Thursday, April 7, 2011

Brandon Sanderson - Fantasy Author/Publishing Machine...

 There's a famous quotation that has been named “Sturgeon's Law” which states that 90% of science fiction is crap. (I'd extend it to all entertainment, as others have in the past.) That said, that other 10% is where the stuff that creates a lot of the basis for our shared geek culture lives. That 10% includes Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Dune, Firefly and A Game of Thrones, among many other gems in sci-fi and fantasy. That 10% also includes the books of Brandon Sanderson.

If you don't know who he is, you aren't alone. He's not exactly an obscure fantasy writer, but Terry Goodkind, George R.R. Martin and other big names in fantasy took many years to carve out their niche audience and become popular enough that the average book geek has at least a passing familiarity with their names and work. Brandon Sanderson has become prolific very quickly, having only published his first novel in 2005, he now has 10 books in worlds of his own creation published. He's also only 35 years old.

Mild-mannered author, or cyborg sent from the future with  hyperspeed manuscript powers? You decide.

The reason he's been able to publish so much in such a short period of time has, partially, to do with his association with one of the largest fantasy properties of all-time. After being very impressed by the first novel in Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy, Robert Jordan's widow, Harriet McDougal, selected Sanderson to complete her husband's Wheel of Time series, which had a collection of notes and ideas, but was not completed before the author's death in 2007.

A lot of Sanderson's work is characterized by fans and critics by the unique and frequently intricate magic systems he creates, which differ greatly from world to world. The Mistborn series of books starts as a kind of “heist movie” meets “fantasy revolution” story, which is interesting on its own, but each “specialist” can ingest and “burn” different metals in order to produce specific superhuman abilities, and the rare few exist (including the series protagonist) who can burn any of the metals and with proper training are very, very powerful. His debut novel, Elantris, features beings who were once normal humans but woke up one day to find themselves godlike, with the ability to infuse specific patterns, whether drawn in the air from light or worked into metal or stone, each pattern releasing energy to produce a miraculous event.

It really does play out like a classic bank robbery story, with wizards.

Sanderson had produced a wide range of different types of stories in his body of work. Elantris is the first book I read by Sanderson, and I've re-read it a few times now. The story of the fall of the godlike Elantrians and the chaos that shakes the world when their powers fail and their existence becomes a curse is told from the perspective of three very strong, well developed characters. Elantris, along with Warbreaker, are the two standalone books that aren't part of any larger fantasy series. Mistborn is a complete trilogy with a sequel set long after the main three books releasing this year, he has also published a series of Young Adult fantasy called “Alcatraz”, about a young man who comes from a family with special talents which all seem useless or inconvenient until used creatively.

I also highly recommend his newest work, the first book in his Stormlight Archive series, called The Way of Kings. It is a massive tome, clocking in at a little over 1000 pages, but the depth of the world and incredibly well-written characters make it clear why this series features the world he's put the most work into over the last decade. We're introduced to the son of a doctor who goes from healer to soldier, to wartime slave in a brutal and pointless conflict, a traveling scholar desperate to secure her family's salvation through an apprenticeship to the world's most controversial and brilliant woman, an aging warlord who is trying to protect his king (who is his nephew) and fulfill his brother's last request while dealing with the fact that many think he is going mad in his old age, and he's not sure they are wrong.

The audiobook on this one is great, too. At least, it is when the male reader is reading/performing, the female reader kind of sucks.

Quite a few fantasy authors only get published later in life, so their body of work is relatively small, one of the reasons I think that Sanderson is an author to watch is that with over 10 projects to press in 5 years at 35 years old, I think we'll have a whole lot of time to see further incredible things from this young man. Any other fans out there? If not, I hope I've made at least one convert.
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12 comments:

The Angry Lurker said...

One to look out for in the book store.

Stare Dad said...

Does the autor look like Mr Bean or is it just me?

Biff Tanner said...

I think you got me ill check this out.

SOMS said...

The way of the Kings's not a bad book i believe!

=dgrphx= said...

now i gotta read one of his books

Daffycat said...

Always on the lookout for a new-to-me author. Thanks!

ROFLOL I just today mentioned to my DH how much I wished we had HBO since Game of Thrones was coming soon. He was a sweetie, called Direct TV and added it! Sweet!

Alpha said...

Looks like I've got some new reading material for the bus.

Jay said...

looks good, i'll check it out!

Moob said...

first time hearing this name tossed around

D3 Blogger said...

I need to check book store if these are a available for my language.

Lemmiwinks said...

great background on this

G said...

I'll keep an eye out for this one - it sounds right up my alley

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