Archive for Brandon Sanderson

2008 Reading Project

Posted in Reading List with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 23, 2017 by jaclemens

I joined Goodreads in April 2008 and began adding titles right away to my to-read shelf. These titles were the books I most wanted to read, foremost on my list, and yet some of them can still be found lingering in to-read limbo today. I realized that if I did not rectify this situation in 2017, I will be lamenting – not celebrating – my 10 year anniversary next spring!

Looking back on that first year, I read 44 books, many of them formative for my development as a book buyer. Three books by Michael Chabon (not my first, but it cemented his place as one of my favorite authors); three by Brandon Sanderson (ibid); The Book Thief; American Gods; Wicked; Reinhold Niebuhr and Isaac Bashevis Singer; and The Stress of Her Regard (one of my top ten favorite books), among other great reads. It was a tremendous year of reading for me, so it’s no slight on the books I didn’t get to in 2008.

Since then I have read plenty of books and added plenty more to my to-read list. From 2009 to 2011, I managed to move 20 more of my 2008 books from to-read to read (past tense), so it isn’t as if I forgot about the books that had earlier caught my eye. However, I have made no progress on that subset of books since re-reading The Stress of Her Regard in 2011. I wouldn’t say that I lost interest after three years – or that more appealing books intervened – but, for one reason or another, those books did not fit into my immediate reading plan.

In 2017, I will be reading 1-2 books each month from my 2008 list in order to finish the remaining 18 that have gone neglected for the last six years. I started my project in February with a pair of timely titles: 1984 by George Orwell and The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis. I plan to read a larger amount of new releases combined with other books that haven’t languished as long on my to-read list, but the 2008 books will provide the basis for my reading this year. I don’t anticipate writing a review for every book I read in 2017, but hopefully working through the books I wanted to read back then will help recapture some of the magic of buying and reading books in 2008!

By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them

Posted in Events, Fiction, New release, Young Adult with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2015 by jaclemens

IMG_0764“Babilar was starting to grow on me,” David comments in Firefight, a book that is growing on me. Babilar, short for Babylon Restored, is what they call Manhattan after it has been flooded by They Might Be Giants an Epic called Regalia. Only the tops of the skyscrapers now stick up above the waterline, and the denizens of Babilar live on the rooftops. They survive at the whim of Regalia, but they are sustained by the strange glowing fruit that inexplicably grows inside the upper floors of the buildings, courtesy of a mysterious force known as Dawnslight. A former judge, Regalia rules Babylon Restored with her own brand of law and order, just as Steelheart ruled Newcago. Now that Steelheart has been deposed, Regalia sends other Epics to draw the Reckoners out of Newcago. The Reckoners are accustomed to moving from one base of operations to the next, but David isn’t. He’s never been out of Newcago, and Babilar is completely outside his comfort zone. But Firefight is there, and she and David have unfinished business.

FullSizeRenderI was excited to find out how David and Firefight would resolve their differences; I was not expecting the introduction of Newton, Obliteration, and Regalia as the main threats (although I did manage to collect all three cards). Brandon Sanderson is a world builder at heart, so he takes us on a little journey to see another transfigured city, how another Epic despot does things, and how the residents react differently. The change of scenery is effective as progression for the characters, and introduces a new cell of Reckoners. Firefight is the titular character, but she’s not front and center in the story. She is deserving of the marquee, though. When she is Firefight she is spectacular, and, when she is content to be Megan around David, the interaction is authentic. My expectations were met in that regard, but Sanderson didn’t stop there! All of his foreshadowing was brought out by the eerie neon glow of Babilar as he continues to build toward Calamity, the conclusion to the Reckoners series.

Behind the Curtain

Posted in Events, New release, Recommendations with tags , , , , , , , on July 30, 2014 by jaclemens

Howard and Mary blindside Dan with an award while Brandon looks on at Westercon.

My FantasyCon experience began in the same way as FanX: with a booksigning by Dan Wells! In this case it was not at Wellers, but at Westercon (Wellers was onsite). My press pass allowed me to enter the FantasyCon floor early, get the lay of the land, then cross the street for the launch party of Shadows Beneath: A Writing Excuses Anthology. All four authors from Writing Excuses were guests at Westercon, so I was able to meet Mary Robinette Kowal and Howard Tayler for the first time.

The anthology collects the transcripts of the podcasts (both brainstorming and critiquing), the first drafts, and all the edits that went into the final version of each story. Sanderson also included his own analysis of the process, as well as notes from his own writing group. This is the entire process, warts and all. Four seasoned authors go beyond giving advice: they reveal the challenges each faced, and the exact tools of the trade they used to surmount said challenges. The final versions of the stories alone are worth the price, but the glimpse behind the curtain is priceless. (Incidentally, Dan managed to wear a cloak through multiple international airports without anyone asking for a glimpse of what he had under it!)

