Talked about on today’s show:
Contemporary Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Magics, An Unwelcome Quest (Magic 2.0 #3) by Scott Meyer, Finn Fancy Necromancy by Randy Henderson, The Mermaid’s Sister by Carrie Anne Noble, Monster Hunter Nemesis by Larry Correia, Sad puppy Hugo campaign, Unseen (Unborn #2) by Amber Lynn Natusch, just read the first sentence, Claimed (Servants of Fate #2) by Sarah Fine, Hellbender (Fangborn #3) by Dana Cameron, Kate Rudd and Paul Rudd?, The Syndrome: The Kingdom Keepers Collection by Ridley Pearson
Alternative History, 1636: Commander Cantrell in the West Indies (Ring of Fire #15) by Eric Flint and Charles E. Gannon
Virtual Reality/Cyberpunk, Mountain Of Black Glass (Otherland, Book 3) and Sea Of Silver Light (Otherland, Book 4) by Tad Williams, these are chunky books
Military Sci-Fi, Gemini Cell (Shadow Ops #4) by Myke Cole, the Jump Universe and the Vicky Peterwald series by Mike Shepherd, not narrated by Matthew McConaughey, Tarnished Knight (The Lost Stars #1) by Jack Campbell, pronunciations, a new #1, Time Patrol (Nightstalkers #4) by Bob Mayer, Heir to the Jedi: Star Wars by Kevin Hearne, King of Thieves (Odyssey One: Star Rogue) by Evan Currie
Epic/Traditional Fantasy, Black God’s Kiss by C. L. Moore, she’s a woman, The Black Fire Concerto (The Stormlight Symphony #1) by Mike Allen, “ensorcelled” gains popularity, A Blink of the Screen: Collected Shorter Fiction by Terry Pratchett, Hypnogoria (Jim Moon) podcast covered Terry Pratchett, Toll the Hounds (Malazan Book of the Fallen #8) by Steven Erikson, the Circle of Magic and The Circle Opens and (later) the Immortals Quartet series by Tamora Pierce, Full Cast Audio is sort of audio drama, The Light Princess by George MacDonald, The Keeper (Watersmeet #3) by Ellen Jensen Abbott
Space Sci-Fi, Robot Dreams by Isaac Asimov, vs I, Robot, short story highlights, The Fortress in Orion (Dead Enders #1) by Mike Resnick, Under Different Stars (The Kricket #1) and Sea of Stars (The Kricket Series #2) by Amy A. Bartol, Old Venus edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, we can pronounce “Dozois”, Venus as it should be, S.M. Stirling
Zombies, Apocalypse, Dystopia, Steampunk, Horror (Grab bag!), The Sky-Riders by Paul Dellinger and Mike Allen, Pinkerton (detective agency), Islands of Rage & Hope (Black Tide Rising #3) by John Ringo, Firefight (Reckoners #2) by Brandon Sanderson, The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant by Drew Hayes, sexy title, The Mechanical: The Alchemy Wars #1 by Ian Tregillis, clockpunk?, The Fire Sermon (Fire Sermon #1) by Francesca Haig, twins, Cheech and Chong, The Intruder and The Hunger, and Other Stories by Charles Beaumont, Untouched by Human Hands by Robert Sheckley, readalong by Sffaudio (no Tama), Fury by Henry Kuttner, old Venus is back
Related Non-fiction, Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges, part of the Guardian Essential Library, apples, The Interstellar Age by Jim Bell, read by the author, Scott will review, slingshot effect, back seat drivers, The Sagas of Ragnar Lodbrok translated from the Old Norse by Ben Waggoner, Vikings
Posted by Tamahome
The SFFaudio Podcast #308 – A Double Barrelled Detective Story by Mark Twain; read by John Greenman. This is an unabridged reading of the story (1 hour 58 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse and Paul Weimer.
