Dear Brandon Sanderson

January 15, 2008 | 34 comments
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A few months ago, Kaimi asked you a few questions about your experience as a Mormon author. You not only responded, but your answers were interesting and thoughtful. In fact, your answers suggested that you might just be the kind of author whose books I would enjoy. So I bought Mistborn.

My favorite time to read genre fiction is on long flights home from important events whose further development is out of my control and whose minute-by-minute detail I’d prefer not to replay in my mind during the course of a transatlantic flight. My pre-flight book shopping usually results in my buying books that make me want to claw my eyes out two chapters in, but Mistborn was perfect. It was nice to disappear for several hours into a richly textured world peopled by sympathetic characters doing interesting things. Also, the story totally rocked.

Beyond that, there was a lot to like about the book. It was clear that the Final Empire was not a nice place and that it was ruled by awful people, but you didn’t utterly dehumanize the villains or dwell too fondly on the ugly details of evil. Thanks for writing an adult story without the self-indulgent wallowing in vulgarity and sexual content that would make me think twice about recommending your book to others who enjoy the genre. I got a chuckle out of the über-missionary character who was both eager and neutered (too true!) and also an incredibly powerful warrior (wish fulfillment!). And I appreciated that religion was not cast in its usual roles of vain superstition or ruthless oppressor, but rather as an integral part of characters’ lives and an effective interface between individuals and reality. Thanks for caring enough about writing to scrap the precursor novels and turn them into Mistborn, and for paying attention to the prose and dialog. And for the first book in a trilogy, you deserve huge credit for writing a satisfying ending that ties up nearly everything in the book. The next time I’m in need of a fantasy novel–hopefully soon–I’m buying another one of your books.

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34 Responses to Dear Brandon Sanderson

  1. Russell Arben Fox on January 15, 2008 at 10:58 am

    Neutered? Oh man, this I got to read.

  2. William Morris on January 15, 2008 at 11:59 am

    Writing the revolution is easy (relatively speaking). Writing the aftermath is much more difficult and so although there are a few issues with The Well of Ascension (the follow up to Mistborn), I think it demonstrates even better how good Sanderson could become.

    And the development from Elantrist (previous stand alone novel) to Mistborn, the maturation in terms of characterization and plot, proved to me that he’s the type of author that can improve (some can’t — as one of my internet friends says, almost everybody has one good story in them). It’s a bit of a pity, though, that it looks like Sanderson will be focusing on his young adult series and the final Robert Jordan novel for the near future.

    The final book in the Mistborn trilogy comes out this year so it’ll be interesting to see how he wraps up the trilogy, but what I’m really looking forward to is the next project — because now Sanderson has his initial sophomore writing under his belt, has an editor and publisher, has real time to write, etc.

    No pressure, Brandon. ;-)

  3. Snow White on January 15, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    I\’ve read Elantris and Mistborn, and I think he\’s an excellent writer. He\’s one of the more creative and innovative at magic systems in current speculative fiction. I really have a personal dislike for his band of superfluous characters, though. He likes a little gang of older aristocratic gentlemen types, and they just irk me to no end. At some point they do become more likeable, though. I\’m just really not sure why they irritate me so much.

  4. William Morris on January 15, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Snow White:

    His gang of older gentlemen aren’t aristocrats. That’s sort of the point of Mistborn. Perhaps you mean elitist. And, yes, they are sort of elitist (because of their powers).

    And I agree with the magic systems comment — the magic system in the Mistborn novels is the most compelling one I have ever read.

  5. Stephen M (Ethesis) on January 15, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    Elantris was good, I’ve been toying with finding time to read others by Sanderson, ever since the plug at http://www.schlockmercenary.com/index.html

    Amazon keeps remind me, so I may follow-up on the implied suggestion here.

  6. dangermom on January 15, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    As a librarian, I thoroughly enjoyed [i]Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians[/i] (though I felt there were too many asides). Yay, I rule the world! And finally, a children’s/YA fantasy book that isn’t completely derivative and unoriginal. I’ll have to read [i]Mistborn[/i] too, I guess.

  7. Ivan Wolfe on January 15, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    I just finished “The Well of Ascension” book 2 in the Mistborn, and it’s a doozy.

    On an absolute scale, I think Mistborn was better, but only because “The Well” spins its wheels a bit for part of the second act. But overall, it’s just a good a read as Mistborn. And as good as Elantris was, this trilogy is ten times better.

    Of course, a warning for those of you who have yet to read the Mistborn sequel: Everything you think you know is wrong. The ending is a lot like the ending of Empire Strikes Back (though there are no “father” revelations, the revelation at the end is about as shocking).

    That’s all I will say for that – I don’t want to give too much away.

    I’m also glad Brandon is finishing up Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.

