It's impossible for me to write an intro to Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson without hearing the voice of the late, great voice actor Don Lafontaine in my head. So here we go: In a world where all superheroes are evil and all hope is lost, a small group of rebels must work together to save the Earth from total annihilation.
That's Steelheart in a very small nutshell, although the actual story is a lot more complex and interesting: One day, something appears in the sky, people call it Calamity. It looks like a star or a comet, but nobody really knows what it is or where it came from. What they do know is that Calamity grants a random number of ordinary people super powers, they decide to call them "Epics." Also, for reasons unknown, the Epics are huge jerks.
Each Epic has a specific power, like the ability to fly, see the future, create life-like illusions, repel females without speaking a single word - wait, that last one is my superpower. Since there are no superheroes around to stop them, each Epic takes charge of a city of their choice, ruling without consequence and degrading the quality of life for everyone living there. Just imagine if every major city was run by Rob Ford and you'll get the picture.
Despite the misery the Epics unleash, people try to live their lives as normal as they can. This is where we meet eight year old David and his father, who are in a Chicago bank trying to secure a loan. As if from nowhere, an Epic named Deathpoint strolls through the bank and starts killing people at random. Deathpoint's power is pretty self-explanatory, if he points at you, your remains can be cleaned up with a Roomba.
As Deathpoint embarks on his killing spree, another Epic enters the bank. His name is Steelheart and he can do pretty much anything, shoot balls of energy from his hands, fly, is impervious to bullets and can turn inanimate objects into solid steel. He's basically the Oprah of super villains.
It's important to know that David's father is known as a Faithful, a small percentage of the population that believe one day superheroes will emerge and defeat the Epics. He mistakenly believes that Steelheart is one of these prophesized heroes and ends up paying the ultimate price for it.
After his father is murdered, David devotes the rest of his life to studying the Epics and learning their weaknesses, for they all have at least one. Through his research he comes across a group called The Reckoners, a small group of misfits that assassinate the "lesser" Epics, Epics that wouldn't garner the attention of people like Steelheart if they disappeared.
With David's encyclopaedic knowledge of the Epics, the Reckoners learn that they might actually have a chance of taking down Steelheart and his empire of fear once and for all.
Sanderson has created a totally believable world that pays homage to comic books and great adventure tales with its amazing weaponry, sneering villains and rag-tag heroes. It also contains some very enjoyable twists. I had a lot of fun reading it and I look forward to its sequel, Firefight, which is out early next year. In the meantime, you can check out the short story, Mitosis which takes place just after "Steelheart" ends.