Review: The Sunlit Man

The Sunlit Man by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Year of Sanderson is over (book-wise anyway).

This book is the most Cosmere book of the year. Both Tress of the Emerald Sea and Yumi and the Nightmare Painter were basically standalone stories that happened to have Hoid in them. The ending of Tress is slightly inscrutable if you don’t know The Cosmere, but it mostly work. I’m pretty sure 99% of Yumi works without any knowledge of the Cosmere. This book, on the other hand, is comprehensible without Cosmere knowledge, but a lot of the main character’s thoughts and motivations won’t make any sense.

Interestingly, given when this book is coming out in the publication timeline – it takes place after the book Sanderson is currently working on, and, therefore, contains some over-arching spoilers. This doesn’t mean Stormlight Archive 5 (which will likely weigh in at around 1200 pages) is ruined – The Sunlit Man is but a tiny subplot within the greater Stormlight Archive (or so it seems from here in Oct 2023), but I do find it truly interesting that Sanderson should release this story now.

Moving away from the meta-commentary and towards this book’s plot – Sanderson does his usual very well. We have a protagonist who is dealing with internal conflict related to living out ones’ ideals and smashes that up against some external conflict. As I wrote that last sentence, I began to wonder if Sanderson’s use of this archetype is (either consciously or subconsciously) a metaphor for Christianity (or any religion?). The religion asks the member to live up to ideals, but those ideals often come crashing up against the reality of life. (easy/cheap example – turn the other cheek could literally get you killed or lose your possessions)

The protagonist, unlike the protagonists of the other 2 Cosmere Secret Novels, finds himself on an unfamiliar planet and has to figure out the physics and magic system of the planet while also dealing with the local culture. It immediately made me think of Star Trek and their “no interference” clause. If you don’t mind a minor spoiler – the actual genre is (view spoiler)[A-Team or Firefly or The Fugitive or any other media where the person rolls into town to deal with stuff and then has to leave because someone is pursuing them (hide spoiler)].

I enjoyed the story overall. However, as I said at the beginning of this review – you’re not going to get much out of this story if you’re not all-in on Sanderson’s Cosmere novels (Stormlight Archive, Mistborn series, etc). There’s an over-arching plot that affects all his series and this book takes place at the time that this over-arching plot is nearing the climax. So lots of the protagonist’s narration will be somewhat gibberish if you’ve not read the other books.

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