In Person

Posted in Events, New release, Young Adult with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 20, 2014 by jaclemens

Rob (with therapy dog) and Dan (wearing Bavarian hat)

I recently watched the first season of Battlestar Galactica at my older brother’s insistence. He thought I would like it, and he was right! It’s an excellent series, and – although I came late to it – the timing was perfect for me.

At the end of March I went to see Dan and Robison Wells at Weller Book Works. Dan was back in the U.S. touring for Ruins, the finale of the Partials sequence, so I passed on Neil deGrasse Tyson’s appearance at the University of Utah the same night to meet the brothers Wells.

Partials was inspired in part by Battlestar Galactica, and Ruins examines many of the same ramifications: what if the Partials not only look human, but are programmed to think they are human? What would happen to the offspring of a Partial and a human mating pair? War between the two sides has decimated the human population, and a faction of humans consider using the nuclear option against the Partials, condemning their own kind in the process. Humans created the Partials and bio-engineered them with certain fail safes to make them dependent on humans, so all sentient life on the planet will be eradicated  if the two sides can’t work together.

Wells was aware of the disappointing conclusion to BSG (I haven’t gotten that far yet myself, but I’ve heard the reactions) and promised to deliver a more-satisfying ending to his series. There is a payoff to the conflict, but the resolution left more to be desired. If the two peoples are to be interdependent, why do the romantic pairings split neatly down the human/Partial divide? It is a YA series, so it has the requisite love triangles. It does not have a fitting demise to the villain of the first two books, however. Her arc gives way to other monstrosities with which Kira must reckon. Ultimately only one of the geneticists who had a hand in creating the Partials survives, and that too seems unbalanced.

EJOI have finished reading the Partials sequence, but I haven’t finished watching BSG. Some of the big reveals have already been spoiled for me, but my brother isn’t to blame. He tried to warn me, but it was unavoidable. I had to go see Edward James Olmos (Admiral Adama) when he came to the Salt Lake Comic Con’s Fan Xperience in April! If you’re going to get spoilers, you might as well get them from the show’s star! His panel was stellar, and I was able to shake his hand the next day at his table. My brother wanted me to ask him if Deckard was a replicant, and Olmos said “Of course he was a replicant! I was the only red-blooded American in the movie [Bladerunner]!”

After I told Olmos I admired him I realized I was wearing a silly Kermit hat!

I told EJO I admired him while wearing a silly Kermit hat!

Aaron Douglas (Chief Tyrol) was also a guest at FanX, but I missed his panel due to a scheduling conflict. Douglas didn’t miss Karl Urban watching BSG on their flight to Salt Lake City, however! Urban (Bones) claimed to be just like us as a fan, but I found that statement suspect. Urban has most recently appeared in the tv show Almost Human, in which he played a human detective with an android partner, after all.

SpinerAnd then there was Brent Spiner, who played Data, the greatest android of them all! He was pretty great at playing the crowd as well! Given the heavy emphasis on Star Trek actors at FanX, I wanted to go in a Khan costume from Star Trek Into Darkness.

Ultimately I had to settle for reading the graphic novel Star Trek: Khan, by Mike Johnson. It details how Khan came to be bio-engineered (twice) in addition to memory tampering. It reminded me of  Isolation, the point-five story in the Partials sequence. Both show how the genetically-modified warriors were trained and manipulated by their creators; both stories result in biological warfare that destroys the ecosystem and the population.

My FanX read was Infinity Blade: Redemption by Brandon Sanderson. He was a FanX guest, as was ChAIR Entertainment, the developer of the Infinity Blade games. An oversight scheduled their panels concurrently, so I only got to see Sanderson. This installment of the Infinity Blade lore tells of how the God King (Raidriar) and Siris (Ausar) came to be Deathless through – you guessed it! – the wonders of bio- engineering! I’m beginning to wonder if that isn’t the secret to Sanderson’s prolific writing!

The epilogue to my Fan Xperience took me back to the prologue; it was a final panel featuring Rob Wells, Brad R. Torgersen, and other local authors of dystopian literature. I read Blackout before FanX (and before Ruins, in fact). It explores what happens when a virus interacts with the developing brain of teenagers. Some of the teens (and only teens are susceptible) who have the virus manifest superhuman abilities. It’s the X-Men minus the mutated x gene! Most of the teens are unaware of their unique powers, and go about being typical teenagers. Others have been identified early and trained – as terrorists. All the typical teens are rounded up and screened for the virus, as the Army intends to fight virus-fueled fire with virus-fueled fire. It’s an interesting premise for X-Fans, and it features a fine diabolical mastermind. Establishing the story takes some of the energy out of the equation, leaving it incomplete. There will be a sequel, Dead Zone, coming this fall, and, like the Partials sequence, it has a point-five story called Going Dark. I’ve already ordered Dead Zone (war with Russia!), and may go on to download Going Dark for the additional world building. Come to our store to meet Robison Wells in person and get his new book signed when it comes out!

Knights Who Say

Posted in Fiction, New release, Promotions, Recommendations with tags , , on March 25, 2014 by jaclemens

Shattered Plains 2Words of Radiance! The second book in The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson was released on March 4th! We are featuring it in the store as our book of the month – and it made a fine birthday present for a certain Sanderson fan!