Talked about on today’s show:
January and February 1902, a one man machine, why don’t people like this story, acerbic humour, puncturing sacred cows (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes), chance and chaos vs. logic and reason, Tom Sawyer, Detective, Mark Twain’s detective fiction, real life detectives are completely incompetent, Pinkertons, corruption, early private detectives as upholding the system, post-WWII detectives, noir, an uneasy triangle, a rogue agent for justice, how ridiculous Sherlock Holmes is, Sherlock Holmes’s brother runs the British government?, Sherlock does the retail and Mycroft does the wholesale, The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (1975) , Young Sherlock Holmes (1985), if Watson is not there to tell us…, Without A Clue (1988), humble-bragging, the crime doctor, Remington Steele, when the miners deflate Sherlock Holmes, oh yes he’s died many times, the smell of the grave, yet another revival, The Hound Of The Baskervilles, San Bernardino, unkillable, unstaydeadable, how meta this story was, “the great detective narratives”, one of Twain’s autobiographies,
It was a crisp and spicy morning in early October. The lilacs and laburnums, lit with the glory-fires of autumn, hung burning and flashing in the upper air, a fairy bridge provided by kind Nature for the wingless wild things that have their homes in the tree-tops and would visit together; the larch and the pomegranate flung their purple and yellow flames in brilliant broad splashes along the slanting sweep of the woodland; the sensuous fragrance of innumerable deciduous flowers rose upon the swooning atmosphere; far in the empty sky a solitary oesophagus slept upon motionless wing; everywhere brooded stillness, serenity, and the peace of God.
is that a typo?, so many readers didn’t see they were being made fun of, we eat so much bullshit, a parody of everything, epistolary writing, perspective change, the shotgun approach to satire, Fetlock Jones, an obscure English Christan name, pain for all eternity, Melbourne, a travelogue, the great detectives were monsters hounding innocent people, the expectations of the townspeople and the reader, the movements of Holmes’ hands, ravaged by bloodhounds, a superpower, a superhero, the 1965 movie adaptation, a miscreant boss, marriage, revenge, Sherlock Holmes’ American adventures, The Valley Of Fear is a Sherlock Holmes story that begins and ends with Holmes in his bathrobe, The Five Orange Pips, the KKK!, Doyle’s embarrassment by Holmes, Hard Case Crime, a youthful embarrassment, Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014), Galaxy Quest (1999), fan service,
“What a curious thing a detective story is, was there ever one that the author needn’t be ashamed of, except Murders In The Rue Morgue?”
C. Auguste Dupin, earlier detective stories, The Dog And The Horse by Voltaire, Zadig’s super-observance, punishment for honesty, The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, Drood by Dan Simmons, Moonmist, Infocom, Agatha Christie, Doctor Who: The Unicorn And The Wasp, Tommy and Tuppence, The Pretender, UPN, Brandon Sanderson, the mystery story, as readers of Sherlock Holmes we feel that we could be like Sherlock Holmes, finger stains and muddy boots and walking sticks with bite marks from Alsatians, Ham Sandwich, Wells Fargo, training you powers of deduction, The Librarian TV movies and The Librarians TV series, a superpower that real people (think) they could have, Doyle’s story on the origin of Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Joseph Bell ding ding ding, Murder Rooms, instant diagnosis of disease, predictions vs. diagnosis, web M.D., gout!, Benjamin Franklin, House, M.D., The Talons of Weng-Chiang, The Aluminum Crutch, The Giant Rat Of Sumatra, bad special effects and great writing is preferable to good special effects and shit writing, a little more juice, Murdoch Mysteries (Season 8, Episode 6: “The Murdoch Appreciation Society”), a parallel to the Twain novel, the many cameos by historical figures, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, how interesting the time period was, telegraph technology, the attention to detail is very high, modern Doctor Who elevates relationships over facts about history whereas historical facts are foremost in the Murdoch Mysteries, The Newsroom, as we gain perspective on history…, we know what was going on 100 years ago, why Jesse hates modern Doctor Who, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, Corey Carrier’s Indiana Jones, seeing Ernest Hemingway over time, the belle epoch
Posted by Jesse Willis
Dangerous Women: Stories
Edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois
Narrated by Scott Brick, Jonathan Frakes, Janis Ian, Stana Katic, Lee Meriwether, Emily Rankin, Harriet Walter, Jake Weber
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 3 December 2013[UNABRIDGED] – 32 hours, 49 minutes
Listen to an excerpt: | MP3 |
Themes: / short stories / fantasy / women /
All new and original to this volume, the 21 stories in Dangerous Women include work by twelve New York Times bestsellers, and seven stories set in the authors’ bestselling continuities—including a new “Outlander” story by Diana Gabaldon, a tale of Harry Dresden’s world by Jim Butcher, a story from Lev Grossman set in the world of The Magicians, and a 35,000-word novella by George R. R. Martin about the Dance of the Dragons, the vast civil war that tore Westeros apart nearly two centuries before the events of A Game of Thrones.
