The Horror Honeys: Hardcover Honey's Haunted Bookclub ~ "Brilliance"

Hardcover Honey's Haunted Bookclub ~ "Brilliance"

A Hardcover Honey Book of the Week Review by Jocelyn 

Brilliance by Marcus Sakey 

I gotta keep it short today, guys, as your Hardcover Honey is working, well, hard this week trying to make a dollar or two. That being said, there is always time to read, and if you have a free afternoon or two, you should definitely lose yourself in the ridiculously fun Brilliance by Marcus Sakey – book one of a series that I fully intend to continue reading (not always the case, as you well know!)

Vaguely futuristic in tone, Sakey does some world-building with this first book and what a world it is.  The population has split into two very distinct groups. Norms (just us regular Joes) and Abnorms (sometimes called “Brilliants”) – faster, smarter, more talented people. Wait a second, you say we’ve always had those folks in our midst? Well, not like these. Picture Bill Gates with a brain on steroids, or the best NFL running back you can think of (sports is not my scene) but with a greater sense of who is going where on the field and an ability to run 40% faster than anybody else. You can quickly see where the advantage will lie. And the norms aren’t happy. In response to their fear of becoming obsolete, and to a horrifying abnorm terrorist attack a few years prior by one “John Smith”, the government has formed the DAR – The Department of Analysis and Response, which keeps track of potential abnorm malcontents and so on and attempts to root out schemes before they affect the public. Their best agent is our book hero, Nick Cooper, the standard “Dedicated to his job and kids” icon who we can root for.  And we do.  The twist is that Nick himself is an abnorm chasing abnorms, sort of like if a criminal suddenly started working for the cops.  Nick is a good man, who wishes a few bad apples weren’t giving abnorms a bad name.

Nick’s specialty is seeing what people mean and intend. Your eyes flick to the left when you’re lying and a bead of sweat runs down your neck?  He can see it. You glance at the door, he knows you’re going to run for it.  He is an incredible predictor of both norm and abnorm behavior. Basically, you don’t want to play poker with this guy. Though divorced (the better to be available for romantic entanglements later on), Nick is a very involved parent and especially concerned about his four-year-old daughter Kate, who is exhibiting clear signs of being an abnorm herself.  Lucky for Kate, mandatory abnorm testing doesn’t kick in until you turn eight. Any chance that will be a plot point?  Good guess! Nick’s devotion to Kate is very believable, and if Sakey isn’t a parent himself, he sure as hell knows how they feel. A scene describing the carnage at a popular DC restaurant under John Smith’s supervision had me tearing up as Sakey details a mother reaching out her palm as if to stop the bullet that reached her child. Heartbreaking. A later scene in which Nick (spoiler alert) fails to stop a series of bombs going off in NYC has obvious 9/11 parallels and a poetic description of his travel through Manhattan afterwards, with kid’s toys in the street, people walking with blood on their faces, a bank of payphones with people waiting in line to reach their loved ones.  Serious stuff, and beautifully realized.

Interstitial newspaper articles paint a horrifying picture, as the nation begins to consider proposals to implant each abnorm with a tracking device. Terrifying stuff and Sakey is careful to make explicitly clear the Holocaust parallels, as Senator Blake Crouch (awesome shoutout) points out the similarities in the tracking devices and the gold stars that Jews wore.  

At the site of the bombing, Nick meets another abnorm, who he describes as “The Girl Who Walks Through Walls” – technically not true, but this girl, whose name turns out to be Shannon, will play a large part in Cooper’s story (*cough*romanticentanglement*cough).   Shannon and Cooper meet again in Chicago where they are forced to run from DAR agents – Cooper, you see, has decided to go undercover and take the blame for the NYC bomb, all in an effort to locate and kill the wily John Smith.  

And off he goes, with the aforementioned Shannon to do just that, traveling to a sort of abnorm stronghold in Wyoming called New Canaan, established by abnorm Erik Epstein who traded stocks at such a level as to bring down the entire Dow Jones and necessitate the shut-down and re-design of financial systems. There are chases. There are crosses and double crosses.  There is cool technology and snappy dialogue.  It’s like reading a really awesome movie that you’ll hopefully get to actually see one day. I will be the first one in line!

Hardcover Honey Recommended - 4 out of 5 talented abnorms for this thrill ride