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Steelheart (The Reckoners) Hardcover – September 24, 2013
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The Amazon Book Review
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Q&A with Brandon Sanderson (Interviewed by James Dashner)
Q. Brandon, you’re perhaps best known for your adult books—Mistborn, The Way of Kings, and particularly for finishing Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series. However, recently you’ve undertaken several projects for younger readers. Why is that? How does it feel to be entering into the world of YA fiction? How does it differ from writing for an adult audience? How do you possibly think you can compete with your friend, James Dashner?
A. I've known this guy James Dashner for so long, and he was such an inspiration to me, and I thought, if this joker can do it, then I can too! The sci-fi/fantasy genre is what made a reader out of me, and it has a long history of crossing the line between YA and adult fiction. For example, you mentioned The Wheel of Time. In the early books, the main protagonists are all teenagers. Are these books YA? The publishers don't classify them that way. They’re shelved with the adult fantasy books. Books like that have influenced me in that some of the stories I tell fit into the mold that society says will package well as YA books. Other stories I tell—that are a thousand pages long—don’t seem to fit that mold. But I don’t sit down and say, “I’m writing for a teen audience now. I need to change my entire style.” Instead, I say, “This project and the way I’m writing it feels like it would work well for a teen audience.”
Q. In previous interviews, you’ve mentioned that you come up with characters, worlds, and magic systems independently and then fit them together to create a book. How is that different when writing a YA book like Steelheart? Are certain worlds or magic systems more suitable for YA readers? And how in the world did you get so smart?
A. Ha! I do a lot of talking about the process of writing. That makes it sound like I’m doing it more consciously than I am, but at this point I do most of it by instinct. I do take things like characters, settings, and magic systems—all these little fragments and pieces—and put them together into stories. Whether I’m writing YA or adult, this process doesn’t vary. Some of these elements feel better suited for a teen audience, so when everything starts coming together as it does when a book is forming for me, some stories naturally gravitate toward YA. To me Steelheart is distinctive because it was one of those stories where all the elements came together at the same time. Once I got the idea—people gaining super powers but only evil people getting them—the story basically started to write itself in my head. It happened during a four-hour drive along the East Coast, where by the end of it, I basically had this entire story. I knew where it was going, and I was really excited to write it. That's rare for me, but sometimes it does happen where everything clicks right at the beginning.
Q. Can you give us a sense of the world in which Steelheart takes place? Why do you think this world worked well for these particular characters?
A. Technically, Steelheart is set in a post-apocalyptic world where super villains gained powers and took over. I wanted it to feel alien and familiar at the same time and to be very visual. So I wrote it to be kind of like an action movie in book form. One of my catchphrases that I use when talking about writing is ”Err on the side of awesomeness.” So I wanted the setting and feel of the book to be visually distinctive and awesome.
When I designed Steelheart, the emperor of Chicago, I wanted him to have the power of transmutation—he turns things into steel. The idea that, in a burst of power, he turned the entire city—and even part of the lake—into steel was fascinating to me. This renders a lot of things useless. When your streetlights and all their wiring have been turned into steel, everything short circuits and doesn’t work anymore. You can’t get into buildings because their doors and windows have been melded together. The whole city has become a shell—like the husk of a dead beetle—and people have built on top of it. It’s always perpetual twilight there, so we’ve got this cool feel of everything being steel at night.
From School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-This fun, fast-paced, futuristic science-fiction superhero story is the first in a projected series. When David was six, an unexplained explosion in the sky caused perpetual darkness and ordinary people to gain supernatural powers. These people became known as Epics. Two years later, in a bank in what was once Chicago, now called Newcago, David witnessed Steelheart, one of the most powerful Epics of all, murder his father. In the 10 years since his father's death, David has made it his mission to learn all he can about Epics. Everyone thinks they are invincible, but he knows otherwise. He knows that each one has a weakness, and he's seen Steelheart's. Steelheart can bleed. David intends to get his revenge. A cowed populace accepts the fact that Epics control their lives and the strongest among them are in a constant battle for dominance. Only one shadowy group of ordinary humans called the Reckoners dare fight to eliminate them. David persuades the Reckoners to let him join their ranks after proving he has unique knowledge about Epics. This enjoyable read focuses more on action than character development and is perfect for genre fans who love exciting adventure stories with surprising plot twists. Readers will be rooting for David, a super geek with a love of weapons, who can hold his own against Epics with names like Nightwielder, Conflux, or Firefight.-Sharon Rawlins, New Jersey State Library,Trentonα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Top customer reviews
OK, so yes this book is heavy on action, but not in an annoying or overwhelming way. It's intense, but not too intense. It's actually a really fun read. I had a hard time putting it down. And it has some great language.
So great characters, good worldbuilding. The world could have been a bit more explained, but at the same time, the main character didn't know why it was like that, just that it was, so it lends credibility for the reader to not know either.
I really love how this book takes all superhero tropes and COMPLETELY turns them UPSIDE DOWN. You go in expecting one thing and it's something completely different.
One thing I really loved about David the main character was his competence. He is just a perfectly ordinary guy, but he has devoted his life to studying epics and so he knows things. He is not the typical Oh Woe Is Me, how'd I get caught up in this mess character. He put himself in this mess and he GETS THINGS DONE! He's great and I didn't realize incompetence in a main character annoyed me, until I read this book and saw how great it was to have such a good at his job main character.
Anyway, the plot was also great. Everything about this book was great. I loved how all the unnecessary parts were cut. This book was just so tight. Like the editing and construction of this book were perfect.
And the ending was AH-MAZ-ING. I loved the ending. All the little questions were answered/explained.