Also included are original stories of dangerous women–heroines and villains alike–by Brandon Sanderson, Joe Abercrombie, Sherilynn Kenyon, Lawrence Block, Carrie Vaughn, S. M. Stirling, Sharon Kay Penman, and many others.
Writes Gardner Dozois in his Introduction, “Here you’ll find no hapless victims who stand by whimpering in dread while the male hero fights the monster or clashes swords with the villain, and if you want to tie these women to the railroad tracks, you’ll find you have a real fight on your hands. Instead, you will find sword-wielding women warriors, intrepid women fighter pilots and far-ranging spacewomen, deadly female serial killers, formidable female superheroes, sly and seductive femmes fatale, female wizards, hard-living Bad Girls, female bandits and rebels, embattled survivors in Post-Apocalyptic futures, female Private Investigators, stern female hanging judges, haughty queens who rule nations and whose jealousies and ambitions send thousands to grisly deaths, daring dragonriders, and many more.”
Stories and Narrators (in order of appearance):
“Some Desperado” by Joe Abercrombie; Read by Stana Katic
“My Heart Is Either Broken” by Megan Abbott; Read by Jake Weber
“Nora’s Song” by Cecelia Holland; Read by Harriet Walter
“The Hands That Are Not There” by Melinda Snodgrass; Read by Jonathan Frakes
“Bombshells” by Jim Butcher; Read by Emily Rankin
“Raisa Stepanova” by Carrie Vaughn; Read by Inna Korobkina
“Wrestling Jesus” by Joe R. Lansdale; Read by Scott Brick
“Neighbors” by Megan Lindholm; Read by Lee Meriwether
“I Know How to Pick ’Em” by Lawrence Block; Read by Jake Weber
“Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell” by Brandon Sanderson; Read by Claudia Black
“A Queen in Exile” by Sharon Kay Penman; Read by Harriet Walter
“The Girl in the Mirror” by Lev Grossman; Read by Sophie Turner
“Second Arabesque, Very Slowly” by Nancy Kress; Read by Janis Ian
“City Lazarus” by Diana Rowland; Read by Scott Brick
“Virgins” by Diana Gabaldon; Read by Allan Scott-Douglas
“Pronouncing Doom” by S.M. Stirling; Read by Stana Katic
“Name the Beast” by Sam Sykes; Read by Claudia Black
“Caregivers” by Pat Cadigan; Read by Janis Ian
“Lies My Mother Told Me” by Caroline Spector; Read by Maggi-Meg Reed
“Hell Hath No Fury” by Sherilynn Kenyon; Read by Jenna Lamia
“The Princess and the Queen” by George R. R. Martin; Read by Iain Glen
It took me a really long time to make it through this book, even with skipping stories, and that was a big sign that it wasn’t working for me. I love and read a lot of anthologies, and Dangerous Women was odd in that it only paid lip service to the theme. Most of these stories had nothing to do with women, dangerous or otherwise, instead focusing on men talking about women. Overall, while I was disappointed in this anthology, and would not recommend it, here are my spoiler thoughts on some of the best and worst individual stories (scroll to the end for a link to more!):
“The Hands That Are Not There” by Melinda Snodgrass
Jonathan Frakes from Star Trek: the Next Generation is the narrator!!! Fortune 500? Strip club? OK, I’m missing the dangerous women portion of this story at the beginning, and am a little confused overall. The main character doesn’t seem to have a great opinion of women in general. Suppose that’s not surprising considering this takes place during a bachelor party. “Sassy little buttocks”? I giggled when he shouted “blackout’. Genetic manipulation? What am I listening to?
