Saturday, December 9, 2017


by Brandon Sanderson
Recommended Ages: 13+

In the first book of The Reckoners, a young man named David seizes a risky opportunity to join a group of terrorists known as, like, the Reckoners, so he can help them kill superheroes. Maybe I should have phrased that differently. The Epics, who started taking over the world 10 years ago, aren't exactly superheroes. They're just people with superhero-ish powers who seem to think they're gods, and spend a lot of time squishing ordinary people like bugs. Ten years ago, when he was 8, David witnessed his father being squished by an Epic named Steelheart, who is rumored to be invincible. But just before Steelheart killed David's dad, who foolishly believed the Epics had come to save mankind, David saw Steelheart bleed. Against all odds, the boy survived the Epic's attempt to destroy all memory of the incident that left a scar on his cheek - including murdering the rescue workers who arrived at the scene after the deed was done.

Since that day, the only thing that has kept David going is the knowledge that Steelheart has a weakness, though he doesn't know exactly what it is, and a thirst for revenge. Now he uses that knowledge to persuade the Reckoners to stay put in Newcago - known as Chicago, before Steelheart turned it into a maze of steel catacombs cloaked in everlasting night. He convinces their leader, a brooding scientist named Prof, to draw Steelheart out into what he believes is a duel against a nonexistent Epic named Limelight, meanwhile disrupting his stranglehold on Newcago. He basically hijacks a whole unit of anti-Epic insurgents to use them for his personal revenge, even if it means creating a power vacuum that will, at least in the short term, cause more human suffering.

Prof thinks taking Steelheart down will convince more ordinary folks to rise up against Epic rule. His teammates have different views. There's a French-Canadian guy named Abraham, who like David's father, has faith that Epics will eventually turn toward good and save mankind, though for now he's happy to blow stuff up. There's Tia, an operations expert who relishes the challenge of analyzing David's memory of the day Steelheart took over Chicago, trying to spot his crucial weakness. There's Cody, a sniper with a Tennessee accent who likes to pretend he's Scottish. And lastly, there's Megan, a beautiful but unapproachable girl David would like to figure out. Although his knowledge of what makes Epics tick rivals anybody's, something about Megan eludes him.

As their plan to challenge Steelheart races forward with reckless speed, David encounters dangers to body, soul, heart, and mind, each of which keep the reader engaged at a gut level, even while mindblowing concepts scream past and incredible surprises pop up at every turn. It's another astonishing feat of world-building, engineered to thrill, by the author of Elantris, The Rithmatist, the Mistborn series, and the conclusion of the late Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time cycle. A discerning reader might pick up some common threads between the quests of these books' heroes, but the differences between the worlds they inhabit make each one an exciting realm to explore. This time, Sanderson blows the door off Superman's quick-change phone booth with the question, "What if super powers turned people into monsters?" My synopsis, above, does not begin to do justice to how deeply or how rewardingly this book delves into that question. Set in a world that, until 10 years ago, apparently looked just like ours, it makes that question count for us as though it affected us personally - and, with only a minor tweak in one's definition of "power," it actually might. I definitely plan to read the next book in this series, Firefight. There is also a third novel, Calamity, as well as a short story titled Mitosis.

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