Category: science fiction

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

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave


What Happened to Monday? or Seven for the Price of One.

More often than not, I’m aware of great science fiction movies long before they reach streaming services. Netflix shoved this movie in my face multiple times and I finally bit. I bit and I didn’t stop biting until the closing credits.

In a short montage and little explanation we are transported into the not-too-distant future where the human population has reached critical mass and people are starving from the lack of food. To combat this, genetic crops are created and wheat is made plentiful, however the crops pass along their mass producing qualities and families surge with twins and triplets. Seeing a crisis in the making, the Child Allocation Bureau rises in power and operates without oversight. Limiting families to a single child, the remaining children are put into cryosleep until they are able to be brought back.

The story begins when a mother dies giving birth to septuplets.

Noomi Rapace (Girl with a Dragon Tattoo) astounds the audience with a phenomenal performance as not one, but seven distinct characters in this science-fiction mystery. Named by her/their father, played by William Dafoe for the days of the week, all of  Rapace’s characters are forced to live in a loft for their young lives. Only once he feels they are capable of working as a unit does he award them to opportunity to leave the loft, all seven sisters forced to become a single woman, Karen Settman. Bringing each of their distinct personalities to the role of Karen Settman, the sisters flourish beyond the walls of the loft, despite only connecting with the outside world once every seven days.

The mystery begins when Monday doesn’t come home from her stint as Settman. Tuesday must proceed to assume the mantle, unsure of the previous day’s activities. When Tuesday is detained by Cayman, head of the CAB, played by Glenn Close, it appears something is amiss as the politician knows of the sisters. With the secret out of the bag, the sisters must defend themselves while unraveling a mystery about the disappearance of Monday. Thrust into the middle of a conspiracy that could rip the government apart, they pool their resources in an effort to survive.

The logistics of their lives are filled in by flashbacks where Dafoe teaches them to work as a single unit. Requiring them to “debrief” each night explains how seven different people could so completely embody a single persona. Even moments when we see them testing makeup colors, matching blood shot eyes, and donning the “Settman wig” explain most of our questions. The saying, “What happens to one, happens to all,” is reflected here as Dafoe is often forced into the role of being a villain-esque father. It builds to explain that the sisters are different, but operate as one.

The movie has roots in the dystopian science fiction realm, but it remains fairly light on the actual science fiction. This keeps the movie grounded and provides us a vision into a possible future that has the potential to become a reality. Unaware of what the movie might hold, when the premise and dilemma is presented, a vast many questions arise. Who is Karen Settman? How do they each navigate a single persona despite their unique personalities? The writes foresaw these questions and made sure they would be answered in a way that let the script flow in a logical manner.

The shortcomings of the movie are few and far between. The idea that the existence of the seven sisters could be the downfall of a politician’s career, despite her reign of absolute power is a bit far fetched. However, we find ourselves along for the ride in this familiar alien world. While Rapace does an outstanding job acting against herself, at times conversing with six other versions of herself, the characters are cliches. A lesbian, a computer nerd, a vixen, a leader, an artist, a fighter are all archetypes we’ve seen before and with so many characters, its hard to introduce a diverse cast and give them depth beyond stereotypes. However, if we think of them as a whole, the sisters stole the show and left us wanting more. I was only taken out of the story by the lack of reaction to the violence on the screen. I expected more terror or horror at the atrocities being uncovered, but due to the fast paced nature of the movie, I’m not sure the characters were ever given the opportunity to grieve.

Out of left field, this movie left me stunned, wanting more, and impressed with how a single actor’s range could create such a movie. A mystery movie with sci-fi undertones and knee deep in a dystopian world, I felt myself sucked in, excited to see what would happen and who would persevere in such a harsh world. A must see.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave


%d bloggers like this: