January 21st, 2015


[Book] Firefight

by Brandon Sanderson
...who is apparently taking some time out from his giant fantasy world and its giant doorstopper series to write some post-apocalyptic superhero books instead. Is it just me, or has the superhero novel genre really taken off in the last few years? Probably it's just me.

Anyway, Firefight is actually the second book in the series—Steelheart is the first. And calling it a superhero novel is misleading since superheroes mostly don't exist in the world: the actual supernaturally powerful guys are mostly-evil and the protagonist group members are a mix of Badass Normals and domain experts. IIRC the author himself claims the book should be shelved into "post-apocalyptic" instead, and certainly the main theme is a group trying to re-establish an outpost of sanity and freedom in a devastated world. Also revenge and hatred and fear.

The revenge and hatred bit is actually one of the reasons I really liked these books. It's kind of an undercurrent in a lot of places, especially in the protagonist motivations, where it fights with a bunch of other emotions both between people and within single people. Actually Firefight could be a story of two people dealing with it, one who loses and one who recovers (with help).

Other things to recommend these books include a humorous style, well constructed main characters, and a pretty unique setting. Also twisty reveals, mostly courtesy of the enigma-upon-secrets-upon-mystery leader of the rebel group. Also Megan is awesome.

Less appealing features include an at-times hyper or annoying protagonist where I occasionally needed to remind myself that he's a 19-year-old otaku and cut him some slack.

I only had one serious problem with Firefight, which is that the fear of water thing seemed really, really contrived. I mean, okay, sure, he hasn't had any experience with open water, and sure, it makes sense to be afraid of it for that reason, but it hardly seems like it could be on the same level of subconscious primal fear and childhood trauma as the poisoning by Kool-Aid and nearly burning to death that are the other examples of (potential) Epic phobias. And he's been using the spyril to run around on the water for half the book! He can't be that afraid of it So it's like, sure, he overcame a moderate fear of drowning. That's not nearly as impressive as Megan's thing.
Did I mention that Megan is awesome?
Though then again, maybe that lack of deep effect was part of the point. If Epicity is tied to mental trauma, and he doesn't have any serious unresolved trauma, then that would make him immune...
Meh. It just seemed like it was being made out to be more than it actually was.