Fiction Reviews


Calamity

(2016) Brandon Sanderson, Gollancz, £16.99, hrdbk, 421pp, ISBN 978-0575-10466-2

 

This is the third and final book in the Reckoners series, which started with Steelheart and continued with Firefight, and once more the author tells a good story. There is also a novella, Mitosis, which takes place between the first two books but which does not advance the story line (it just adds a little more action). The series is set in contemporary times, maybe just a few years hence.

In the first volume we learnt that Calamity, apparently a bright red star, suddenly appeared in the sky and a year or so later a few people started to develop special powers. These people became known as Epics and took to giving themselves fancy names. Some had great powers such as being invulnerable or able to fly (High Epics), others had minor powers such being able to run faster than normal (Minor Epics); some had one power, some had several powers; each had their own weakness which, if discovered and exploited (often with great difficulty), could bring about their downfall. It became obvious that there was a dark side to the powers and all Epics soon became cruel and heartless, destroying and killing at the slightest whim. Their impact was to bring down governments and destroy societies as we know them, though some cities survived, and with some sort of social structure, as the Epics needed people to serve them (after all, someone has to grow the food).

We met teenager David Charleston in Chicago, renamed Newcago after Steelheart turned it entirely to steel. David was determined to kill Steelheart and avenge his father which he achieved by joining the Reckoners, the only people fighting back against the Epics. By the end of the book we learnt that their leader Jonathan Phaedrus, often known as the Prof, was in fact a High Epic but had managed to remain good by rarely using his powers and by gifting them in small quantities to the other Reckoners (albeit disguised as technology).

In the second volume the action moved to New York, or Babylon Restored as it became known after Regalia took control and flooded its streets. It transpired that Regalia had lured them there so that she could push the Prof into seriously using his powers and turning evil, in which she succeeded. She also revealed that Calamity is, in fact, an Epic and, furthermore, gave powers to David Charleston; however, in facing his deepest fears at the same moment he managed to negate them and remain one of the good guys. Less certain, though, was Megan, Davidís girlfriend and a Reckoner, who had been revealed earlier as being Firefight. She too found that, having faced her deepest fears in order to save David, she could fight the darkness and maintain control.

As Calamity opens, the Prof has become known as Limelight and has destroyed most of the Reckoner cells but David and his few remaining colleagues are determined to save him and to bring down Calamity. Following his footsteps, they travel to Ildithia, once the city of Atlanta. Ildithia slowly moves through the countryside, creating itself out of salt; as the leading edge arrives the salt appears from the ground and grows into parts of the city until, about ten days later, the trailing edge passes and the salt collapses. Meanwhile, the city is the duplicate of its original, complete with buildings with stairs and walls and doors (though being made of salt they are useless) as well as trees and motor cars (again, useless). People live in the city but they have to move often as the buildings come and go. Limelightís intention is to usurp the cityís current ruler, Larcener (whose powers include being able to absorb those of others). Larcener, surprisingly, turns to the Reckoners for protection. As they ready to battle Limelight, Obliteration drops by and promises David that, should he win, he will take him to Calamity and the 'final showdown'.

As with the previous volumes, this book is about the battles and the preparations for them, but it never gets boring. It is again told in the first person by David Charleston and his somewhat bumbling use of metaphors, amongst other things, helps keep the story light and humorous. It is not necessary to have read the previous stories in order to enjoy this one as all you need to know is slipped in via Davidís recollections.

When I read Steelheart I enjoyed it but feared that it was the beginning of an endless series of similar stories - meet a new Epic and bring him down - and that we could find ourselves with Reckoners 47 (and still going Ö ). Far from it. The three volumes tell a complete story and it finishes with a good ending.

Sanderson has remained inventive throughout and new ideas keep popping up. He has clearly enjoyed himself creating 'super powers' and figuring out how they might be used, as well as how they may be overcome. This book, indeed the whole series, has been most entertaining and maintained a consistent style and feeling. Throughout, these stories have been simply the action-packed adventures of David Charleston as he grows from a teenager into a man; they have not been deep but they have been page-turning fun.

Peter Tyers


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