5. Steelheart, Brandon Sanderson
I wasn't quite sure what to expect of this, because the post-apocalyptic, super-hero genre seems pretty well saturated. But this book was terrific.
A few years before the start of the book, Calamity happened. (It's never quite clear what Calamity is, though I assume later books in the series may make this clear). And following Calamity, the world saw the rise of Epics, ordinary humans with powers so extraordinary that they soon ceased to seem human at all. In the opening chapter, life still functions as usual, with many people, David's father included, believing that heroes will rise to challenge the Epics. But then Steelheart comes to claim Chicago as his own, and all hell breaks lose. The opening chapter was immediately riveting, including a few horrifying images that are going to remain with me for a long, long time. And in this sequence, David sees something no one else has seen: he sees Steelheart bleed, which means this Epic has a weakness. One he wants so badly to bury that he destroys the entire building where David is and any potential witnesses. David escapes by lucky chance.
Fast forward ten years, and David is obsessed with Epics. He's studied everything there is to know about them, including their weaknesses, with an eye to destroying them. And when the Reckoners (the only group of humans to fight the Epics, who have essentially taken over the world) come to town, David seizes his chance. Because not only does David want to fight epics, but he has a plan to take Steelheart down. But for his plan to work, he has to convince the Reckoners to trust him . . .
The world Sanderson creates here is fabulous: fascinating powers (and weaknesses) for the epics, interesting technology, and the character interplay among the Reckoners is fun to watch. But mostly, he keeps the action moving along so quickly that it's hard to put the book down. (My husband is currently listening to the audiobook version and I frequently try to initiate conversation only to find that he's just as sucked in by the world as I was. In short, he's oblivious). Sanderson even manages to raise some interesting moral and ethical questions about the nature of power and those who seek to wield it. Fun, fast, fascinating--a great read for people who like action, dystopian, super-heroes, or even just a good story.