Aside from the novelty of the narrator, this was just bad. The characterization of women left a bad taste in my mouth. The prose was an unfortunate shade of purple. The plot twist was silly. So. Bad.
“Bombshells” by Jim Butcher – A Harry Dresden story
I’ve never read any of the Dresden books, although I’m vaguely familiar with the story, and this was a sorely needed palette cleanser after the last story. Except for the leg-shaving bit. Wut? That came across as trying a bit too hard. Bit more telling than showing than is to my taste. And hearing the phrase ‘soul gaze’ spoken out loud just pointed out how silly it is. Holy infodump on how magic works, but overall both the narrator and writing was A+.
“Raisa Stepanova” by Carrie Vaughn
Eeeeeee! Night witches! I love female pilots!
The writing is concise and easy to follow, but full of effective details that really conveyed the feeling of a fire fight. The plot was just heartbreaking. And a lovely relationship between siblings is the focus, rather than a romantic one. Such a nice change! This was an excellent portrayal of female non-competitive friendship. So good. One of the highlights of the anthology.
Narrator had a distinctive, lovely voice.
“I Know How to Pick ’Em” by Lawrence Block
Noir up the wazoo! This was a man’s man kind of a story, I guess. Wow. I had to skip this after he started fantasizing about beating the woman he was with. He had so much hate for women. I felt a little sick just listening.
Narrator has great, gritty voice.
“Shadows For Silence in the Forests of Hell” by Brandon Sanderson
This was a great story. Silence was amazing, and the world had just enough detail for you to believe and fill in the rest of the blanks. Her background as a bounty hunter was inventive, and I loved seeing the people people who crossed her get their eventual comeuppance.
Narrator had just enough weariness in her voice to be pleasing and appropriate to the story.
“The Girl in the Mirror” by Lev Grossman – A Magicians story
Fabulous characterization of mischievous girls at a magical school. Their talk is real, and the details are well delineated. Think Harry Potter but darker and meaner. Adorable short story. Just lovely.
As an added bonus, Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa Stark on Games of Thrones, was the narrator. She hit the perfect tone, and I would definitely listen to her narration again.
“Second Arabesque, Very Slowly” by Nancy Kress
This was a very quiet, intense, and bleak story. The women are essentially kept for breeding in a post-apocalyptic setting, but during a young girl’s ‘budding’ ceremony, one woman voices her desire to be more. The narrator is the nurse, in charge of the health of the other women. There’s an undertone of packs and the urban forest in this story, like I was waiting for them to turn into werewolves. Women have dressed codes to avoid tempting men, but are somewhat in charge of deciding who they have sex with. The group finds a TV and get it to work. They watch a ballet. Now one of the beta males wants to learn how to dance to entertain the pack. They find a moment of beauty, but lose it just as quickly.
The narrator has an understated style that worked really well for this.
“Pronouncing Doom” by S.M. Stirling – An Emberverse story
This was the most unpleasant part of this whole experience.
At first I was interested, as there was a main character traveling with a baby and some practical discussion of how life with children after the apocalypse works. There were disabled characters, and the women seemed to have some autonomy in the society.
However, the story then turned into a rape trial. The victim recounts escalating abuse from one man, and how the other women blamed her for his actions. Then she describes his violent sexual assault of her, and I turned it off. I had no motivation to finish this story.
The narrator was very pleasant, and her deadpan accounting of the assault was chilling.
“Caretakers” by Pat Cadigan
It starts out with an innocent question about female serial killers. These two sisters live together and while one is obsessed with Red Dawn (Go Wolverines!) the other loves to watch shows about serial killers. There was a lot of realistic characterization driving the story, and rising tension as you begin to wonder exactly how much the sister likes serial killers.
Narrator did a fantastic job, fading back to let the story stand on its strengths.
