Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Brilliance by Marcus Sakey

Since 1980, about one percent of the population have been born with powers and abilities beyond those of mortal men.  They are referred to as "brilliants" (or derogatorily as "twists"). Nick Cooper is a brilliant who works for a federal agency called the Department of Analysis and Response: a sort of NSA/FBI hybrid tasked specifically to deal with brilliant terrorists. His latest target may be the most dangerous man alive, a brilliant drenched in blood and intent on provoking civil war. But to catch him, Cooper will have to violate everything he believes in - and betray his own kind.

Anyone who's read my blog in the past knows how much I dig Marcus Sakey, so I eagerly anticipated this one. In this novel, Sakey stretches beyond his normal realm of everyday Joes dealing with moral dilemmas and jumps into thriller "The World is in Trouble" territory. The Brilliance Saga might be the Sakey's ticket to stardom, but I don't think it's his best work (that's still Daniel Hayes).

Lee Child's blurb on Brilliance says "The kind of story you've never read before", but my biggest complaint about the book is that it felt like I had read it before. There's a government operative who goes undercover to take down a terrorist, only to find out that the terrorist isn't what he was made out to be and there are elements inside the government plotting against him. It's standard thriller fare you can find in dozens of movies. The only twist is that some people have special abilities.

The description of Cooper's ability kicking in is fantastic and believable.  His gift is in pattern recognition, which allows him to process information quickly and react almost before his target takes action. This comes in very handy in fights and chase scenes.  Sakey deserves bonus points for figuring out how to effectively convey this talent through words where comic books or movies would make his task 100 times easier.

An Nick is an interesting character.  Like a lot of Sakey's protagonists, he has heart.  He puts himself at great peril because his daughter might be a Tier One brilliant - which means she will be taken away from him and given a new name and a new life.  But he's really the only character that is fleshed out.

Elements of the story are a thinly veiled War on Terrorism parallel, but those parts only succeeded in pulling me out of the story.

The book is fast-paced, well written, and definitely a page turner, but it all feels too familiar. Brilliance is an enjoyable novel, but I expected more from Sakey.

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