Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Review: DEFENDING ELYSIUM by Brandon Sanderson

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

I originally read this short story right after right after reading Skyward when it was released almost three years ago. I remembered nothing about the story other than the ominous “Phone Company,” but I do remember thinking that the story was boring and antiquated. I rated it 2/5 stars then. 

Fast forward to late 2021, and I’m in the middle of reading Cytonic. I noticed a particular reference was made and immediately I thought to myself, “That was an important reveal, and an important connection to Defending Elysium, but I can’t remember why.” So amidst my reading of Cytonic, I decided to reread Defending Elysium; I didn’t want to miss any details.

I was so surprised by this story! I truly had forgotten 99% of what happened because I found myself surprised at the reveals and questioning what would happen next. And it was engaging! I’m not sure why I ever called this book “boring and antiquated” when there’s actually a really neat sci-fi story being told here and it takes place in the year 2211. 

Defending Elysium is the origin story of humans discovering faster-than-light technology and their first contact with alien life forces and what happens because of that. 

Besides the faster-than-light technology, there were other references to the Skyward series present throughout the story. And not just Skyward—there were references to things that did not come up until Starsight or even Cytonic! I thought that was especially cool, how Brandon is connecting the events in a story he wrote twenty years ago to the novels he’s publishing today in new and surprising ways for each book in the series. 

Would I recommend Defending Elysium? Yes, I would. Would I recommend reading it before or after the Skyward series? I don’t know. I didn’t enjoy it during my original read but I enjoyed it a lot more upon reread, especially when I was able to understand the cross-references and make connections. I think if I had to choose, I would suggest reading this story after Starsight at least, but it really can be read at any point, and even as a standalone outside of the Skyward series. I’m so glad I took the time to reread this. 

“Technological development has boundaries, but . . . a sentient mind is limitless.” 

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