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galendo

My Christmas present to you: a book recommendation

8 posts in this topic

Okay, I’m not sure how apropos this is, but I’m going to recommend that anyone who liked the Reckoners should at least check out an online web novel called Worm, by someone going by the handle Wildbow.  It’s available for free online.

  I wouldn't necessarily recommend it instead of The Reckoners, but if you've already read the Reckoners' series and are looking for something in the same vein, it's a good place to start.

Given the similarities of the two series, I doubt I’m the first person to make the connection between them.  Heck, for all I know, the forum is littered with such comparisons and everyone’s sick of them.  You’ll have to forgive me for not checking, since as of this writing I’ve only read Steelheart.  I hope to get to the others in the next month or so, but for now I’m avoiding any possible spoilers.  I’ll check this thread and reply to it, but for my sake please keep mum about anything post-Steelheart.

I’m going to somewhat assume that ‘most everyone reading this thread has read and enjoyed at least Steelheart, because otherwise, what are you doing in an online forum on the topic?  I will try to keep spoilers for both series to a minimum, however.  In an effort to help you decide whether Worm might be worth your time, I’m going to give a brief rundown on which series does a particular topic better, so you can decide whether you’re interested in reading or not.  For instance, if you’re really attracted to the action in the Reckoners, you might not want to read Worm, because IMHO the action scenes that Wildbow writes don’t really hold a candle to Sanderson’s; but on the other hand if you like to see clever applications of cool powers, that’s a place where Worm is superior to the Reckoners.  Without further ado:

Setting

Advantage: Neither

Both works are set in a dystopian future/alternate universe.  Both are set in what tvtropes.org would call a Crapsack World – the sort of world that sucks even for the people with powers, and sucks even worse for the people without powers.  Not much of a contrast here.  The worlds are pretty darn similar: just our world, wrecked by people with superpowers.

Memorable Characters

Advantage: Worm

Maybe it’s because Worm is a really long book and Steelheart isn’t, but about a month after finishing Steelheart, I really only remember four characters: the main guy, the main girl, the eponymous Steelheart, and the inventor/mentor.  I remember there were other characters, but I couldn’t tell you much about them.  On the other hand, in Worm, two or three years after reading it, I could pretty much tell you all the powers of the main characters, their personalities, their major contributions, etc.

Tightness of Writing

Advantage: Reckoners

This is the main advantage that The Reckoners has over Worm.  The Reckoners is very tightly written, with pretty much every scene contributing to the work as a whole.  Worm, on the other hand, is a sprawling epic, probably the equivalent of about 8-10 Reckoners books, and not all of it is good.  There’re two or three arcs that drag on too long, and one or two that could and should have been cut entirely, IMHO, or at least very seriously reworked.  When it’s good, it’s really good; but when it drags, it really drags.  This might be because…

Quality of Action

Advantage: Reckoners

…Sanderson writes great action scenes, and Wildbow really doesn’t.  Some of the action scenes are pretty cool, but a lot of them just aren’t.  If action’s your thing, read the first eight chapters of Worm (roughly the equivalent of the first Reckoners book, probably; I’ve got Worm mentally divided into about five or six books, and chapter eight marks the end of the first one).  There’s a pretty epic fight in the eighth chapter, but understand that this is pretty much Worm’s high point, as far as action goes.  With the possible exception of the very last fight, it never gets that epic again.  And it’s not worth reading all the way to the last arc, if you didn’t like the first one.

Coolness of Powers

Advantage: Worm

This is one topic where Worm just blows the Reckoners out of the water, though.  Worm has cooler powers, and the characters use their powers more cleverly than do those of the Reckoners’ universe.  Also, the weaknesses of people with powers tend to tie directly into the powers themselves, which is one point where I thought Steelheart really dropped the ball.  Like (major Steelheart spoiler incoming) the eponymous Steelheart’s main power is his invulnerable metal body, and his weakness is not being harmed except by…people not afraid of him?  It’s just weird, it doesn’t fit.  In Worm, if someone’s power were that they were made of metal, his weakness would be extreme temperatures (vulnerable to melting/shattering), hydrochloric acid (or any acid that can etch metal), any force strong enough to rend/crush metal, etc., etc.  He probably also wouldn’t have the power to fly, either.  Though there are exceptions, most people in Worm get only one main power and a few required secondary powers, and their weaknesses tie directly into their powers.  In Steelheart, everything comes off as completely random.  Maybe it’s explained later on – I haven’t finished the series yet – but I can’t really see the connection between a steel body and flight and vulnerability to unafraid people.  The Reckoners is too random for my taste; Worm doesn’t have this problem nearly as much.