“Lies My Mother Told Me” by Caroline Spector – A Wild Cards story
I felt a little behind by the abrupt entrance of the first scene, but loved the discussion of prettiness in relation to society. Parades and zombies and consumerism. Mothers and daughters and self-esteem. Fat and bubbles as defense. The villain was such a dick, and such a stereotype of gamer dudes. Overall amazing!
“The Princess and the Queen” by George R.R. Martin – A Song of Ice and Fire story
Finally. this is the whole reason I was interested in the first place. I’ve read a couple of the ASOIAF books, so I was interested in what Martin would do with two super-powerful women. Not much, it turns out.
Sooooo – everyone in Westeros has always been terrible and power-hungry? OK then. First Night rites? Really? Ahhhh I am so bored. Never has anything with dragons in it bored me as much as this has. It’s about queens, yes, but it’s still the men who do almost everything.
Good narrator, though.
Sarah reviewed each and every story, which you can see on her GoodReads review.
Posted by Sarah R.
Talked about on today’s show: a vintage podcast with Scott, R.I.P. RadioArchive.cc, Radio Downloader app, audio drama, Brad Lansky and the Alien at Planet X is full of sound, it’s like Ruby, Richmond Smokes a Joint, The Cleansed, are movies the most respected art form?, Pacific Rim: The Official Movie Novelization by Alexander Irvine, postmodernism, Death of the Author by Roland Barthes, The Best Horror of the Year, Vol. 4 edited by Ellen Datlow, Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop, a group of crows is murder, Night Watch #2 and #3 by Sergei Lukyanenko, the Night Watch series discussed on A Good Story Is Hard To Find #57 podcast, “a three volume novel“, Dickens serial novels, Blood Oranges by Kathleen Tierney, what Michael Jackson says at the end of songs, The Line by J. D. Horn, Jenny is studying Turkish, Sky Raiders by Brandon Mull, kids at schools love him, Raising Steam (Discworld #40) by Terry Pratchett, regular narrators for series, The Companions (The Sundering #1, Legend of Drizzt #24, Forgotten Realms) by R. A. Salvatore, Dungeons and Dragons, many Dragonlance books by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, Jesse read them!, what is your D&D Alignment??, vs the Ultima eight virtues, “he’s got cool eyes”, Magic’s Promise by Mercedes Lackey, William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher, purists won’t like it, more alignment talk, Z 2135 (Z 2134 #2) by David Wright and Sean Platt, Fractured by D.J. Molles, Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper, The Rift by Bob Mayer, The Runestone Incident by Neve Maslakovic, To Honor You Call Us by H. Paul Honsinger, The Folklore of Discworld by Terry Pratchett and Jacqueline Simpson (a folklorist!), The Age of Radiance: The Epic Rise and Dramatic Fall of the Atomic Era by Craig Nelson, Lockstep by Karl Schroeder, who was on Geek’s Guide #106, can’t find it in my local bookstore, was serialized in Analog, His Share of Glory: The Complete Short Science Fiction of C. M. Kornbluth, Pickman’s Model by Lovecraft, guess who had that made?, H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine‘s missing chapter, The True Detective was inspired by The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers, Galveston: A Novel by Nic Pizzolatto (creator of True Detective), Words Of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson is longer than all of C.M. Kornbluth’s work, Terpkristin gave it five stars on Goodreads, Luke’s alignment, Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga comic with the Lying Cat, Mask Of The Red Panda graphic novel, it’s an audio drama podcast too at Decoder Ring Theatre, Julie’s alignment, Martians Go Home by Frederic Brown, Screaming Mimi and Honeymoon In Hell as well, The Frightened Fish (Doc Savage) from radioarchives.com, Doc Savage is a comic from Dynamite too, “hair is like a helmet”, Haldeman’s Forever Peace, Work Done For Hire, Haldeman’s quote about “write what you know”, Haldeman’s Star Trek novels, Jesse thinks he’s f’ing awesome, Seth likes Neal Stephenson, Project Hieroglyph, Robert J. Sawyer’s WWW trilogy, in the optimistic axis, The Woman In Black by Susan Hill (and original film)
