Fantastic Friday Fiction: A Capsule Review of the “Brilliance” saga

Imagine a world in which 1% of the population is born with incredible abilities–superhuman pattern recognition, intuition, organization. Imagine living in such a world where your classmate or coworker or competitor has an innate advantage over you, based on mere genetics.  Or a world where, through no choice of your own, you interact with reality a bit differently than the people around you, and their response is to isolate, mistrust, even openly discriminate against you. This tense social environment is the setting of Marcus Sakey’s thrilling series of novels, called The “Brilliance” Saga. The series begins with Brilliance, and continues with A Better World. (Both are available as an e-book on Kindle for $4.99, at the time of this writing.)

The protagonist of the series, Nick Cooper, is a Brilliant, someone who was born with a special ability. Cooper can read non-verbal cues and anticipate how people are feeling or what they’re about to do. The smallest shift in posture or strain of a tiny muscle will tell him if a person will attack or flee. The twitch of an eyebrow can reveal that a person is lying. Cooper works as a government agent tasked with apprehending or taking out any “abnormals” who use their abilities to break the law. His agency is hunting John Smith, the alleged leader of a domestic terrorist group that has perpetrated gruesome attacks on “normals.”

As the series unfolds, Cooper has to face a host of fascinating and terrifying characters, including a beautiful assassin who seems to walk through walls, and a billionaire genius who may not be what he seems. The stakes are raised higher and higher, as allegiances are challenged and secrets are revealed. Government intrigue, thrilling chases, and surprising twists keep the pages turning.

If I had to classify the Brilliance Saga by genre, I would say it’s a kind of “real-world” science fiction. This isn’t a superhero story–it’s more like “X-men” by way of Tom Clancy. There are no capes or spandex or far-flung planets. These characters live in our world, but in a different version of our world–a world that was altered dramatically by the discovery of this genetic anomaly in 1986.

[In terms of objectionable content, readers should note that the books are definitely PG-13 in terms of violence and sexuality (I remember there are a few steamy scenes, but they are blessedly short and more is implied than described). The bad language pushes the PG-13/R boundary, if I recall. So I wouldn’t recommend for kids or teens, or for folks who are sensitive to this kind of content. Use your discernment about whether or not to give this one a shot.]

Final Analysis: I have to tell you, I seriously enjoyed these books–couldn’t put them down. This is a gripping story with fascinating characters. Anyone looking for a thrill-ride of a page turner should definitely give The Brilliance Saga a shot.

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