Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Calamity - Brandon Sanderson

Calamity is the third and final novel in Brandon Sanderson’s ‘Reckoners’ trilogy. Following almost directly after the second volume, it follows David and his decidedly diminished band of Reckoners as they attempt the impossible: to retrieve an errant Prof, and attempt to deal with Calamity – whose arrival in the sky was the harbinger of Epic powers  - in order to end the reign of the Epics over humanity. 

From a character standpoint, the focus of this volume is really on David and Megan. They spend a great deal of time together, and whilst a lot of that is spent making terrible, terrible similes, there’s room for exploring the emotional underpinning of their relationship as well. There’s an energy crackling between the two which Sanderson manages masterfully – a kind of assured gentleness, paired with humour and the occasional dose of adrenaline, which creates a seamless, genuine whole. Following the tribulations of Firefight, it’s great to see this sort of confidence portrayed in the narrative, and watching these two grow together over the course of the text is quite delightful. 
We also get a little more time with some of the Reckoner team members who made it through Firefight intact. That said, they don’t feel like they get quite enough time on the page. There’s enough depth there that they work as a supporting cast, driving the plot forward, but they don’t feel quite real – unlike the better realised David and Megan. Still, they serve their purpose, and the dialogue between Cody, Abraham and David serves to shape David, at least a little. That, and Cody is occasionally genuinely funny, bringing a bit of levity into what can be a rather sombre book at times. 

We also get to take a closer look at Prof, who has been something of a mystery since way back in Steelheart. There’s some great discussion here around what drives Prof to do what he does, how he thinks, his wants, needs and fears. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a fair amount of Learning more of his past, getting into the depths of the man is something of a surprise. This is a book which, as the series seems to come to a close, isn’t afraid of giving answers. Prof’s life is just one of those things that were heretofore a mystery, now dragged out into the light. Amongst other things, there’s the question of Calamity – which seems to give Epics their powers -  and the question of why every Epic seems to struggle with their inner demons, typically falling into a selfish and dangerous state of power. 

These questions – and their answers – are at the heart of the book, along with David and Megan. Megan, herself an Epic, lets us see further into their condition, their fears and needs, more than we’ve had occasion to before. At the same time, David and the other Reckoners are out in full force, rampaging hither and yon in their search for Prof. There’s…well, rather a lot of explosions. There’s some full-on battles as well, which reminded me of the stand-up fight from Steelheart. If you’re in this for the action, you’re not going to be disappointed. The prose absolutely sizzles, and I, for one, couldn’t put the book down. If you’re in the book for answers – there are plenty of those as well. David and the Reckoners are looking for knowledge as much as they are for Prof and Calamity, and they find rather a lot of it, sometimes in unexpected places.  There’s a lot of light thrown on the central mysteries of the series here – and overall, the answers don’t disappoint.

As a send-off for the series as a whole, Calamity is an excellent piece. It gives closure to the world of the Reckoners, with a strong emotional heart wrapped in a layer of solved mysteries, and another of high-octane adventure. If you’re not reading the series already – go back now, pick up Steelheart, and find out what you’ve been missing. If you’re up to date – come in to Calamity knowing that it’s not going to hold anything back. There’s truth and consequences aplenty, and each turn of a page is a revelation. I’ll miss the Reckoners, but they received an absolutely top-notch ending. If you want to know how the story ends – then you absolutely need to read this. It does not disappoint. 

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