Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Book Review: 'Brilliance' by Marcus Sakey

Review by Susan Grigsby
What if there was an alternate America? One in which the state openly spied on its citizens, testing children for special aptitudes and sending those who posses them to special academies?
The cities look like ours, the streets have the same names, although with a few more cameras. People go to work every morning and take the train home at night. They use their cell phones and they access the internet and the government watches every move they make.

And the government is run by bureaucrats, just like ours, and sometimes they make mistakes and screw things up, just like ours.
And what if, in this alternate universe, some children were born with special talents. Not talents that come with laser beam eyes or flying capes, but talents that are latent in all of us, only in this one percent of the population, they are heightened, enhanced. They are savants capable of reading the body language of others well enough that they can appear invisible simply by moving to a place where no one is looking. Or perhaps one of them can discern patterns well enough to predict stock trends and make a financial killing which brings down the New York Stock Exchange all by himself.
And what if one of them was preparing a terrorist attack against the United States?
by Marcus Sakey
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Paperback: 14.95 ($8.97 Amazon)
Kindle: $4.99
Audible: $9.95 ($1.99 with kindle book)
Published July 16, 2013
452 pages

During an email exchange with Petra Mayer of NPR, Marcus Sakey told her
...that he's fascinated by savants, people who can reproduce complex drawings after just a single glance, or pick up an instrument and master it in moments. "Of course, in real life, most of them have terrible challenges," Sakey writes. "But I got to thinking: what if it was just an attribute, like hair color or height? And what if it became commonplace, say 1 percent of everyone born since 1980?"
But unlike savants in our universe, Sakey's savants suffer from no mental deficiencies or autistic symptoms, they are perfectly normal with just a dash of savant talent that makes them abnormal, makes them better than normal.
And there is the rub.
Because these people are special, different and actually better than the other 99%, there is resentment and anger on the part of the 99%. But fear as well, since the trait is bestowed at random, and one who hates the abnormals today may find out tomorrow that his daughter is one. All children are tested by the time they are eight years old to determine if they are brilliants which will lead to a special "education" that leaves them unable to trust any of their own kind.
Naturally, this requires the establishment of more government bureaucracy, in this case it is the Department of Analysis and Response that is formed to control and respond to the abnormals. It is the DAR that tracks their movements and chases down those who pose a threat to the status quo. And who would wish to alter a status quo that hates and fears them?
Nick Cooper is a tier one brilliant whose ability to read body language is so acute that he can tell what move an opponent will make and counter it, before it happens. He works for DAR, hoping to keep the country at peace even if he must capture or kill other brilliants. A patriotic man, with a wife, son and young daughter, he happily tracks abnormals and is highly successful. But when the government decides that his daughter has displayed abnormal talents and needs to be tested early, and when an explosion is blamed on John Smith, a known abnormal terrorist, he works a deal with his ambitious boss to find, kill or capture John Smith in exchange for keeping his daughter out of the reach of the testers.
We join Cooper on this chase after a hidden world of terror suspects, which includes enough plot twists to satisfy the most demanding thriller reader, and just enough social commentary for the politically aware reader. His work asks the right questions and refuses the easy answers. And it is an exciting thriller. Rarely do we see both in the same book.
Marcus Sakey is the writer and host of Hidden City on the Travel Channel.
In Hidden City host Marcus Sakey travels to cities across the US to investigate the crimes and criminals that helped shape the city.
He is also the highly acclaimed author of five other crime novels and a volume of short stories. The film rights to Brilliance have been sold to Legendary Pictures which has also done the Dark Knight series and Inception. Ben Affleck acquired the rights to Sakey's first novel, The Blade Itself, and Good People is currently in production in England with Kate Hudson and James Franco in the lead roles.

Editor's note: This review was originally published at the Daily Kos, which notes that its "content may be used for any purpose without explicit permission unless otherwise specified." The original page can be found here. 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.