Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Book Review: 'Written in Fire' by Marcus Sakey

The United States is in chaos in Marcus Sakey’s “Written in Fire,” the third book in his “Brilliance Trilogy.” After a series of cataclysmic events take thousands of innocent lives, shutter the financial markets, and disrupt public services, civil war is imminent. The combatants are the brilliant Erik Epstein, whose compound, the New Canaan Holdfast, is in Wyoming, where many of the gifted live; John Smith, a ruthless and manipulative terrorist; and the New Sons of Liberty, a band of citizen soldiers determined to take back their country from the small percentage of people who were born “brilliant.” The abnorms have special abilities that distinguish them from their peers, a situation that has bred resentment, jealousy, fear, and hatred. The violence is escalating, and one man, Nick Cooper, a special agent on extended leave, and Shannon (“smart and sexy and incredibly capable”), both brilliants, are determined to head off the threatened apocalypse.

Sakey injects humor, romance, and fevered action into his fast-paced and entertaining novel. On the other hand, he weakens the story with the use of such clich├ęs as a love triangle between Nick, his ex-wife, and Shannon; a race against time to stop a villain from unleashing a devastating weapon; and a malevolent politician who bypasses the chain of command for his own purposes.

There is enough pseudo-science, intrigue, bloodshed, and angst to keep us thoroughly engrossed in the proceedings. However, a good editor might have considered eliminating such purple prose as: “He leaned forward and grabbed a handful of her hair, and pulled her close. Their lips mashed together, tongues dancing, her teeth nipping at him, a kiss as fierce and raw as any he’d known.” At its best, this tale warns us of the dire consequences of bigotry, disunity, and the use of excessive force to settle disputes. For readers willing to overlook its trite and predictable elements, “Written in Fire” is good escapist fun.

Editor's note: This review was written by Eleanor Bukowsky and has been reposted with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right

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