Marcus Sakey’s second book in his Brilliance saga, A Better World, picks up a few months after the first. In the world Sakey has created, about 1% of people are born with extraordinary gifts, not X-Men type gifts, but enhanced perception or the ability to read body language to an amped up level, that allow them to do things a regular person cannot do. What would happen in such a world? Would the government try to control these special individuals? Would they ultimately rise up and fight back? In Sakey’s world, they do indeed.
Nick Cooper is one of these so-called brilliants, though he has worked for the government eliminating dangerous brilliants. He is doing what he thinks for God and country, but it puts him on the other side of the rest of the brilliants. In A Better World, we see the ramifications of Nick’s actions in the previous book, Brilliant. Without giving too much away, Nick is still in the center of the action, trying to save a world that doesn’t necessarily seem to want to be saved, on either side.
As opposed to the previous book, this one ends in a cliff hanger. There isn’t any easy resolution and the book ends with one hell of a bang, literally. The third book will be picking up right after the end of this book, so there is a bit of a cliffhanger, but the action is so intense and the world that Sakey has created so vibrant, with odd characters all around, that it is worth the wait.
Another glorious romp in a unique world. I understand that these books have been optioned for a movie, so in some form you will get acquainted with this world.
The conceit of stories like the X-Men is that there are people who are born that are different than the rest of us, and that difference makes them both special as well as a potential threat. In the case of the X-Men, they have extraordinary powers — shooting eye beams, controlling the weather, walking through walls, turning into metal — that give them enormous advantages over the rest of humanity. In some ways, that is the same conceit of Marcus Sakey’s Brilliance, though here it is treated in a much more subtle and realistic manner.
Imagine a world where, instead of being born with the ability to fly, the special people do have extraordinary talents, but they are essentially ampped up versions of things all of us can do. Recognize body language, but so well that you can anticipate the actions of others. See patterns in the movement of people that you can walk through crowds of people without being noticed. Or identify patterns in computer code such that you can make the computer do whatever you want. People like this would be viewed as both an asset and a threat. Or both at the same time. At some point, it would be inevitable that the government becomes involved in the lives of these people. And some of them would rebel. That is the basic premise of Brilliance.
Some of these people, so-called brilliants, in an effort to make sure their lives are peaceful, have decided to work on the side of the devil, so to speak, working for the government to keep other brilliants in check. And keeping them in check means some heavy handed involvement by the government, including taking potentially brilliant children to special schools. One of these agents, Cooper, is on the trail of a brilliant terrorist. But, as he discovers, reality is quite a bit more complex and nuanced than his black and white view of the world.
My understanding is that this is the first in a series of novels developing and exploring this world of brilliant people. If the first one is any indicator, we are in for a dramatic ride that touches on themes such as individual freedom and responsibility, the role of government, and how we treat people who are different than ourselves.