Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
"Steelheart, Steelheart, does whatever a Steelheart can... look out here comes the Steelheart! - That's just not working as a jingle"
What a breath of fresh air this novel is. I can't tell you how tiring it is to read/watch superheroes with their special powers, idealised by millions for their abilities and cocky attitudes. Move over Marvel and DC, it's time for the people to take control. In Steelheart it's a role reversal for those 'gifted' individuals, they are hated! This isn't Marvel or DC where the heroes win the day. The heroes are tyrants and prey on humanity. Very dark, very grimdark for a superhero jaunt. Lovely stuff!
Where have these gifted individuals come from? Well no one truly knows. Some say a meteorite caused normal human beings to become empowered with special abilities. Others suggest that governments have been dabbling with creating 'super soldiers' (mutation, nano technology, creating a extra chromosome etc) for many generations and finally lost control of their subjects. Whatever happened, sections of society have become the property of these so called 'Epics' - countries and states have been annexed and are now under the control of one or several Epics.
Newcago (formerly Chicago - cunning that) is now under the control of Steelheart (what a bastard he is!), a super Epic who has the same abilities as Superman, but with one difference, he can change any inanimate object to steel. That's exactly what has happened to Newcago, it's now a city of steel. His powers won't work on living objects, lucky really. Under his command are hundreds of other Epics, including; Conflux, Nightwielder and Bigpantsman - ok made that last one up. Some have rather interesting abilities, as well as weaknesses - I won't spoil them for you.
The Reckoners are humanities answer to the Epics, they fight and kill them to rid themselves of their blight. Technology and science combine to conflict those maniacal beings. Prof[essor] is the leader of the resistance group - "alright son" - Cody is a confused American from deep south, who seems to think he is Scottish - "hey there lass" - Megan is a miserable, but apparently gorgeous woman who is handy with a gun. Abraham is a French-Canadian and a sort of philosophical gun-wielding member - " yes mademoiselle" - oh look confused English and French. The main hero, David, is someone who studies the Epics, especially Steelheart, who killed his father when the Epic decided to take Chicago by force - "I'm NOT a nerd!" - he always cries out.
Is it a good read? Yes and no. The dialogue is terrible, but the story is excellent. In fact I'd go so far to say this is one of the freshest ideas I've come across in many years. As for the dialogue, well if you can put the continual cliché pet names past you (son, lass, lad) then you're on to a winner. When I say continual, I mean in nearly every sentence. The conversations between characters seemed really false and even forced - like the author isn't use to small talk or struggles to write believable dialogue. Something I feel that has held this book back from being a five star read. It's fine to be a fan of any author, but blindness towards critical opinions is always a concern when it comes to fanboys/girls. It's so glaringly obvious it's like having a fork shoved in your eye. Take Marvel for example, if I said the majority of the films stories are terrible and only held up by the special effects and nostalgia towards those characters, then I'd most likely be trolled. That is a example of BAD story telling but very reliant on the canon and characters selling those films. I digress as per usual. Steelheart does pick up pace and ambition in the final third of the book, so really the criticisms above relate to the first two thirds of the novel.
Anyway back to Steelheart, Brandon Sanderson, this is the first of your novels I've read and it certainly won't be my last. Thoroughly enjoyed the premise of this story, but feel much more work is needed on the dialogue to make it more believable. Characters were terribly cliché and, at times, just dull - perhaps this is a problem with YA fiction in general; reality has to be hamstrung by allowing younger readers to read this material. Who knows. I don't.
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