(2013) Brandon Sanderson, Gollancz, £20.00, hrdbk, 352pp, ISBN 978-0-575-10385-6
There is a city on the cover of this book, one which mixes the future and the past – futuristic shapes combining with ancient clock towers, but there is also rubble too, and wreckage and in their midst – in the mist, in fact, stands a powerful figure, striking a familiar pose. Legs slightly apart, hands on hips, cape billowing in the wind behind him. This could be Superman, or Captain Marvel, but it is in reality 'Steelheart', the Epic who rules the city that used to be Chicago and is now called Newcago. He is invincible, but someone wants him dead in order to avenge the death of their father.
Ten years ago, something burst across the sky and they called it Calamity and it brought calamity with it, having the power to grant powers to ordinary men and woman and make superhuman, turn them into Epics, who fought each other and then enslaved the world, but among the downtrodden are the shadowy, Reckoners who study the Epics to find their weakness and then they kill them. Now David has joined their ranks, with one thing in his mind, and his heart, to kill Steelheart and he knows he can be killed because ten years ago when he was eight, he saw Steelheart kill his father but he also saw the superhuman bleed.
Yep, from the writing machine that is Brandon Sanderson (author of the Mistborn trilogy, among other things) comes the start of an 'epic' young adult series. Comes a book that turns the idea of the superhero on its head. Superheroes have been around just about forever. It won’t be long until Batman and Superman hit their hundred years mark, and there are other, older heroes that pre-date them like Tarzan and Zorro, and while comic writers like Mark Millar have subverted the hero tradition by turning them into villains, or in the brilliant 'Kingdom Come' series, the Earth and its occupants are virtually just collateral damage in the on-going rampage between super-powered heroes and villains, it has not really been done before in books, although other opinions are available, but I’ve certainly read books by Carrie Vaughn and Adam Christopher where the emphasis is on the hero, or heroes and the villains they face.
Told in the first person (and therefore the reader is on a voyage of discovery along with the main character, gaining information on a need-to-know basis), interesting main characters, some sub-plots that come to fruition (some you won’t see coming, and maybe the odd one you will), fast-paced with several cliff-hanger moments, a dash of romance, lashings of violence, a dose of humour and some corny dialogue that would not have been out of place in the 1960s Adam West TV version of Batman, Steelheart is a whole lot of fun, and not just for young adults, I am already looking forward to Firefight, the next book in the series.
See also Peter's review of Steelheart the trade paperback.
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