Epic-ness of Plot

Advantage: Worm

With the exception of one or two arcs that don’t contribute directly to the overall plot, Worm has a pretty good overarching plot.  In my opinion, a strong ending will cover a lot of ills, and Worm has a pretty strong ending, both for the main characters and for the world at large.  Most of the mysteries are satisfactorily resolved; there are a few plot holes, a few places where it seems the author deviated somewhat from his/her original plan, but for the most part the entire story hangs together pretty well.  Maybe the comparison isn't fair, but if The Reckoners has an epic plot, I'm not seeing any hints of it as of the end of Steelheart.

Conclusion

If you liked the Reckoners, you should probably give the first eight chapters of Worm a try (maybe the equivalent of a Reckoners novel in length).  It’s free, and costs you nothing but time well spent.  I wouldn’t recommend stopping before chapter eight, since that’s the chapter that pulls together a bunch of the earlier stuff and indirectly answers a few nagging questions.  On the other hand, if after reading the first eight chapters you don’t feel like you want to read more, I’d recommend dropping it.  It’s not that it doesn’t get better, but it doesn’t get a whole lot better, and there’s a lot of slogging in the meantime.

If I’ve convinced you to give Worm a try, here’s a link to the first part of the first chapter: https://parahumans.wordpress.com/2011/06/11/1-1/.  If anyone has any questions they’d like me to answer, any other topics they'd like me to compare, or any other similar works they'd like to recommend, I’ll be checking this thread and replying as able for the next few days; just try to keep Reckoners spoilers to a minimum, please.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Reading!

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1 hour ago, galendo said:

This is one topic where Worm just blows the Reckoners out of the water, though.  Worm has cooler powers, and the characters use their powers more cleverly than do those of the Reckoners’ universe.  Also, the weaknesses of people with powers tend to tie directly into the powers themselves, which is one point where I thought Steelheart really dropped the ball.  Like (major Steelheart spoiler incoming) the eponymous Steelheart’s main power is his invulnerable metal body, and his weakness is not being harmed except by…people not afraid of him?  It’s just weird, it doesn’t fit.  In Worm, if someone’s power were that they were made of metal, his weakness would be extreme temperatures (vulnerable to melting/shattering), hydrochloric acid (or any acid that can etch metal), any force strong enough to rend/crush metal, etc., etc.  He probably also wouldn’t have the power to fly, either.  Though there are exceptions, most people in Worm get only one main power and a few required secondary powers, and their weaknesses tie directly into their powers.  In Steelheart, everything comes off as completely random.  Maybe it’s explained later on – I haven’t finished the series yet – but I can’t really see the connection between a steel body and flight and vulnerability to unafraid people.  The Reckoners is too random for my taste; Worm doesn’t have this problem nearly as much.

The Reckoners series does answer the randomness question, and answers it pretty satisfactorily, in my opinion. It's really more of a late-arrival spoiler now, but I'll put it in a spoiler tag in case you'd rather encounter it on your own. I for one knew it going in (I tend to see spoiler tags as more of a challenge than a threat and  may or may not have had a few members tell me, on separate occasions, to specifically avoid a spoiler tag :ph34r:) and felt it enhanced my reading of the second book quite a bit, though not everyone would feel the same way. 

Spoiler

In Firefight, it's revealed that an Epic's weakness either is their greatest fear or is tied to it. These fears, furthermore, were acquired separately from Calamity and don't necessarily involve Epics. Steelheart's greatest fear was someone who wasn't afraid of him, so that became his Epic weakness. I won't spoil any more fears, but when you do read Firefight, pay attention to Newton's fear. It really goes a long way toward humanizing her, hinting at a lot of tragedy in her past. 

 

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I've read Worm, and the first two books of Reckoners. I have to agree with you on the powers part: the author of Worm was very creative when it came to powers and what the people would do with them. Even some of the more 'normal' ones have interesting spins on them. Personally, I just love how the powers were.
Another thing you haven't mentioned though is that it has a nice overarching plot, and an explanation for the powers.
It is really long though, at 1 680 000 words (I just checked) so you have to be commited to reading it. Not that I think that'll be a problem here.

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I have not read all of Worm, but what I have read is solid.

Now maybe I should get my own web-novel into a presentable form...