Posted by Tamahome
Filed under: Audio Drama, New Releases, Podcasts, Recent Arrivals
Talked about on today’s show:
Jenny’s the only woman in the kitchen, many audiobooks by Roald Dahl, The Twits, no Leo Laporte, The Witches, Boy and Going Solo (nonfiction), “piece of cake” (aeronautical term?), maybe we need a kid reviewer, Fantastic Mr. Fox and Other Animal Stories, (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: Roald Dahl – screenplay, Ian Fleming – novel), (it wasn’t black and white), You Only Live Twice, Jenny got her grabby hands on The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two (Fairyland #3) by Catherynne Valente and read by Catherynne Valente, play sample here, should authors narrate their own audiobooks? (didn’t Stefan Rudnicki want to narrate John Crowley’s Little, Big?), Jesse again mentions the mystery/science fiction novel Golden Fleece by Robert J. Sawyer, ‘Radium age sf’ books (Jesse was saying dreamscapeab.com, but I think it’s hilobrow.com?), Theodore Savage by Cicely Hamilton, “monoculture is bad”, (downpour.com is another alternative), Marvel: Spider-Man Drowned in Thunder by Christopher L. Bennett from Graphicaudio in 5.1 surround sound! (how do you sample that?), The Watchmen motion comic (link), “can’t you do 5.1 in dvd?” Luke wonders, Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson, |READ OUR/SETH’S REVIEW|, conservative women, “magic indistinguishable from science”, Luke’s cut of The Way Of Kings, the ‘Jesse’ unit, paper books, Six Pack o’ Strange Tales by Michael Faun, Caddyshack, The Goliath Stone by Larry Niven and Matthew Joseph Harrington, The One-Eyed Man by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. is science fiction, cover controversy, Paul’s Sfsignal interview with L.E. Modesitt, Jr. (has cover), The Lost Prince by Edward Lazellari, Canada is one-way, William Shakespeare’s Star Wars by Ian Doescher, “Reimagined in glorious iambic pentameter”, Star Wars Uncut video collaboration, some text from the Shakespeare Star Wars, Shakespeare is written in blank verse, duh, Joss Whedon can do the movie, Golden Age full cast audio drama (link), infecting dreams, Lumosity brain games and training, The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane by Robert E. Howard includes The Hills Of The Dead, is Solomon like Dresden?, Out Of Time’s Abyss by Edgar Rice Burroughs read by David Stifel, The War Of The Worlds: Global Dispatches edited by Kevin J. Anderson, it’s purely an English invasion, Ender’s Game Alive: The Full-Cast Audioplay by Orson Scott Card (out 10/22/2013), Stefan Rudnicki talked about it on Functional Nerds, Republic Of Thieves by Scott Lynch isn’t out yet (out 10/22/2013), talking like Bane from The Dark Knight Rises, The Circle by Dave Eggers, tech thrillers, is Gravity science fiction?,The Cold Equations by Tom Godwin, 2012, Neil deGrasse Tyson’s critical tweets about Gravity, she cried in space wrong, Kaleidoscope by Ray Bradbury, Superheroes! Capes, Cowls, and the Creation of Comic Book Culture by Laurence Maslon and Michael Kantor, Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety by Eric Schlosser, Germany says no more, The Year’s Top Short SF Novels 3 Edited by Allan Kaster from Infinivox, Bleeding Edge By Thomas Pynchon is a tech thriller maybe, Star Trek Aurora is sexualized (sounds like Joe Haldeman’s Star Trek books), don’t get mad Paramount, Luke has to eat, Paul Weimer tweets photos.
[Applicants for the two giveaway copies of THE SAVAGE TALES OF SOLOMON KANE should leave a comment with a verifiable factoid about Robert E. Howard (as well as an email address) – the two most interesting factoids, as selected by Jesse, will receive their prizes by mail.]
