So this has almost all the marks of a Brandon Sanderson series.
The action is very well-written, the characters are overly goofy, the dialogue is overly goofy, but he doesn’t use the word “maladroitly” so who knows, maybe it was ghostwritten.
I enjoyed it over all. Don’t my ribbings of Sanderson to heart. I like his books, but they’re so silly in their own ways.
The premise of the series is that a cataclysmic event happened on Earth about a decade or so from the beginning of the book. The result of this event seems to be that some people have gained superhuman powers (and corresponding weaknesses/limitations). As with all superhuman power, it has a corrupting influence, and the result is that these new “Epics,” as they’re called, have become variously powered supervillains.
The novel begins with David, our narrator and lead protagonist, coming up against the strongest and baddest of them all “Steelheart” as he robs a bank/confronts another epic. The fight that comes about kills everyone in the bank including David’s father. In the fray, however, David’s father accidentally wounds Steelheart. A decade later, the only survivor who knows anything about Steelheart’s weakness, David is bent on revenge, desperately wanting to join the Reckoners, a human hitsquad who kill Epics.
The rest of the novel deals with the various elements of the plan to take out Steelheart, who is now the dictator of Chicago. The new city runs like a mob-run area, or like a narco state. Some stability, lots of corruption, and wanton violence. David’s crew involves several fantasy/sci fi tropic figures like a heavy-gunner, a recon person, a sniper, a professor, and the expert. Structured like a splinter cell group, they go about killing Epics, once a plan has been thoroughly concocted.
OK, so the same issues I usually have with Brandon Sanderson. The language tries so strongly to capture “coolness” that it falls on its face a lot. He’s an analytical writer, and does a good job breaking down human relationships. He avoids the remotest sense of acute sexuality to the point that the main character says completely nonsensical things like “noticing her figure” or “that low neckline.” Name one teenage boy who’s looking at a woman’s figure and could possibly use the word “neckline” as opposed to cleavage or something like it. So his normal slightly clunky style in these kinds of interactions grow to slightly absurd levels because he’s writing this for a younger audience.
But people still get shot in the face and stuff. So the care is a little off. This novel starts off the series with a very very similar structure to Mistborn, where the baddest enemy of them all is really just the start of things, a plot element I actually like a lot.
A one off short novella or novellette, Mitosis picks up right after Steelheart and concerns the arrival in Newcago of an Epic whose abilities include splitting himself off into clones; clones that also contain a kind of generational decay….copies of copies and all that. As they work on how to take out this Epic, the group also begins to enjoy the return of various aspects of humanity and civilization, specifically hot dogs.
This short novella leads me to thinking about if this were an adaptation, which is most definitely could be, what would be the most successful way to adapt it. I came up with four possibilities. One, you could make a series of movies. That could be interesting, especially given how money would really help, but the issue there is that I don’t know how popular these are and how much funding could be out there for a series. This lends itself better to a movie than say Mistborn, mostly because the world-building parts of Mistborn are a little too heady (and might not actually make any sense). Two, a tv show. Same as above but with a more built-up narrative and slower burn of story. This could work as a six-episode run like Into the Badlands. Three, an Animated series. This makes a lot of sense to me because it would be cheaper to make, already has some similarities to shows like “One Punch Man” and the visual components could be way closer to the original series. Four, a video game. Especially an open-world game….maybe kind of an inverse of Invincible series of games, where you don’t have the power, but have to fight those that do. This little off shoot story works perfectly because there’s ALWAYS more Epics, right? So maybe something that’s not far off from say a Bioware game.
I found this one to actually be kind of boring, until the end…or more to the point, the last third or so. For whatever reason, similar to the way I felt during the second book of the Mistbord series, I didn’t revel in the after the moment world-building and world-realigning that goes on in the second half of the series. I know that Brandon Sanderson is supremely interested in the what happens next parts of fantasy. Sure, the last section of the Lord of the Rings is one of the best moments of the whole series, but it’s also earned through death and hard work. And sure the last part of Harry Potter is the worst, but it’s an ok way to have some catharsis. Sanderson is interested in the messiness of what comes after the the big fall. So Spoiler: They kill Steelheart in the first book.
My issue is that I liked the city of Newcago and how big and bad the cadre at the top felt. The scene where he’s in the weapons dealer and Nightbringer is there, there’s real tension. But the fact that he’s scared of a flashlight and not all that powerful after all or that really there’s not any real danger for the lead, well it takes me out of it. Same goes for this book. The lead feels too powerful and there’s too many restarts and it feels cheap after awhile.
This book was stronger than the previous one. I wanted the second one to have some impact and heightened tensions ala Catching Fire….but the second one was all the letdown of Mockingjay and this one was stronger. Having what felt like real stakes again, having a logic behind the luck and purpose and strengths of the hero makes a lot more sense, and the world-building a) comes to fruition and b) has the scope of the world of Newcago, and that makes it all the stronger when it happens. The issue with the second book for me was that New New York never felt as big, or compelling, or fully realized at Newcago and the new Atlanta does. They spend a lot more time there, they’ve killed off the boring characters, and the powers they are vested with feel more thematically linked to the book. In addition, Nighthawk is a much more compelling plotted character than anybody in the second novel. I still hate the jokey premise that he’s bad at similes….I hate that Megan tells him, you’re not bad at metaphors, just similes! Similes are Metaphors, MEGAN! And I hate Cody as a character. But there’s a good kind of hero-ic learning curve going on here. They trust the main character more and he has more gravity and purpose now. That’s built in. The places where they don’t trust him or say “he’s convincing” as a flaw instead of just saying they’re convinced by him are annoying, but whatever.
And I know I know this is YA, but Brandon Sanderson will shoot someone in the face, but his characters are terrified of sex. It’s a little weird.