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Brilliance (The Brilliance Trilogy) Paperback – July 16, 2013
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Author Gillian Flynn Reviews Brilliance by Marcus Sakey
Let me first begin by saying, Marcus Sakey is a friend of mine. He’s a friend because I read his whip-smart thrillers years ago (The Amateurs is one of my favorites) and loved them so much I decided I had to meet the twisted mind behind them. So I was a fan before I was a friend. After reading Brilliance, the scales may have tilted: I may now be more fan than friend—it’s that ridiculously good.
Brilliance is the kind of novel that makes you grin at its high-flying feats of imagination, and then grin harder because it sticks the landing. It’s thrilling and funny and disturbing and sharp as hell... Read the rest of this review at www.kindlepost.com.
“Brilliance will make you happy from start to finish.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Simply put, Marcus Sakey's Brilliance saga is awesome.” —Kirkus
“Perfectly titled, this tour-de-force has it all—a credible protagonist, a riveting plot, and enough philosophical questions for a roomful of Jesuits.” —Cleveland Plain-Dealer
"At once mystery, thriller, family saga, and romance...The plot takes many unpredictable twists, the characters are multidimensional, the world quite believable, and the social/political commentary pointed and often chilling.” —Chicago Tribune
“A tightly plotted thriller with classic questions beating in its geeky heart.” —NPR
“Sakey paints a near future too close for comfort in this stunning thriller." —Publishers Weekly
“Sakey’s premise is utterly compelling; no committed thriller aficionado will be able to set the book down. Brilliance is disturbing—and brilliant.” —Booklist, Starred Review
“One of the finest thrillers I have ever read. A masterpiece." —Crimespree Magazine
“Brilliant.” —Chicago Sun-Times
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The Brilliance Trilogy is one of those rare gems.
There are only so many stories one can write, and while I won't say that the premise of Brilliance is anything so ground-breaking as to be revolutionary, it takes the standard "superhuman" trope and integrates it seamlessly with our own real world, introducing the "Brilliants" (the 1% of humankind born with high-savant-level abilities in a given realm, without autism or other related disorders) into human history beginning in 1980 and drastically altering the course of human history since. The choice of this time frame is of particular importance because it is not so far outside the memory of most readers, yet far enough back to show us how very much could be altered if only a few key events had gone differently. The result is a society that faces many of the same issues of ostracization that plagues real-life populations, only focused on the Brilliants as opposed to Muslims/other races/transgendered individuals/etc.
We are introduced to an America where 99% of the population is normal and terrified of losing their relevance against the minority of Brilliants who are responsible for light years of advancement in medicine, technology, mathematics, science, arts, and even weaponry. As a result, they are hyper vigilant towards the very small percentage of Brilliants - as they are more commonly called, abnorms or, more crudely, "twists" - who realise their own superiority as well as the normals' oppression of their kind and respond with acts of extremely well-planned terrorism. Somewhere between the extremes is Nick Cooper. An agent of the Department Of Analysis & Response (or DAR), Nick is among the most powerful abnorms as Tier 1 intuit with the ability to translate even the most microscopic changes in body language into patterns that help him predict exactly how someone will move or react, and even how they feel. However Cooper is not working for the abnorm terrorists; in fact, as a former military man, he has spent all his life fighting those who would do his country harm. Cooper uses his talents to hunt down these terrorists using his official license to kill.
But Cooper isn't a bad guy. He devotes himself to tracking down John Smith - the country's most elusive and most dangerous abnorm, who once used his incredible planning skills to defeat four chess grand masters at once - and along the way finds himself in the path of bombings, assassins, and even corruption at the highest levels. The novel follows his pursuit of John Smith and his journey of discovery along the way. As for the rest of the plot... well I'll save that for you to read!
I gobbled down all three novels as quickly as I possibly could. It's definitely a stay-up-late-with-a-flashlight story. Marcus Sakey draws enough comparisons between real world issues and events to make his work infinitely relatable to the average reader, yet creates a fantastic enough world to create a vividly different universe. I absolutely loved the premise. The concept of Brilliance is definitely in the realm of science fiction, but as you learn more about its causes and manifestations through the course of the trilogy, it begins to feel almost plausible. The human brain is an incredible computer; Marcus Sakey merely unlocks its potential for the imaginative reader.
The writing is action-packed for sure but maintains a high level of character development throughout. You are allowed within the head of the main character - and, through his abnormal abilities, into the minds of those around him - enough to see that great power comes with both great responsibility and great pain. Brilliance isn't just a gift, like Superman's flying abilities. The fact that a powerful Reader (as they call those Brilliants who are able to sense one's deepest, darkest secrets simply based on a person's words and actions) always knows you're lying comes at the price that they know when someone doesn't really mean "I love you." It's a fascinating dichotomy. This allows for extraordinary depth to the array of personas that grace these pages, from the crass but loyal Bobby Quinn (Cooper's partner and sidekick) to the femme-fatale Shannon, an abnorm under the employee of John Smith convinced of the righteousness of her actions.
As tensions mount between the normals, who fear being out-evolved and disappearing the way of the Neanderthal, and the abnorms, who fear being rounded up as criminals simply for their remarkable abilities, Sakey's main characters play out a story of subterfuge and conspiracy that puts everything in question, from allegiance to human rights. Once you have read all three novels, you will see that this author was really in it for the long-haul from the beginning: his ability to interweave plot elements is reminiscent of J.K. Rowling, with elements of the far-thinking John Smith's master plan retrospectively visible even in this first tale.
Overall, I would recommend this book to lovers of science fiction, fantasy, superhero tales, action stories, and even detective work. There are plot twists that will throw even the most dogged reader for a loop. It is absolutely excellently written. I haven't raved about a book this much in ages! I will definitely be reading more from this author in the future.
Most recent customer reviews
Don’t usually gravitate towards spy novels, but glad I picked this one up. Twenty words.