Posted by Tamahome
By Brandon Sanderson; Read by Macleod Andrews
Audible Download – 12 Hours 14 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audible Frontiers
Themes: / Dystopia / Apocalypse / Superheroes / Revenge
Brandon Sanderson, best-known for putting the finishing touches on Robert Jordan’s sprawling Wheel of Time series, has also crafted several fantasy epics of his own, including the Mistborn trilogy, Warbreaker, and the ambitious Stormlight Archive saga. Now, with Steelheart, he tries his hand at near-future dystopian fiction for young adults. Begin customary blurb. I don’t normally post the entire synopsis for a novel, but I feel this one encapsulates the themes and tone of the book rather neatly.
From the number-one New York Times best-selling author of the Mistborn Trilogy, Brandon Sanderson, comes the first book in a new, action-packed thrill ride of a series – Steelheart. Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics.
But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills.
Nobody fights the Epics…nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.
And David wants in. He wants Steelheart – the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David’s father. For years, like the Reckoners, David’s been studying, and planning – and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.
He’s seen Steelheart bleed.
And he wants revenge.
How well does Sanderson make the transition from fantasy to science fiction? Unsurprisingly, spectacularly well. This is for several reasons. First, Sanderson is a professional writer par excellence. I may not like everything he writes, but I can’t deny that it’s all of the highest quality. Second, his elaborate, sometimes byzantine magic systems, with their complex rules, exceptions, and counter-exceptions, are more akin to science. To invert Arthur C. Clarke’s axiom, any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology. Likewise, Sanderson’s complex magic systems are distinguishable from the impressive technologies of Steelheart in name only. The novel’s villains, the superhuman Epics, would be at home in many of his worlds. Finally, Sanderson has experience writing for a younger audience, so he knows how to shape a story to the tastes of youth.
But don’t let the YA moniker fool you; Steelheart is a deeply emotional, nuanced, and grown-up book. Only its pared-down vocabulary, simple structure, and quick pacing belie its target audience. The stakes are high. I would compare the book’s overall feel to the last few Harry Potter books. Both feature a rag-tag group of misfits fighting against unimaginable power, impossible odds, and the darkest corners of human nature. Yes, the supervillainous Epics, like most supervillains, are a cipher for the worst human qualities: arroagance, anger, deception, and hate.Any young reader who thoughtfully finishes this book will be forced to confront very grown-up questions of right and wrong, friendship, loyalty, faith, and revenge. These themes might be more boldly drawn than they would be in a work for adults, but they’re not so boldly drawn as to stray into the dangerous realm of caricature or didactic.
I have only one minor but frequently recurring complaint about Steelheart. As a disciple of Robert Jordan, Sanderson likes to use elements from the world as curses and expletives. So, the characters are frequently heard to exclaim “Calamity!” after the red comet hovering in the sky. “Sparks!” is another oft-repeated expletive. In my view, Battlestar Galactica‘s “frak” is the only expletive to pull the effect off convincingly. In Sanderson’s works, as in Jordan’s, the device feels contrived, and jolts me right out of the narrative. The only thing that makes this offense remotely excusable is that the book is intended for the innocent eyes and ears of younger readers, but I still think Sanderson could have found a better way.
Macleod Andrews makes Steelheart a joy to listen to. He flows effortlessly from the youthful voice of protagonist David, to the gruff voice of the Prof, leader of the Reckoners, to the booming voice of Steelheart himself. Some audiobook connoisseurs might find his narration a tad melodramatic, but I can imagine younger readers reveling in Anderson’s adrenaline-fueled rendition of the action scenes. He also lends a light air of levity where it’s appropriate, counterbalancing the novel’s dark themes and bleak setting.
Steelheart is the first novel in a projected series, but Brandon Sanderson’s a busy guy with about a dozen anvil-sized irons in the fire at any given point in time. So I don’t know when a sequel will be forthcoming. While Steelheart neatly wraps up the main questions raised in the book’s early chapters, it still leaves plenty of room for exploration. What is Calamity? Was it really responsible for the rise of the Epics? What’s happening elsewhere in this wide, newly-devastated world. I can’t wait to find out.
Posted by Seth Wilson