  8. Brandon Sanderson on January 15, 2008 at 5:22 pm

    Thanks, all, for the comments. And thank you, Jonathan, for the very kind words. I think every author is a work in progress, young writers like myself particularly. I feel I\’ve still got a lot of room to grow.

    Also, William, know that I never intend to abandon epic fantasy. Even though I\’m going to be releasing one Alcatraz book a year, I will still be able to release one Tor epic a year as well. The Robert Jordan deal may slow me down by a year, but since I was about a year ahead on my Tor books, nobody should notice a difference. Mistborn 3 in 2008, Warbreaker (a stand alone) in 2009 (along with the Robert Jordan book), a new series starting in 2010.

  9. William Morris on January 15, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    Thanks, Brandon. Best of luck with the writing (and everything else).

    And I do have to say that an allomancy-based computer/console game would be the one thing that could turn me into a gamer. Very, very cool magic system.

  10. larryco_ on January 15, 2008 at 6:53 pm

    Brandon: Congrats on the “Wheel of Time” deal, but what a challenge? Jordan left a million loose ends, and I wasn’t sure how HE was going to be able to finish it, let alone someone else. I hear that he left maticulous notes. I guess it’s ironic that an LDS guy gets to sort out Rand’s “3 wives” situation. Good luck.

  11. Ray on January 15, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    #8 – Just have to say that this is one of the reasons I love this blog.

  12. Proud Daughter of Eve on January 15, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    #10: LOL.

    I very nearly stopped reading “Elantris” shortly into it. I was enjoying the world, characters and story until I got to priest of Jaddeth and his storyline. But while I was trying to find the review that had prompted me to check it out in the first place, I re-discovered that the author (*waves hello*) was LDS and was also the guy who’d been tapped to finish “Wheel of Time.”

    What had upset me about the priest of Jaddeth was that it seemed to be your standard Organized Religion is Evil subplot. I have, sad to say, seen many books with that theme and I was really disappointed to find it in a story that otherwise was so promising. In the absence of whatever comment or review had brought the book to my attention in the first place, knowing that the author was LDS though (and going to do “Wheel of Time”) gave me enough encouragement to continue.

    I’m still not done with it but I am still enjoying it. Also having a heck of a good time looking for things that have parallels or correspondences in LDS thought.

    Like Jonathon Green, I’m going to have to look more of Brother Sanderson’s books up. ^_^

    And seriously, good luck with “Wheel of Time!”

  13. William Morris on January 15, 2008 at 7:53 pm

    PDoE:

    “What had upset me about the priest of Jaddeth was that it seemed to be your standard Organized Religion is Evil subplot.”

    I assure that it is not. That’s a bit of a spoiler, but not really.

  14. Kaimi Wenger on January 16, 2008 at 12:43 am

    I’ll second William, PDoE.

    Hrathen may look (somewhat) like your stereotypical bad religious dude, for the first several chapters. (Though even there, he’s particularly well-detailed.) Relatively early in, though, it becomes apparent that he really does not fit that (or any) mold. Hrathen is a pretty unique character, one thing that Brandon is really quite good at. Some of his other real strengths include magic systems (he’s one of the best) and fast-paced endings with lots of moving parts and intersecting plotlines (the “Brandon Avalanche”).

    His weakest area is beginnings — neither Mistborn nor Elantris are real page-turners for the first few chapters. Once you’re past those, you’ll be unable to put them down.

  15. Naismith on January 16, 2008 at 7:43 am

    I had a hard time getting into Elantris, despite strong recommendations from the Utah cousins. What finally did it for me was reading MOLOK’AI by Alan Brennart with our Relief Society Book Club, about leprosy in Hawaii. It was amazing, and the insights about living with a disfiguring disease got me thinking about Elantris again.

    This time, I got into it and totally enjoyed it. Plus it was when we were studying Paul’s epistles, and thinking about his physical issues and imprisonment kinda all went together in a synergistic way.

    But I couldn’t get the other fantasy readers in my house interested until the Wheel of Time deal was announced:)

  16. Proud Daughter of Eve on January 16, 2008 at 8:31 am

    I’m no longer worried about Hrathen. I’m a little concerned his culture/religion might still be cast as Evil-Nasty but I won’t let that stop me from reading the rest of the book.

    Y’know Kaimi, I’ve gotta disagree. I was loving Elantris from the beginning; I liked Raoden and Serene and I was eager to know how they were going to cope with what life had thrown at them. Hrathen was the only block (well, that and time) that kept me from sitting down and devouring it in one go. :) I’m not saying that know the author was LDS gave me complete trust in the book (I will never understand the appeal of “Twilight” to actual adult, mature women*) but it seemed like evidence enough to me that even if the Shu-Derethi religion was Evil Nasty at least it wouldn’t be in the standard “condemnation of a religion” way I’m used to.

