I'm not generally a big fan of fantasy fiction although I've always enjoyed sci-fi, so it's lucky that "Gollancz Geeks" suggested that I review Brandon Sanderson's latest novel Steelheart. It's the sort of novel that I would have probably normally have left on the shelf, which would have been a shame as it's a hugely enjoyable fantasy novel.

With nods to classic sci-fi fiction such as The day of the triffids, Steelheart is set in a post-apocalyptic America. When a new star, Calamity, appears in the sky, certain humans take on superhero powers, rather than turning them into good guys though, the powers corrupt, and lead to a dark world ruled by warring godlike types "Epics". Against this background young David Charleston joins the Reckoners, a group of humans out to bring down the Epics. David is looking for vengeance for his father, and wants to annihilate the biggest Epic of them all - the eponymous Steelheart - who rules over Newcago, the former Chicago now set in everlasting darkness, whose humans lead a bizarre, subterranean life.

This was a really fun read. It's aimed, I would guess at the young adult / 20-something market, with a liking for gadgetry, graphic novels, comic-book violence and a hint of romance. It zips along at a great pace, and if the emerging plotline is not exactly unexpected it's still written with great bravado and flair. The characterisation is good with some strong female characters, and a likeable hero. Where Sanderson really scores though is in the new world he creates. Newcago grows seamlessly out of the old Chicago. He creates a brilliant fantasy world with nods towards Bladerunner and China Mieville's The city and the city.

No surprise in the acknowledgements to see that there is the possibility of a film adaptation of Steelheart. It would make an excellent adventure hero film, while also cleverly subverting the genre.

I didn't expect to enjoy this half as much as I did, and will be eagerly awaiting the next in the series. It was a clever fun read with great appeal.



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