Calamity: The Reckoners, Book 3
By Brandon Sanderson
Narrated by MacLeod Andrews for Audible
— Review by James Alexander —
Does Brandon Sanderson have superpowers or is he just chained to his laptop? It feels like the Reckoners trilogy has only just begun and the conclusion is already here. And it isn’t the only thing he’s been doing right now.
The setting combines today’s familiar trends of post apocalyptic and superhero fiction into something wholly unique: a world where super powered beings dubbed “Epics” have appeared — only they all go the villain route instead, fighting for power and wantonly exterminating and subjugating humanity until they’ve reshaped the world.
Throughout the series this set up has been a catalyst for several highly memorable action sequences which not only highlight Sanderson’s skill at writing action and plot, but turn the dynamics of blockbuster power fantasies on their heads. In this world, superpowers are the source of fascination and doom in nail biting sequences of our heroes struggling to escape and scheme their way out of encounters with vastly superior foes. Not unlike Ready Player One (although far more accessible) the nerdy obsession for analyzing superpowers is coveted to the point of being an essential survival skill.
In Calamity, the final installment in the trilogy, our completely powerless hero’s impromptu duel with an Epic with the power to shrink people and objects, including herself, stands out as a high point which crushes anything you saw in Ant-Man last year, enthusiastically exploited to its highest potential. And while narrator MacLeod Andrews’ performance is best suited for the story’s socially awkward young hero, he has a clear energy which intensifies the action and individualizes every character beyond what’s on the page.
However, one the least appealing elements of the series has been the suggestion that the “Epics” of this universe have not all been acting on their own accord and may be suffering from a form of mind control; characters without their own motivations aren’t really characters at all. It risks not being a real conflict when this happens. But the conclusion of the trilogy manages to turn an element which slightly deflated previous entries into a compelling mystery. The conclusion might not make complete sense if you’re analyzing the logic of the ultimate villain too harshly. But boy is it exciting, and that’s what really matters.
James Alexander lives in Durham.