In short, read this book. It's awesome. I'm so glad my mediocre book streak was broken. This book is great. I can't wait for the sequel. Brandon Sanderson, you are my hero, lol.
One of the most immediate aspects of Steelheart that will draw the reader into its mythology is the striking manner in which Sanderson portrays the book’s hellish world. The United States is no more; the dawning of the superpowered entities known as Epics has fractured the nation into various individual city-states that are all at the mercy of the Epic warlords, who are each vying for power over their brethren and their territory. The book itself takes place in Chicago, now redubbed Newcago due to the drastic changes it has endured under the control of Steelheart, the most powerful Epic in North America. Nearly every structure and surface has been converted into pure metal, and the entire city is cloaked in eternal night due to Nightwielder, another Epic under the service of Steelheart. Add the claustrophobia of the less fortunate Newcago dwellers living in the filthy underground tunnels and you have a chilling atmosphere that provides the book with a distinct sense of place that significantly adds to the book’s overall gravitas. It’s an astonishingly well-realized low-fantasy setting that isn’t satisfied with belonging to one genre. The technology within Sanderson’s world is so fantastical that it feels less like something from a science-fiction novel and resonates more like an amalgam of the two genres. It’s a compelling world that the reader will want to explore despite it being completely inhospitable and uninviting. The only downside to the world-building is that the dystopia aspects don’t come full-circle, or at least to the extent that I feel Sanderson wanted them to. We’re provided details about how horrific life is living under the rule of the Epics and their mandatory government protocols for handpicking humanity’s brightest to further expand their government and military police force, yet it doesn’t go far enough in conveying these themes, nor does it elaborate upon the actual process itself. A character early in the book with relations to the protagonist is introduced and then immediately dropped for the remainder of the story. His perspective would have been quintessential in further elaborating the harshness of Steelheart’s twisted dystopian setting, yet in the end it feels underutilized. It’s a blemish in an otherwise superb example of fictional world-building.
Sanderson has written incredible protagonists in the past and Steelheart is no exception. The character David is comprised of a strong dichotomy that gives the book its heart in a couple of different ways. On one hand, you have a boy demanding the blood of Steelheart, which gives this revenge story a great deal of believability due to the amount of emotion conveyed and the book’s tragic prologue. Than on the other hand, he’s a lovably dorky kid who’s constantly making bad puns and trying to attract beautiful girls while failing miserably. This isn’t a detriment, rather it helps instill a sense of fun into the prose; and more importantly, a sense of humanity in the face of adversaries who seemingly have none or have abandoned theirs entirely. He’s a great character that manages to balance the lighter comic relief moments with the book’s darker undertones of revenge and civil unrest. Readers will find it easy to cheer for him from beginning to end.
The supporting cast is solid but nothing spectacular. One character in particular felt more like a caricature for certain European stereotypes. However, like Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy, the strength of his characters through the manner in which they interact within the larger group rather than through their individual character traits. The banter between the characters is excellent and after a while the reader begins to feel like one of the merry band. Special notice must be given to the relationship between David and Megan. One might initially write the relationship between these two as a generic romance, yet I found that their love/hate relationship developed in a believable manner as the book progressed, quickly becoming one of the book’s highlights for me.
Sanderson truly has a talent for illustrating some of the most elaborate and cinematic action scenes ever put into a fantasy novel or any genre. Like his Mistborn trilogy, a large reason why his action scenes are so impressive is due to the amount of depth he provides for how magic powers function in his world and their role within the larger mythology. Everything has a place in Sanderson’s work and it’s always galvanizing to see how each individual power or ability fits into the larger picture.
By now you’ve noticed that I’ve compared Steelheart to Sanderson’s previous Mistborn trilogy quite an awful lot, there’s a reason for that. As much as I love Steelheart and believe it to be an excellent addition to Sanderson’s repertoire, it does share quite a few substantial similarities to his Mistborn trilogy to the point that I feel it needs to mentioned. Both series have humanity enslaved by a higher race with supernatural abilities all under the control of a central leader who fancies himself a god. Anyone who’s read Mistborn will understand what I’m getting at. Seeing as how Sanderson thought of the premise for Steelheart during a long car ride, it’s easy to imagine how some of his previous works may have influenced his newer ideas. There’s nothing wrong with this, yet it does provide a bit of deja vu for fans of his work since the overall story outline is quite familiar.
Steelheart is an excellent book that combines various different genres with action, believable drama and excellent characterization into one incredible narrative. The book does suffer from possessing a strong similarity to Sanderson’s past work, yet it doesn’t prevent its own unique merits from shining though. Any fan of fantasy, science-fiction or comics should pick this up, there’s a lot to like.
I inhaled this book in just a few days. Sanderson moves the plot along at a blistering pace. Although there's enough lull in the action that you do get some time to spend getting to know the characters, I almost wish he would have slowed down just a little bit, although Steelheart is part of a planned series, so we'll get another chance to interact with the world he's created, thank goodness. As other reviewers have mentioned, the book is written very much like an action movie (the acknowledgments at the end of the book imply that they're trying to turn it into an actual film too), which makes it easy to visualize the different scenes that Sanderson sets up. However, this also led to one of the major plot points being a tad predictable, although that's just a minor issue. The rest of the book was plenty of interesting twists to keep you on your toes.
All in all, Steelheart was a great read. I know Sanderson is able to write at a prodigious pace--he just published The Rithmatist last May and has another book due out this spring--it's just a shame we have to wait until next fall for the next Reckoners book! I'll definitely be checking out the Mistborn trilogy until then though.
Most recent customer reviews
Steelheart is a backwards superhero book. Instead of the good guys having powers and stopping petty thieves before some super villain comes along, in...Read more