Sunday, August 4, 2013

Book Review: "Brilliance" by Marcus Sakey

Wow. Just wow. I cannot get over this book.

In the mid 1980s, children with exceptional gifts started being born. More than extreme intelligence or ability, these children have talents beyond any ever seen—reading a person's thoughts or intentions just by looking at them, being able to transform themselves into what ever a person wishes, the ability to become invisible and move where no one is expecting. Labeled "brilliants," they comprise 1 percent of the U.S. population, and pose both tremendous promise and threat to the country and the world.

In the years following the emergence of the brilliants, society is uneasy. They know they should embrace these special gifts, yet how would "regular" people fare when matched against the brilliants in every aspect of life? So those who test into the top tier of these abilities are taken from their families and sent to special "academies," where their skills are harnessed—and they're taught not to trust anyone but themselves.

Flash forward to the present, and a special branch of the U.S. government, the Department of Equitable Services, has been empowered to hunt down the brilliants, or "abnorms," as they're referred to insultingly. After one brilliant brought down the stock market after sensing patterns and making hundreds of millions of dollars, and one took action against society by masterminding a massacre of innocent people in a D.C. restaurant, the country is on edge. Many brilliants have moved to an enormous compound in Wyoming, called the New Canaan Holdfast, where they can live amongst themselves in security, and continue making advances in all fields.

One elite member of the Department of Equitable Services is Agent Nick Cooper. He is ruthless, intelligent, driven, and a brilliant himself, drawn to the department to create a safer world. Yet when he finds himself unable to prevent a major catastrophe, and he realizes his own children are in more danger than he can imagine, he needs to find a way to track down the mastermind behind the brilliants' vengeance—no matter what the cost.

This is an absolutely phenomenal book in so many ways. Marcus Sakey has created a society both vastly different and eerily similar to our own, and the country's unease about the brilliants mirrors so many other issues in our world, both past and present. Sakey's characters are complex, conflicted, and compelling, and the action and suspense nearly made my Kindle crackle. I wasn't sure where the plot would take me, but I was constantly amazed at the amount of thought he put into even the smallest details. (The book is interspersed with fake ads, news stories, and other minutiae that made me laugh and even made me slightly uncomfortable.)

I've read Sakey's previous books and have been impressed by his writing ability, but nothing prepared me for the sheer, well, brilliance of Brilliance. This book is apparently the first in a series and I absolutely cannot wait for the next book to be released next year. If you like action-packed thrillers, or just fantastic page-turners, do yourself a favor and pick this one up. Like me, you won't be able to tear yourself away from it.

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