First line: "Cold liquid splashing across his face brought Kevin Temple back to himself."
Last year Marcus Sakey rocked my reading experience with his book Brilliance. This year the follow-up, A Better World, continues the exploration of a world filled with "brilliants"--the percentage of the population that are born with an extreme abilities in a specific area. Some brilliants are good with numbers, some with art, others with organization. In the case of Nick Cooper his gift lies in the realm of pattern identification.
In book two, Nick is serving as an advisor to the President of the United States when a domestic terrorist group of extremist brilliants takes control of three major U.S. cities in retaliation for legislation passed to limit the rights of brilliants. They are cutting off the cities' supplies by assassinating the truckers bringing food and necessities. Soon the grocery store shelves are empty, power is going down and people are resorting to violence.
The Secretary of Defense is prepared to declare war on the entire brilliant population in order to stop the terrorists. Nick has an alternate solution, but can he make it happen and can he do it before a new era of civil war erupts?
Sakey's world building skills are as adept as his ability to construct heart-pounding thrillers. The seamless way he has merged the reality of the present with his not-so-hard-to-fathom science fictional world will make readers do a double take of their own environments. They may also start stock-piling canned goods in their basements and pantries.
The action of the plot is constant, intense and fast-paced. The characters are meticulously developed and absolutely fascinating. A brilliant assassin out to kill Nick has such a wildly terrifying ability, I found myself thinking, "how does Sakey come up with this stuff?!?"
With Brilliance, it's far more than the exciting plot ride or the grand characters. My love of the book goes beyond the incredible world. What makes Brilliance a book I feel could be the next American classic is the mix of these things with the forceful undertones of universal themes like tolerance and war and advancement/technology and utopia. A Better World falls right into that same path, building on those ideas, furthering the world, exploring the characters more deeply, and of course, rocking the action. The richness of the layers that make up this series gives everyone something to enjoy. And it's a series to re-read because that same richness ensures you aren't going to get it all the first time around. There are more delicious treasures to uncover with each subsequent read.
In addition to the grand story, A Better World is peppered with sign art, which works to yank the fictional world firmly into the reader's reality. Each sign is distinct and unique. The one shown here is hand drawn and opens Chapter 14. It's a sign hanging in the Army-Navy surplus store window:
While you can read A Better World without having experienced Brilliance, I wouldn't recommend it. This is a closely knit saga and understanding the story in its entirety makes the reading experience that much more powerful. You've heard the term "earworm"? Well Marcus Sakey's Brilliance series is a brain worm. And once it works its way into your thoughts, you'll find yourself thinking and looking at everything in a whole new light. It doesn't go away quietly. But then again, you won't want it to.
If you haven't picked up your own copy of A Better World, yet, here's a short excerpt you can check out.
A Better World is available in trade paperback (ISBN: 978-1477823941) from Thomas & Mercer. It's also available as an unabridged audio (ISBN: 978-1491525272), narrated by Luke Daniels, from (appropriately) Brilliance Audio.