The Horror Honeys: Hardcover Honey's Haunted Bookclub ~ A Better World

Hardcover Honey's Haunted Bookclub ~ A Better World

A Hardcover Honey Book of the Week Review by Jocelyn

A Better World by Marcus Sakey 

Regular readers will remember my January review of the first book in this series, the terrific Brilliance and Marcus Sakey is back with Nick Cooper and friends (and enemies) in Book Two of the series – the also terrific A Better World.  

Thanks to Nick’s hard work in Book One, there’s a new President in charge, President Lionel Clay, a much more measured and thoughtful man than his predecessor and one of his moves is bringing Nick on to serve as a special advisor, specifically working on DAR (Dept of Abnorm Response) issues. Nick is reluctant but agrees to help. His first task is to figure out what’s going on with the Children of Darwin, an extremist group who is committing horrific crimes in the name of… well, nobody’s really sure about that. Is it John Smith, the shadowy terrorist from book one? Is it Erik Epstein, the wealthy and reclusive head of the abnorm stronghold in Montana, “New Canaan”?  

Whoever it is, the Children of Darwin are pulling truckers out of their 18 wheelers on specific routes and setting them on fire, creating not only tragedy but additional havoc, as truck companies quickly cancel deliveries of all kinds to Cleveland, Fresno and Tulsa – leaving residents there lacking food and supplies of all kinds and ratcheting tensions up to Under the Dome levels. In Cleveland, we are introduced to Dr. Ethan Park, a scientist who has been working on a shadowy project with Dr. Abraham Couzen. For now, Ethan is focused not on that mysterious research but on finding formula for his infant daughter Violet as the shelves are empty. Luckily, his militia-minded neighbor provides him with some canned milk – and a handgun “just in case.” When two government agents from the DAR visit Ethan and tell him Dr. Abe is missing, but there are blood spatters on the wall of the lab, things take an even darker turn.

Back with Nick Cooper, we get further educated on the “academies” that tier one (the most powerful) abnorm kids are forced to live in away from their parents.  The academies are described as “an open secret, known about but not discussed. After all, the number of tier ones was small enough that the academies didn’t impact most people. Like concentration camps in Germany, or internment camps after Pearl Harbor, or CIA prisons in Africa, the academies were a national atrocity it was easy enough to ignore” – chilling stuff. Nick’s girlfriend from Book One, the abnorm Shannon, is back in A Better World too – and she is NOT. HAPPY. about the academies. This is going to come into play big-time, so keep it in mind.

Nick is trying his best to advise President Clay appropriately, but finds himself stymied at almost every turn by another advisor, Owen Leahy, whose goal seems to be a full-scale war on the abnorms and whose influence on the President is strong. When things go from bad to worse in the food-starved cities, Nick and his family are asked to go to New Canaan and try to negotiate an agreement with Erik Epstein. In New Canaan, Nick notes that Erik has really built something, and that there was a time when “building things was what America did.  Being an engineer or an architect had once been high aspirations.  Now everybody wanted to be musicians and basketball players, and America didn’t build squat.” Truer words were never spoken. In New Canaan, Nick and his family are assured of their safety… which turns out to mean nothing when they are target of a brutal attack by an abnorm with a highly specific set of skills in one of the book’s strongest set pieces.

Author: Marcus Sakey
Much like the first book in the series, A Better World reads largely like a big-budget action movie, and that’s a compliment, not a complaint. Alternating chapters bring us closer and closer to the brink of full-scale war as Nick works to defuse the situation as fast as others are escalating it. Ethan and his small family face a smaller scale desperation that is no less gripping, and their plans to escape Cleveland after full lockdown make for some incredibly harrowing reading.

As the book’s final sequence approached, I found my nails bitten to nubs and my opinions varying wildly about how I would react in the given circumstances. We all want to believe we would do the right thing, but when we are pushed beyond our limits, we may just be the one who pulls out the neighbor’s handgun and does what needs doing to feed our family.

Recommended - 4 out of 5 talented abnorms for this strong second entry.  

Bring on Book Three!!!