By Ryan O’Leary
Imagine a world where 1% of the population is born with special gifts, talents, and abilities. They are not mutants or super heroes, but they are highly skilled in certain fields such as pattern recognition, strategy, music, deduction, etc. Marcus Sakey brings this world to life in his critically acclaimed novel, Brilliance, published in 2013. The gifted individuals are known as “brilliants” or “abnorms.” Ever since the first generation of brilliants in 1980, the world has been fascinated, but also threatened. The novel takes place at what seems to be the preliminary stages of a civil war in the United States. When one abnorm managed to earn 300 billion dollars in the stock market, he caused it to close down forever. This was the first of many events that threatened the normal people.
The first person narrative follows abnorm Nick Cooper, a successful agent for Equitable Services, an agency that tracks down and arrests or terminates dangerous abnorms. After a string of terrorist attacks lead by abnorm strategist, John Smith, the agency becomes extremely powerful and well funded in order to prevent future attacks. Cooper’s only goal in the beginning is to find and kill John Smith any way possible. He believes that if Smith is not stopped soon, terrorism will continue and a civil war between abnorms and normal people be unavoidable. Using his gift for pattern recognition in hand to hand combat, shoot offs, and tracking, he is able to figure out what a person is doing or going to do just by monitoring their movements and actions. Cooper is a strong believer in justice, and is dedicated to his job. Despite the fact that he tracks down his own kind, he is fighting for the equality of abnorms. He believes that preventing terrorism will bring the two groups together, but as the book progresses, he figures out the real reason behind all the attacks.
Cooper decides to go rogue in order to get on Smith’s side so he can meet with him face to face. When he finally meets Smith, Cooper learns the truth about the agency that he is working for; Smith shows him that the video showing him killing innocent people is fake, and that he did not organize or participate in the shooting. Cooper then learns that his own agency is responsible for all the attacks and blames the abnorms so that they have an excuse to start a war and kill them all.
Sakey’s book explores the dystopian genre in a new, unique way. His writing effectively puts the reader inside of his world, and makes everything in the book seem possible. He adds fake interviews, quotations, and articles at the beginnings of his chapters in a very similar to what we would see in today’s society. The reader is left questioning whether this could happen in real life. Could this be the next step in evolution for the human race? It certainly seems possible. The book also serves as a metaphor for many modern day events. People see the brilliants as different, therefore they could be labeled similarly to the Jews during the holocaust. They are seen as a threat just because they are gifted, despite their ability to do a lot of good in the world.
The theme of unjust treatment relates to racism and inequality all over the world. People disagree with each other based on their beliefs, race and even gender. For example, Israel and Palestine are having enormous issues trying to establish borders. The two groups cannot live together so they have started to fight each other based on their religion. The Jews and the Islamists are fighting for the right of the land that they both claim the rights to. They are all people, but they hate the each other based on their religion and can’t live together harmoniously. Similarly, the only reason the people are against abnorms is that they are afraid of the people that are different then them.
I really enjoyed the book. The protagonist is very likable and easy to sympathize with. The book is packed cover to cover with suspense and action, making it impossible to stop reading. The book toys with emotions as it shows all the different sides of the battle between humans and abnorms. The reader starts rooting for one side and then completely switches, wondering how they ever thought they were doing the right thing. I am very excited to read the sequel, A Better World, which continues the story of Nick Cooper and the brilliants. Both of his books are available on Amazon as well as most bookstores.