Brillianceby Marcus Sakey (Website, Facebook, Twitter)
Published by Thomas & Mercer on July 16, 2013
Genres: Adult, Crime, Mystery, Thriller
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In Wyoming, a little girl reads people’s darkest secrets by the way they fold their arms. In New York, a man sensing patterns in the stock market racks up $300 billion. In Chicago, a woman can go invisible by being where no one is looking. They’re called “brilliants,” and since 1980, one percent of people have been born this way.
Nick Cooper is among them; a federal agent, Cooper has gifts rendering him exceptional at hunting terrorists. His latest target may be the most dangerous man alive, a brilliant drenched in blood and intent on provoking civil war. But to catch him, Cooper will have to violate everything he believes in—and betray his own kind.
From Marcus Sakey, “a modern master of suspense” (Chicago Sun-Times) and “one of our best storytellers” (Michael Connelly), comes an adventure that’s at once breakneck thriller and shrewd social commentary; a gripping tale of a world fundamentally different and yet horrifyingly similar to our own, where being born gifted can be a terrible curse.
Brilliance is set in an alternate universe present day world, where starting in the early 1980s one percent of the earth’s human population are born gifted. These “Brilliants” or “Abnorms” or “Twists” depending on who you ask, have abilities that put them at a greater advantage to the normal rest of humanity. Some have mathematical genius or stock market prowess (and lead to a complete shutdown and dissolution of the world’s markets as we know it), some have great technological or medical proficiency. What sets some brilliants apart from normals is the ability to anticipate someone’s every move, allowing them to slip through a crowd unnoticed or to dodge a bullet effortlessly.
Nick Cooper was one of the first wave of Brilliants born, and now a grown man and an officer for a division of the federal government that polices Abnormals who go off the rails, exterminating them if necessary. Cooper can read a person’s subtle physical cues and patterns to anticipate how they will react, what they will do next, and if they are telling the truth. This makes him an excellent agent, but as the only abnormal person in the DAR chasing other abnormals, he constantly has to prove where his loyalties reside–especially when his four year old daughter shows signs of being a tier I Brilliant like himself. And being tier I in this world means being taken away and raised in a facility, given a new name as you are brainwashed into either serving your country or leaving bitter, angry, and ready to join the brewing war lead by Brilliant terrorist John Smith.
With the knowledge that his daughter could be taken away at any moment, Cooper goes on the hunt for John Smith, hoping that by bringing down the number one Brilliant terrorist, just maybe the country can relax and accept his kind if there’s not a threat of attacks anymore. But when Cooper thinks he’s getting close, he finds out that he only knows a sliver of the reality about his job and John Smith’s motivations. And he must embark on a mission to find out what side is telling the truth and more importantly, what side he’ll stand on.
I give the tension filled Brilliance a five out of five. Marcus Sakey has written a world that mirrors our own–full of corruption, prejudice, greed, subterfuge, violence, and political scheming–and added in the Brilliants as a tipping point. This is a thriller through and through, with fast pacing and deftly plotted shoot outs and explosions, but the sci-fi aspects are more subdued. Cooper’s devotion to his family first before his job and country was admirable and realistic. The locations were accurate. It’s always nice to read a book set in Chicago and have the descriptions jump to life and be real because you work there.