I’m a sucker for Brandon Sanderson’s work and I have been for a while. While his epic fantasies have always had interesting characters and well-thought magic systems, he hasn’t stepped into the realm of full-blown science fiction before. In Steelheart, he’s getting closer to sci-fi than ever before.
Steelheart is a first-person tale exploring the life of David, a young man who wants to fight against the tyrannical Epics, superpowered beings who have risen to rule or run rampant over most of the world. In a heavily reshaped Chicago, called Newcago, the most powerful Epic, Steelheart, has appointed himself emperor. Along with a group of loyal Epics, Steelheart have made Newcago into a metallic, sunless police state where child labor and killing have become commonplace and freedom is barely even a memory.
As the only person who has ever seen Steelheart bleed, David is an interesting character, possessing a Batman-like determination to avenge his father’s death. Like Batman, David has taken to learning fighting skills and how to discover each Epic’s weakness, so his vendetta might come to full fruition. Also like the Dark Knight, David walks a thin line between a quest for revenge and a thirst to make the world a better place.
The superhero analogies don’t end with David and a legion of supervillains. Steelheart often wears a cape, just as the other Epics tend to dress in a style similar to classic comic book characters. The Reckoners, a group that hunts and kills Epics, resemble the bleak kill squads one might find in Suicide Squad or Queen & Country comics.
There’s a lot of action and plot movement in Steelheart. In fifty pages, it promises to be a good read, creating a science fiction landscape for most readers.
For fans of Sanderson, the source of the Epics’ power, a star called Calamity, sounds like one of the divine figures from the Cosmere. Even the powers the Epics have feel like they function off a firm set of magical rules, much as Sanderson’s Cosmere novels typically do. Fantasy or science fiction, I look forward to reading more.