The Heralds have returned, the Knights Radiant have reformed, and the Voidbringers have summoned the Everstorm. As they converge on the Shattered Plains, so does Shallan and Szeth-son-son-Vallano. Words of Radiance wraps up a two book mini-arc (if two thousand pages can be deemed “mini”) establishing the series, and opens many more possibilities moving forward. It is a dazzling follow up to Way of Kings (which I re-read beforehand), and it bears some resemblance to Hero of Ages. Its’ ties to Warbreaker may be the strongest, however, resulting in an unplanned re-read of that supposed stand-alone novel.

In the final 60 pages there is an epic showdown that gave me such chills I had to give myself an extra day to finish my reading! I’ve read almost everything Sanderson has written, but this one blew my mind to such an extent that it has taken two weeks to form a review! I hope I get a book of The Stormlight Archive for every birthday!

Strikes Again

Posted in New release, Recommendations, Young Adult with tags , , on September 24, 2013 by jaclemens

15704458Sanderson strikes again in Steelheart, released today! It’s his second YA book this year, and like The Rithmatist it features a non-powered protagonist who gets ahead by meticulous attention to detail. David also lost his father, but, unlike Joel, he witnessed his father’s death. He watched as Steelheart brutally murdered an ordinary man who thought Steelheart was the hero they needed. They need a hero because every Epic who gained superpowers at the advent of Calamity became a villain. There are no heroes save for the Reckoners, a shadow ops group of humans that take down the Epics within their reach. They choose their battles carefully, picking the Epics who appear unbeatable yet possess hidden weaknesses. Not even the Reckoners will stand up to Steelheart, however. His rule of Chicago is uncontested until David alters the already altered landscape. He saw Steelheart bleed the day his father died, and will stop at nothing to strike again.

That is the premise of Reckoners #1, but it’s not what makes Steelheart so gripping. Sanderson’s take on the superhero genre is full of great characters who don’t need to wear spandex suits to be colorful. That’s how he succeeds in taking something familiar and reinventing it – by creating characters with motivations and secrets in addition to special abilities. I should point out that I’m describing the Reckoners and not the Epics. It’s their series, and they make it work. The Epics may have impressive powers – Nightwielder is the Epic version of the Darkling – but the Reckoners have impressive personalities. It’s David’s heart, not Steelheart’s immunity, that makes the difference!

It’s worth noting that both Sanderson and Wells – friends who share a writing group – use alternate versions of Chicago. In Steelheart much of Newcago has been turned to steel (including part of the lake), and in Fragments the lake has flooded the low-lying part of the city (including Soldier Field, site of an important scene in Steelheart).

Circle in the Chalk

Posted in New release, Reading List, Recommendations, Young Adult with tags , on July 24, 2013 by jaclemens

RithmatistTriangles within circles within squares – it’s an indecipherable puzzle. But these aren’t crop circles; they’re chalk circles. The magic system in The Rithmatist is based on geometric lines written in chalk. It comes as no surprise that Brandon Sanderson is a whiz at inventing magic systems, but it’s refreshing to see a protagonist who’s a whiz at that system without any magical ability. Joel is a 16-year-old student at Armedius Academy, a school that instructs both traditional and magical students. Joel is neither a Rithmatist nor a traditional prep school student; as the son of a humble chalkmaker and a cleaning woman, he’s an aberration at a place like Armedius. He doesn’t fit in with either group, although he longs to be a Rithmatist. He’s memorized all the complicated variations of the defensive chalk circles they use in duels, as well as the history of the duelists who used them successfully. He’s a student of the game without the specialized skill set needed to participate. But when a mysterious attacker begins abducting the most skilled Rithmatists at Armedius, it’s up to Joel’s understanding of the magic, not his innate ability to use it, that unravels the secret plot.

I’m an unabashed fan of Sanderson, and there is a lot to love about this book. It’s a fantastic reworking of the magic school concept, with academics applying the magic to their advantage. Joel is an outsider who finds his way into the inner circle. The alternate history is great, with the United Isles of America bearing new names. Armedius is one of eight academies that teach Rithmatics, and it’s located in Jamestown on the Isle of New Britannia. Europe was conquered by the JoSeun Empire, and the exiled monarch of England is the one who discovered Rithmatics. That ties magic to the Monarchical Church, building another layer to the clockwork culture that developed in America. Joel is surrounded by a colorful cast of characters, and his interactions with them are perfect. The illustrations of the chalkings – chalk creatures drawn to assist in the duels – are delightful, and the diagrams of the different defenses are highly detailed. The Rithmatist is also Sanderson’s most personal book to date, with a main character who shares a name with the book’s dedicatee, and a dark menace located in Nebrask, the state based on Sanderson’s home state of Nebraska. The Rithmatist is a sheer delight for Sanderson fans like me, and would serve as an excellent introduction to a younger generation of new fans.