“Steelheart” by Brandon Sanderson

“Steelheart” by Brandon SandersonSteelheart by Brandon Sanderson
Series: Reckoners #1
Published: 2013 by Random House
Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 386
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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Steelheart is set in a world where superpowers are real.  People with superpowers are known as Epics, and nobody’s quite sure how they were created.  Some people think that the Epics were a product of scientific experimentation.  Others think of them as magic.  Either way, their arrival coincided with a strange new light appearing in the sky.

This world is inspired by comic books, but with one major difference.  The Epics are all villains.

I know, better than anyone else, that there are no heroes coming to save us.  There are no good Epics.  None of them protect us.  Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

The protagonist, David, was a child as the Epics struggled for power on Earth.  His father was killed by an epic named Steelheart, who has since ruled Newcago (the remains of Chicago).  David has dedicated his life to revenge, and made it his mission to join an underground group called the Reckoners.  The Reckoners dedicate their lives to taking down Epics, and David won’t rest until Steelheart is dead.

And yet, there’s the moral question of what it means to kill him.  Steelheart’s a bit different from the other Epics, which means that Newcago is the only city that has a decent infrastructure.  There’s electricity, sewage, and jobs.  And yet, Steelheart can and does kill people on a whim.  He’ll knock down an office building with people inside it just for kicks.  There’s no question that he’s evil, but his death will mean hardship for all of the people who live in Newcago and benefit from the relative sense of stability that Steelheart provides.  As the head of the Reckoners explains:

I need to warn you of something, however.  There aren’t any answers to be found.  There are no good choices.  Submissiveness to a tyrant or chaos and suffering.  In the end I chose the second, though it flays my soul to do so.  If we don’t fight, humankind is finished.  We slowly become sheep to the Epics, slaves and servants–stagnant.

And of course, it doesn’t help that nobody knows Steelheart’s weakness.  Each Epic has at least one weakness, and the Epics try to keep those weaknesses secret.  On the day that his father was murdered, David became the only person left alive who had seen Steelheart bleed.  The Reckoners must use everything they’ve got to try to figure out his weakness, otherwise marching into combat against him is suicide.

When I went to Sanderson’s book signing for Words of Radiance, he mentioned that the next book in the series is in the works.  I can’t wait.

As usual, Brandon Sanderson does not disappoint.  Steelheart features a scientific rule-based system of magic, complex ethical choices, and epic motorcycle battles.  I highly recommend it.


2 thoughts on ““Steelheart” by Brandon Sanderson

  1. I just read both Stormlight Books, and the man friggin’ blows my mind. I liked Steelheart a lot. One of the more unique Superheroey tales I have read. I like how you focused on the ethical implications, because it was one of my favorite aspects of the book.

    1. I loved that there were no right answers and that the characters just had to make the best of an awful situation. Sanderson is hands down the best modern sf/f writer.

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