey’s Alfred Kropp) and yet the action is human enough that I felt emotion at the end of the scene, hoping that the characters would be okay.

This one’s going to be huge when it comes out in September. I’m so glad that I read it despite having passed over it a few times in my queue. Brandon Sanderson has talent and it makes sense since he’s the author that was chosen to finish Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time…epic.


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