Category: book review

Brilliance by Marcus Sakey Twists the Superhero Genre

Marcus Sakey is known for his drama and thrillers, and it is shown in Brilliance, but this time, his hero has a gift that sets him apart from humanity. But can Nick Cooper use this ability to stop the greatest threat to America, or will he become the next victim?

The book has all the tell-tale signs of a superhero novel. A group of people born with unique gifts, a company that contains them, and a civil uprising threatening to tear apart the country. However, unlike the uncanny and awesome powers of the X-Men, Sakey’s characters have simpler gifts, but none-the-less amazing. Cooper has the ability to recognize and analyze patterns and micro expressions on a person’s face. Later we’re introduced to a woman who has the ability to “shift” through space, a gift allowing her to be where no-one is looking. We read about “brilliants” with the ability for strategy, reading code, and even altering video. The gifts are subtle, but they definitely give the 1% an advantage in life.

Cooper works for the Department of Analysis and Response, a part of the government given the responsibility of observing and if necessary intervening with Brilliants. An explosion at the stock exchange forces Cooper into an extreme situation where he thrusts himself into deep cover, taking the role of a villain in order to apprehend a terrorist. The story  unfolds as Cooper dodges pursuit from the DAR and finds himself in league with a man who he believed to be the top domestic terrorist. He questions what it means to be human, to be a “twist” (a derogatory name for a Brilliant) and what is the purpose of his gifts. It leads to one difficult decision after another and ultimately, he has to ask himself, “What is right?”

Sakey does a great job of incorporating the gifts of Brilliants in a manner that flows with the story. They don’t wake up with these new-found gifts, they’ve had their entire life for them to develop. Sakey also gives us social, educational, and political context for what the world would look like with these “powered” people. The shining moment is when Cooper visits an academy for Brilliants, and sees how they’re dehumanized, learn to detach from their “human” lives, and taught to be tools for humans. As Cooper has a child exhibiting gifts, he finds it appalling that his daughter will have to become one of these students. While far from doom and gloom, Sakey’s penchant for coloring the negative aspects of the human condition is highlighted here and we see the worst mankind has to offer. Despite their abilities beyond the average human, Sakey holds the view that the vast majority would oppress the minority. In a charged political climate, it’s almost too close to home at times. But at the base of the story, it is still a police officer styled thriller. There is an edge of intrigue, a bit of mystery, and as we reach the climax, he’s done an excellent job of keeping the reader guessing what would happen next.

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Luke Daniels. Daniel’s brought the character of Cooper to life. The mannerisms, the speech pattern (patterns are a big part of the book) and his execution of the intensity of thought made for solid listening gold. I look forward to seeing how he continues to deliver the character in the two sequels.

Special Note: I also just found that Legendary Pictures has bought the rights to Brilliance and there is a chance we’ll be seeing it on the screen at some point. I wouldn’t hold out seeing as they bought it in 2013 and there hasn’t been so much as a peep. But we can hope right?

Available on Amazon | Available on Audible

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Soon I Will Be Invincible or Babblings of a Snarky Madman

Soon I Will Be Invincible

Soon I will be Invincible by Austin Grossman

I was skeptical of audio books. Could the reader bring to life the words in the same manner I do when I read? Could they evoke the emotion of the characters and bring about the depth of personality captured in text. I can’t speak for every book, but the voices of Paul Bohemer and Coleen Marlo delivered a snarky, blasé, and almost condescending tone perfect for this book.

Dr. Impossible is a super villain who has been captured and imprisoned for life. Again. He’s the smartest man alive (or so he frequently proclaims) and he gives us the run down on the status of the universe. How many aliens, mutants, robots, time travelers, and so forth, currently inhabiting Earth. Superheroes and their villain counterparts are the norm. There are more team-ups and superhero groups than can be counted. Instead of being a hero, he begins to examine his choices, the ones that lead him down the road of villainy. The cliché’s being encountered are numerous, and he mocks each of them, sometimes simply stating, “It’s what you have to do,” and other times laughing at other villains and their incessant need for admiration. Couple with Bohemer’s voice which has a snarky drone to it, you can imagine the man reading to you is smarter than average and almost too good for this. It works beautifully.

Fatale is the female protagonist (or antagonist depending on your point of view) who is a woman turned cyborg through a deadly crash. More of her body is composed of steel and wiring and a power source sits in her stomach. Her story begins as she is recruited to the Champions, an elite second generation group of superheroes teaming up to fight the most deadly of criminals. Along with Fatale, a trial membership has been offered to Lily, a superhero from the future, invisible to the naked eye, and capable of many powers, the most notable, the fact her ex-boyfriend is Dr. Impossible.

The Champions are in a quest to find who kidnapped Corefire, Dr. Impossible’s primary foe, his arch nemesis. No signs point to Dr. Impossible, but everybody is sure he’s the man behind the job. This bit of mystery drives the book as the superheroes decide their plan of action and Dr. Impossible begins his next scheme to take over the world.

What make Grossman’s book amusing for me, is the constant references to past events. He discusses the time aliens invaded, and that one time the they fought against robots taking over the planet. He doesn’t go into depth, but any comic fan will instantly say, “Oh yes, I’ve read that plot before.” The book even delves into the history of how heroes and villains are made and what decisions could have been altered to change the course of history. He knows how to balance the action, the mystery, and the slow build. He’s true to geek form and delivers a satisfying number of smirks and guffaws throughout the book. Comic book lovers will understand they are amongst their own.

I won’t give it away, but even the ending came as a shock to me. I’ve become so used to identifying the tropes and the clichés to the point where they’ve lost their surprise. However, at the last chapter of the book I had a moment where I went, “Oh crap, didn’t see that coming.” I was delighted and surprised and at the same time, couldn’t imagine how I missed it all along. Grossman does a great job of weaving it into the story without bringing attention to the shocker.

If you’re looking for a superhero book full of snark (and let’s be honest, you should be) this is perfect. If you’re looking to listen to some snark on your way to work in the morning, this is also perfect. The narration is exactly how I would have imagined it in my head. So overall, great book and a must read for superhero geeks out there.

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First Convention: Bangor Comic & Toy Convention

logo2016I’m excited to say I’ll be attending my first convention as an author! I’ll be there alongside my cover artist Amanda Kahl selling books. Come by, bring your copy, bring a camera, I’m looking forward to bonding with the geeks of Maine. If you haven’t looked into it, check out the website, lots of big names, artists, vendors, and speakers! Oh, and me, the best part of the event! Visit Bangor Comic & Toy Convention website.


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