    *Note, I’m not picking on “Twilight” readers here. I heard about it through an “actual adult, mature woman” friend of mine. It’s just that, having read it, I can’t see why it appeals to her.

  17. Russell Arben Fox on January 16, 2008 at 9:07 am

    I will never understand the appeal of “Twilight” to actual adult, mature women….Note, I’m not picking on “Twilight” readers here. I heard about it through an “actual adult, mature woman” friend of mine. It’s just that, having read it, I can’t see why it appeals to her.

    As the husband of an actual adult, mature woman who read and enjoyed Twilight, I would suggest that it’s all about the relatively Mormon-approved, teen-age sex(ual tension)/romance/eye candy. Stephanie Meyer came up with a fun way of retelling the basics of the old high school swoon thing while coming up with some plot twists that hadn’t, in fact, already been done a thousand times before. Why do people do watch romantic comedies, after all, even though every plot works pretty much the same? Becaus sometimes they manage to throw something into the mix which is kind of different, which allows people whose brains usually get in the way of their enjoying mindless tales of obsessive love to lose themselves for a while. Kind of like the way I get with the Terminator movies, only with less kissing.

    Now if you’re not into that young-love scene at all, or if you’re male but not gay, the reasons for you to like Twilight run thin. That’s not to say there may not be good reasons to read the book nonetheless, but Melissa and I couldn’t think of them. I guess if you just absolutely have to read every vampire book ever written that’d be a reason, though I confess that I fear for how you decorate your bedroom walls.

  18. Adam Greenwood on January 16, 2008 at 11:55 am

    Y’know, I stopped reading Elantris after the first few chapters because I thought it was going in the standard ‘organized religion is stupid and nasty’ direction (the fact that the author was Mormon didn’t allay those fears), because the pace was slow, and because the stuff about unending torment was just too grim. Now that I see two out of those three are misplaced, I might have another go at it. It was certainly inventive.

  19. Ivan Wolfe on January 16, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    For all those who couldn’t get through Elantris (and even those who did), I’ll just repeat what I said earlier:

    Elantris was good. I enjoyed it. But Mistborn is ten times better written, ten times thematically deeper, and ten times as complex. It’s a real epic fantasy. Whereas Elantris was pleasent enough read, Mistborn was compulsive reading.

  20. Jonathan Green on January 16, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    Russell, while I agree that the last two-thirds of Twilight and the rest of the series so far is standard if well-written teen romance with vampires and werewolves, the opening of the first book justifies every bit of Stephenie Meyer’s success. It’s a maestra performance of doling out information at just the right time, no more and no less, to keep readers turning the pages and wanting to learn more. It’s an opening worth studying.

  21. Snow White on January 17, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    William–
    I realize they weren’t aristocrats, but I was generalizing since they were that sort in Elantris. Maybe I should have said “bunch of older dudes”. It just took me awhile to get into their characters for some reason. They weren’t interesting for me in Elantris, and then I was somewhat put out upon discovering the same type of guys in Mistborn.
    I still think Sanderson is awesome though. I was just wondering if everyone else liked the old guys.
    I personally liked Hrathen, and in general I don’t have a problem with the “organized religion is evil theme” because I just usually take it to mean *some* religions are evil, not that they all are. Sanderson joins The Card in rebuking religions that prey on people instead of serving them, and that’s fine by me.

  22. William Morris on January 18, 2008 at 12:35 am

    I can certainly understand that.

    Me — I like the old, crusty dudes. Half of the short stories I have either written or started so far feature them.

  23. Proud Daughter of Eve on January 19, 2008 at 1:16 am

    Not to totally threadjack but I just can’t let “Twilight” go. It’s not that I don’t understand the appeal of certain genres and their tropes. If I’d read “The Last Dragonlord” as a 14 year-old, I’d’ve bought myself a gold-plated copy. The lonely immortal, shape-shifting dragon guy… his hyper-intelligent black stallion… it’s a trifecta (dragons, horses, mystically recognized soul-mates) of girlish glee-buttons. As it is, I’m ludicrously fond of it because I know I would have loved it.

    But the girl in “TLD” is a ship’s captain in her own right, a smart and driven young woman from a trading family.

    Early on in “Twilight” it’s stated that the heroine is supposed to be smart. This is demonstrated in a science class, which she handles easily because she’d already studied the subject matter at her old school. From that point on, she’s a typical, hormone-fizzing, lying-to-her-father teen and never again is there a hint that she’s remotely good at (or interested in!) anything other than Eric. She lies to her father about spending a day with this guy in another city. She sneaks him into her bedroom! Worse in my book is the way “Twilight” perpetuates damaging myths about female sexuality and power. Eric is the one with all the self-control but Bella can make him dangerously close to losing it with just a “relatively Mormon-approved” kiss. In theory that’s supposed to be about his vampirism but I think the subtext is fairly obvious. Bella’s desire for touch and intimacy is dangerous. Eric is noble for resisting the temptation that she puts in his path just by breathing.

