Review: “Brilliance” by Marcus Sakey

BrillianceBrilliance by Marcus Sakey proves one thing: one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

It’s a good thing that I didn’t go to Amazon and read the reviews for Brilliance before I got it. Don’t get me wrong: there are many, many readers who really like the book. But there are also quite a number that gave it bad reviews. Why? Not sure exactly, but some felt like it didn’t do enough for characterization. I tend to disagree.

But let me start over. Brilliance is the story of a generation of gifted individuals who grow up being superior to those around them: smarter, faster, stronger. Supermen, basically. Some go on to invent cool things like holographic TV, cures for heart disease, etc. Others don’t buy into the way things are and become terrorists.

Nick Cooper is a brilliant, able to look at people’s facial expressions and pretty much tell what they are thinking. It comes in handy in his job as an agent for the Department of Equitable Services, that special law-enforcement agency tasked with tracking down brilliant terrorists. Trouble is, as times goes on it is harder and harder to determine what the word “terrorist” means. There is one arch-enemy out there: John Smith, the brilliant leader of the terrorists, who is blamed for mass slayings and bombings. Nick is determined to bring John Smith to justice.

What I think makes the story interesting is that Sakey does a good job of painting a modern-day world in which everything is pretty much the same except for what has been changed by the Brilliants, or “abnorms” or “twists” as they are called. Cooper has a son and daughter, a divorced wife that he gets along with well, and is committed to living as close to a normal life as he can live. Trouble is, his job makes that increasingly more difficult. After a major bombing incident, Cooper convinces his boss to let him go undercover after John Smith, and that’s where the fun–and the “twists” (pun intended)–begin.

Earlier I said I felt that the characterization was adequate. This is a story that is filled with action, twists and turns and suspense. It has sufficient characterization to care about the protagonist, and his family. I feel like more characterization would slow the story down. Sakey is really good at keeping you guessing, highly plausible dialogue, and great description. I am also impressed by his mastery of the English language, and his choice of words, always able to avoid cliches that many authors would have fallen into.

At the end of the book, one learns that it is the first of a three-book set. I probably will get the next two books, but not right away. Sakey provides enough closure with this book that one could read it and feel that the story is over. I will read the description of the next book when it comes out in 2014 and determine if and when I will read it.

I give Brilliance 4 and a half stars out of 5.

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