Rating: 4.5 / 5
Beginning in the mid 1980s, an exception 1% of children born in the US were exceptionally gifted. These “brilliants” although small in number, were seen as threatening to “normals.” There is a small sector of the US government, known as the Department of Analysis and Response, and its smaller subset, Equitable Services, were born from the need to deal with brilliants who became terrorists. Nick Cooper is the top agent at Equitable Services, and is also a brilliant, also known as an abnorm. For the last several years, his main target has been John Smith, reportedly the leader of a terrorist faction of abnorms. After the bombing of a financial Exchange, Cooper realizes that the only chance he has to hunt down Smith is to pretend to go rogue, and hopefully attract John Smith’s attention. His payoff for doing this would be that his daughter, who he already knows is a brilliant, will never be sent to an academy, but will get to live out her childhood as a normal. As Cooper dives into the underworld, events occur which make him question the price of loyalty and faith, and the lengths parents will go to protect their children.
I’m a little jealous of people who have never read any Marcus Sakey books, because he is a phenomenal writer and everyone of his books is amazing. Brilliance might be my favorite Sakey book, but I’ve finished every one of his books sad that it has ended, but eager for the next. With Brilliance, Sakey introduces us to a society which is both similar and vastly different to our current one. As Cooper has to navigate society not as the revered, top Equitable Services agent, but as an outlaw and traitor, huge questions are posed and explored. How do you know who to trust? What if your trust has been due to blind loyalty and faith in an imperfect system? Is fear a good enough reason to control?
Yes, Brilliance is an action-packed suspense thriller, but it is so much more than that. This might be one of the few books of this genre that I think would make a great book club pick. There’s conflict and moral issues that parallels today’s society and it’s all wrapped up in a page turner.
I also enjoyed the way information about this alternate society was presented. Instead of making informing the reader solely through the story, Brilliance included advertisements and news articles to bolster the story and add context and texture. The end result of a book that is adventurous, ambitious, thought-provoking, and leaves the reader wanting more. The good thing this is the first part of a trilogy.