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4 hours ago, TwiLyghtSansSparkles said:

The Reckoners series does answer the randomness question, and answers it pretty satisfactorily, in my opinion. It's really more of a late-arrival spoiler now, but I'll put it in a spoiler tag in case you'd rather encounter it on your own. I for one knew it going in (I tend to see spoiler tags as more of a challenge than a threat and  may or may not have had a few members tell me, on separate occasions, to specifically avoid a spoiler tag :ph34r:) and felt it enhanced my reading of the second book quite a bit, though not everyone would feel the same way.

I'm glad to hear there's a good answer.  I thought it might be that characters' powers/weaknesses were due to their inherent tragic flaw (like, maybe Steelheart was really afraid of being hurt by bad people or something, so he gains super-protection from being hurt by anyone meaning him harm, but not from anyone who doesn't see him as a potential target/enemy...or something.  It still doesn't all hang together in my mind, so it's probably something else).  I gave up looking for an answer in that regard when it was mentioned that someone had a weakness to people who were exactly 37 years old, which seemed completely arbitrary.  I haven't read your spoiler, in case you can't tell, because I'm the kind that likes to be surprised/figure things out myself.  Just the reassurance is good enough for me, at least for now.  I did like how the darkness-maker was weak to UV light, for instance.  I just wish all the weaknesses tied in like that.

1 hour ago, A Budgie said:

I've read Worm, and the first two books of Reckoners. I have to agree with you on the powers part: the author of Worm was very creative when it came to powers and what the people would do with them. Even some of the more 'normal' ones have interesting spins on them. Personally, I just love how the powers were.

Another thing you haven't mentioned though is that it has a nice overarching plot, and an explanation for the powers.
It is really long though, at 1 680 000 words (I just checked) so you have to be commited to reading it. Not that I think that'll be a problem here.

Yeah.  Cool powers used cleverly are the main thing I like about Worm, along with some of the characters that I thought were really well-written.

I did mean to add that Worm does have a good overall plot, but I guess that got overshadowed when I focused too much on its epic-ness.  Thanks for pointing that out.

I wouldn't have guessed Worm to be quite so long.  I put it at 8-10 Reckoners books, and that's sounding more like 10-15.  But yeah, I'm not too worried about Sanderson fans falling off partway through, and it does have reasonable stopping points.  Chapter eight, for instance, is one such spot.  It's where I'd end the first book if I were publishing it.  There are still a large number of unresolved plot lines at that point, but that's the case throughout the novel, and I don't think that's entirely a bad thing.

4 hours ago, Zathoth said:

I have not read all of Worm, but what I have read is solid.

Now maybe I should get my own web-novel into a presentable form...

Out of curiosity, can I ask where you stopped reading?  I've got my theories about parts that are likely to bore readers, but I don't know that everyone feels the same.  I know I thought chapter 17 was particularly out-of-place.  That's the chapter that

Spoiler

Focuses on the Travelers' backstory.

But I wouldn't mind hearing where you dropped off the train.  If it was near the end, it'd be worth picking up again, probably, because the last arc is the most epic, IMHO.  Though the second-to-last arc is probably the most boring arc overall, so there's that.  It's worth going for if you're close, though.

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1 hour ago, galendo said:

I'm glad to hear there's a good answer.  I thought it might be that characters' powers/weaknesses were due to their inherent tragic flaw (like, maybe Steelheart was really afraid of being hurt by bad people or something, so he gains super-protection from being hurt by anyone meaning him harm, but not from anyone who doesn't see him as a potential target/enemy...or something.  It still doesn't all hang together in my mind, so it's probably something else).  I gave up looking for an answer in that regard when it was mentioned that someone had a weakness to people who were exactly 37 years old, which seemed completely arbitrary.  I haven't read your spoiler, in case you can't tell, because I'm the kind that likes to be surprised/figure things out myself.  Just the reassurance is good enough for me, at least for now.  I did like how the darkness-maker was weak to UV light, for instance.  I just wish all the weaknesses tied in like that.

They do tie in, but in a different way than you're looking for, I think. It's not a quote-unquote logical tie-in, but it's a more character-based one, in my opinion. I'll keep the spoiler vague, but just in case….

Spoiler

The reveal as to what weaknesses are and where they come from makes almost every single Epic instantly more pitiable. It humanizes them in a way that's difficult to replicate, and it hints at so many tragic backstories. Nightweilder—the one who's weakened by UV rays—is no exception. 

