Review of Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

October 2, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews, Uncategorized 

SFFaudio Review

Cover of Steelheart by Brandon SandersonSteelheart
By Brandon Sanderson; Read by Macleod Andrews
Audible Download – 12 Hours 14 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audible Frontiers
Published: 2013
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

DC Comics series INFINITE CRISIS audio dramatized

August 21, 2007 by · 1 Comment
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SFFaudio New Releases

An intriguing new release of a DC Comics classic from Graphic Audio…. (who we mostly know as the makers of The Destroyer, Outlanders, Deathlands and other Remo Williams-eseque adventure series).

Graphic Audio - Infinite Crisis

BBC7 / The 7th Dimension premiers 1st PODCAST!

July 27, 2007 by · 1 Comment
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SFFaudio Online Audio

BBC 7 and The 7th Dimension are premiering their very first podcast tomorrow! But it isn’t exactly what we were expecting…

BBC 7 HEROES The Official Radio ShowHEROES The Official Radio Show
20 Part Series in 15 minute episodes
Broadcaster/Podcaster: BBC7 / The 7th Dimension
Broadcast: Saturday at 6.30pm and 12.30am (U.K. Time)
The NBC fantasy TV show Heroes just started airing on television channel BBC2 this week. The series is about ordinary people dealing with the discovery that they have extraordinary (superhuman) powers. This podcast (and broadcast) isn’t the actual series but instead it is what they are calling “the ultimate audio companion.” Features will include “in-depth discussions and analyses of the themes, characters and conundrums facing the characters.”

Subscribe to the podcast via this feed:

http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/bbc7/heroes/rss.xml

Review of The Red Panda Adventures – Season 1

November 6, 2006 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Reviews 

SFFaudio Audiobook Review

Podiobooks Audio Drama: The Red Panda Adventures - Season OneThe Red Panda Adventures – Season One
By Gregg Taylor; Performed by a FULL CAST
12 MP3 Files – Approx. 5.5 Hours [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: DecoderRingTheatre.com / Podiobooks.com
Published: 2005/2006
Themes: / Fantasy / Superheroes / Supervillains / 1930s / Toronto / Secret Identities / Hypnotism /

Flying Squirrel: “We could have two super-power’d loons on our hands.” -Episode 11: Duality

Masks, grapple-guns, static boots, retractable membranes, ring-radios? Check. Supervillains with names like The Golden Claw, The Electric Eel and Diablo? Check. Okay then, tune your podcatcher to ‘pure pulp’ and break out the hockey organ because The Red Panda Adventures – Season One is ready to glide into justice. This first 12 episode season is full of flying kung fu fists, mesmerizing hypnosis, snappy dialog and mystery. Most memorable for me are the characters and the dialogue. Plot lines are reminiscent of comic-book and radio serials from yesteryear but the parlance is all modernistic as filtered through a roaring-twenties speech pattern paradigm. Episode 2: Night Mission and Episode: 7 Red Panda Wanted Dead Or Alive stood-out because these episodes highlighted the interaction between the love-blind hero, Red Panda, and his adoring sidekick The Flying Squirrel. The Panda’s superpowers are a cross between those of The Green Hornet and The Shadow. He’s a master hypnotist, able to cloud the minds of villains. Other fun aspects are the introduction of other superheroes and superhero groups, in a way the whole show reminds me of animated version of The Tick if it were played slightly straighter.

The Red Panda Adventures – Season One is a super-fun diversion delivered in delicious half-hour doses. The only thing better than the production of this fab audio drama series is the vocal talent. I get endless kicks out of the sexual tension between the oblivious Red Panda and his pining sidekick/driver Kit Baxter. Their city, 1930s Toronto, is quieter than many other audio dramas, I hear less foley and fewer sound effects, I like that they aren’t obsessed with putting in the sound of footsteps in every scene – it usually isn’t necessary. Also nice is that from episode one of this series this show really works. This is probably because of the experience gained during the previous Red Panda incarnation (a six episode series set during WWII). Season Two is already underway and I look forward to devouring it too.

Posted by Jesse Willis