Calamity. Book Review

CALAMITY by Brandon Sanderson
Gollancz, p/b, 448pp, £8.99
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan

One of the things that you can guarantee with a novel from Brandon Sanderson is that nothing is predictable. There will always be unexpected elements and just when you have decided you know what is going on, he throws another element into the mix.

Calamity is the culmination of the Reckoners series. It began with Steelheart and we were introduced to the Epics. These are people with superpowers. For some, their ability may be minor such as enhanced hearing, for others it is much more life changing. Steelheart was able to change anything to steel with a touch, converting Chicago literally to a city of steel. The problem started when a red star, known as Calamity, first made its appearance in the sky. No-one knows what it is but all agree that it has caused the appearance of Epics.

David Charleston, the first person narrator, is an Epic-killer. He managed to work out that Epics can be made vulnerable once you know their weakness – a fear probably dating from childhood. When vulnerable they can be killed. He’d also discovered that if an Epic could be made to face their fears, they could supress their homicidal and tyrannical tendencies. In Firefight, as part of a Reckoner cell, he had gone to Babylon Restored (once New York) since a lot of Epics seemed to be heading that way.  During this novel, David reclaimed Megan, the Epic he loved, by making her face her fears but Prof, the leader of the cell, lost his control on his, killing two who were supposed to be his friends.

Calamity takes up the story with the surviving cell members heading south in the hunt for Prof. David thinks he knows Prof’s weakness and wants to redeem him rather than kill him, which would be the sensible thing to do. They arrive in Ildithia (formally Atlanta). This city is now made entirely of salt and is moving. Buildings grow on the leading edge and a week later crumble away as they reach the other side of the city. Everyone moves every week. Prof is in the process of taking over the city. Epics who don’t accept his rule are killed, though the Epic he really wants is Larcener who governed the city before he arrived. The team find new allies and new enemies.

This novel, and indeed the whole series, is an enjoyable, action packed romp. While the Epics are negative aspects of the super-heroes in the comic franchises, the fight sequences could easily feature in those pages. This is the kind of series that could happily be taken up by one of the American TV companies and draw in a lot of viewers. Until that happens, there is no substitute for a good book. Recommended.