    And I sense a nice, long rant ahead so I’m going to stop here.

  24. Russell Arben Fox on January 19, 2008 at 10:19 am

    PDoE, your take on Bella–her basic ditziness, her lying, her supposedly-passionate-but-actually-kind-of-creepy flirtation with sex, her dependency on/addiction to Edward (not Eric, btw), her inability to recognize the healthiness of her relationship Jacob in comparison to her obsession with Edward–is pretty much essentially the same as my wife’s (and my own, though I get my views through her). It makes her really upset with Stephenie Meyer; it’d be one thing if the story was being written in such a way that we could expect or at least be open to the possibility that the Bella’s and Edward’s behavior is going to be proved flawed or a mistake in some way, but no: Meyer is selling Bella as an admirable young woman, and Edward as her noble beau. It’s yucky, and not just from a Mormon perspective.

    But all that being said, face it: the story of the presumably ordinary high school girl becoming the quasi-lover of a Brad-Pitt-esque vampire superdude is just a winner, the same way the story of the eleven-year-old boy going off and solving crimes is going to be a winner–assuming it’s written with at least a bit of cleverness. And, as Jonathan notes above, the first book, at least, is kind of clever.

  25. Adam Greenwood on February 18, 2008 at 11:27 pm

    I read Mistborn because of this post. And, yep, Mistborn was that good.

    [Possible Spoilers for Book 2!]

    I just finished the sequel (Well of the Ascension) which I didn’t like as much. Some of the problems are unavoidable. But the titled James Madison-Ghandhi clone as George Washington figure was stomach-turning. The author realized it was a problem intellectually and made cosmetic gestures at showing why it wouldn’t work, but he didn’t go near far enough. And it wasn’t just politically that the clone was a chump. He tells the heroine–who is impulsive and unstable–that whatever fool thing she does he’ll accept as awesome, and we readers are supposed to be heartwarmed by this instead of damning it as double-dyed idiocy. But it was still better than 90% of the fantasy novels on the market and the reversal was fantastic and really set us up for a bang-up concluding novel. Can’t wait.

  26. Patricia Karamesines on February 19, 2008 at 11:12 am

    The author realized it was a problem intellectually and made cosmetic gestures at showing why it wouldn’t work, but he didn’t go near far enough. And it wasn’t just politically that the clone was a chump. He tells the heroine–who is impulsive and unstable–that whatever fool thing she does he’ll accept as awesome, and we readers are supposed to be heartwarmed by this instead of damning it as double-dyed idiocy. But it was still better than 90% of the fantasy novels on the market and the reversal was fantastic and really set us up for a bang-up concluding novel.

    Don’t know enough about the novel to agree or disagree, but I love the plot and pacing of this comment.

  27. Adam Greenwood on February 19, 2008 at 11:45 am

    Gosh, thanks. I’m glad my career as a commentist is burgeoning.

  28. Patricia Karamesines on February 19, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    “career as a commentist is burgeoning”

    Oh, yeah. You’re on track for a Pushcart Prize.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pushcart_Prize

    I believe your talent places you well into the “literary whatnot” category.

  29. Patricia Karamesines on February 19, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    Or … wait … is it the Handcart Prize? I tend to confuse the two.

  30. Adam Greenwood on February 19, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    I will accept any and all. My thanks to the little people who made this possible.

  31. Nate Oman on February 19, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    I object to the notion that T&S is a “small press.” ;->

  32. William Morris on February 19, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    Good point. It’s more of a pamphleteer.

  33. Ivan Wolfe on February 19, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    Adam Greenwood summed up some of my feelings, though he gave away a little more spoiler information than I would have liked. My biggest problem was that the middle of the book (the second act) dragged and several of the plot twists were rather predictable. But the ending made up for most of that.

    Whether intentional or not, this series is structured a lot like the original Star Wars trilogy (I hinted at this above). The first book is a good read that can stand well enough on its own (Like A New Hope). The second ups the stakes considerably, puts the heroes through some real pain and betrayal, and ends with a “everything you thought you knew was wrong” twist/cliffhanger (though in Well of Ascension, it’s more earth-shattering than “I am your father”). I can’t wait for the third book (hopefully there are no Ewok analogues in it, though).

  34. William Morris on February 19, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    [quote]hopefully there are no Ewok analogues in it, though[/quote]

    Perish the thought!

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