Firefight. Book Review

FIREFIGHT by Brandon Sanderson
Gollancz/Orion, p/b, 416 page, £8.99
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan

Where is the boundary between Science Fiction and Fantasy? Both, at their best, are the products of fertile, creative minds. To some authors there is no distinction, claiming that all fiction is fantastic. Others see no demarcation line and are quite happy to straddle it, having a foot in both genres and at times it is difficult to disentangle the direction from which the author approached his material. There is also debate as to whether the Superheroes of Marvel and DC comics are SF or Fantasy. The powers the characters have are fantastic, some are suggested to the result of mutation, others being visitors from other planets where what was normal is now supernormal. Others use science to provide their powers.

In Brandon Sanderson’s Reckoners novels there is this dimorphism between SF and Fantasy. Twelve years previously, a red star had appeared in the sky over the USA. What happened next was attributed to it and it was named Calamity. Certain members of the population acquired superpowers which were generally misused. These people became known as Epics and appeared unkillable. One, named Steelheart, took over Chicago. His touch turned everything to steel. In the first Reckoners novel, Steelheart, David Charleston finds a way to kill him. He also loses Megan, the woman he loves, as she turns out to be an Epic who has infiltrated the group.

As Firefight opens, David and the Reckoners are dealing with Sourcefield, and Epic who wants to move into the vacuum left by Steelheart’s death. Sourcefield is not the first and it appears that these Epics are being sent by Regalia who is High Epic in what was Manhattan and is now known as Babylon Restored. Regalia’s power is control of water and she has drawn water from the river to drown the city so all the streets are now canals. People live on the rooves and inside the abandoned buildings are vines that have grown over everything but whose glowing fruit feed the population.

It takes a while for them to realise that Regalia has lured the Reckoners into a trap as other Epics arrive with the intention of helping Regalia destroy them. It has been known for a while that each Epic has a weakness and it is that which can be utilised in destroying them. During the novel, David and his friends discover more about the weaknesses, why they occur and why they are so different for each Epic. As David’s knowledge grows so does his confidence and ability.

The Firefight of the title is actually, Megan, the woman David loves. Here she is back – one of her powers is resurrection. The question is whose side she is on now, and can David trust what she says? The pace is relentless with danger at all turns but for anyone who enjoyed Steelheart they will find a lot of enjoyment here, too.