 

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Weaknesses, personalities and even powersets themselves are not necessarily connected; Conflux is a rather calm man despite energy being his power. Fortuity is afraid of women (or something like that) yet his power is precognition and exhanced reflexes.

Take my words with grain of copper, I haven't read all the books yet.

Edited by Oversleep
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Okay, in the past few weeks I've reread Worm and finished up the Reckoners series, so I can now discuss both while they're relatively fresh in my mind.  More on that in a moment.

First things first, I want to clarify the difference between the terminology I used in my first post and the terminology that Worm's author uses.  Being a web novel, Worm is written as a series of posts.  Worm's author uses the word "chapter" to describe each individual post, where I used "chapter" to describe a series of posts bound together in a cohesive whole; the author uses "arc" to describe this same sequence.  So when I recommended that people read through chapter 8 to see if it's their cup of tea, be aware that I'm not recommending only reading the first eight posts; I'm recommending reading through what the author has titled "Arc 8: Extermination."  Just to be clear.

Second, now that I've finished both series recently, I feel I can and should compare them further.  Since I requested no post-Steelheart spoilers in my original thread, I'm going to spoiler-tag this discussion, too.  For those looking for the quick summary, though, or who haven't finished the Reckoners yet and don't want to be spoiled, Worm went up in my estimation and The Reckoners went down.  Without further ado:

Spoiler

Awesomeness of Ending

Advantage: Worm, by a lot

This is a big one for me.  Personally, I'll forgive even a bad story if it has a great ending, and an otherwise good story can be ruined for me if the ending's stupid.  I wouldn't call The Reckoners' ending stupid, exactly, but I was very much not impressed.  Like, you have this super-Epic, the Epic of Epics, the world-wrecking plague upon humanity, and the entire confrontation with him lasts fifteen pages, tossed in as an afterthought to a 300+ page book.  Oh, and he also happens to be some two-bit character who waltzes in halfway through the third book without any foreshadowing whatsoever.  Very disappointing.  Worm's ending is way, way, way better than The Reckoners' is.

Coolness of Powers (revisited)

Advantage: Still Worm, but not by as much

Before, I docked The Reckoners pretty hard because I didn't see how the weaknesses tied into the powers.  Now that I know the connection, I'm feeling a little more lenient toward The Reckoners.  I still think that Worm has the better approach, which is: give enemy characters awesome powers, then force the main characters to come up with cool applications of their weaker powers to combat them.  No weaknesses required, beyond the limitations of the powers themselves.  Also, on an individual power-by-power basis, Worm still comes out ahead.

Tightness of Writing (revisited)

Advantage: Reckoners on a scene-by-scene basis, Worm on a book-by-book basis

Sanderson is still great at writing scenes, but he really falls apart here at foreshadowing and weaving the books together.  Like, at the end of Steelheart, I thought that Firefight would be about the team trying to hold Newcago against the Epics who wanted to claim the last awesome city in America now that Steelheart was dead.  Instead, it was "let's all traipse off to New York and fight some new enemies there".  Same sort of thing for Calamity.  I almost feel the third book should have been called Limelight, and the whole Calamity issue not addressed at all.  (Or maybe there could have been a fourth book called Calamity that was, you know, actually about Calamity.)  Anyway, The Reckoners still has the advantage on a scene-by-scene basis, but Worm takes the cake on a more large-scale one.

There are a great many casual similarities between the series.  I was struck by just how many there were as I read.  For instance, both have a character who can teleport away and leave destruction in his wake.  There are some more fundamental similarities as well, though the most obvious two or three are pretty heavy spoiler-only territory.  One fundamental difference, though, that I thought about while reading them, is the difference the two books have in their outlook on the human condition.  Remember that both are set in dystopian worlds, where things suck for pretty much everybody compared to not all that long ago, when people got powers.  The Reckoners is very optimistic, while Worm is more pessimistic.  In The Reckoners, people are generally still good, but power makes them evil.  In Worm, people are not so good, on the whole, and power just lets them amplify their basic tendencies for good or ill.  Personally, I like Worm's approach better, on the whole, because it seemed a bit more realistic to me (I'm a bit of a pessimist myself).  Whether you think that people are basically good or not might have some effect on which work you like more.

Long story short, though, is that Worm is still worth your time just as much as it was previously, especially if you liked the Reckoners and perhaps even if you didn't.  Go try it out.  Once again, here's a link to the first part: https://parahumans.wordpress.com/2011/06/11/1-1/.  Read through Arc 8.  My guess is you probably won't regret it.

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