The brilliants changed everything.
Since 1980, 1% of the world has been born with gifts we'd only dreamed of. The ability to sense a person's most intimate secrets, or predict the stock market, or move virtually unseen. For thirty years the world has struggled with a growing divide between the exceptional...and the rest of us.
Now a terrorist network led by brilliants has crippled three cities. Supermarket shelves stand empty. 911 calls go unanswered. Fanatics are burning people alive.
Nick Cooper has always fought to make the world better for his children. As both a brilliant and an advisor to the president of the United States, he's against everything the terrorists represent. But as America slides toward a devastating civil war, Cooper is forced to play a game he dares not lose - because his opponents have their own vision of a better world.
And to reach it, they're willing to burn this one down.
From Marcus Sakey, "the master of the mindful page turner" (Gillian Flynn) and "one of our best storytellers" (Michael Connelly), Book Two of the Brilliance Saga is a relentless thrill ride that will change the way you look at your world - and the people around you.
©2014 Marcus Sakey. (P)2014 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved.
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"Better than the reviews I've read would suggest"
If you haven't read the first one, this won't make much sense. If you have, and you liked it, this book will also work for you. It has the same kinds of plot holes that most science fiction has -- particularly around the way national politics and the Presidential use of force are described -- but they're not any more problematic than most other such books. People have said the story seemed forced, but I don't agree. I think this is an excellent progression of the story and actually makes some of the more unlikely aspects of the first book make a bit more sense. If anything, this one may have been a bit more grounded. There is an assassin in this story that has a type of gift not described before and I thought it was very well considered. It's the sort of thing that definitely provides a big advantage, but is also one of the hardest to live with and both aspects were well described. The gifted in this book are less perfect than in the first, and the result is more believable.
"Brilliant and Stupid at the Same Time"
There are things to love about this book and series. Then there are things that just don’t make any sense which are very frustrating when you are really rooting for this series to succeed.
I love what Sakey has done to build his premise. I think that his conflict built by social upheaval because of the effects a generation of genius children have on the world is itself genius. It touches on all kinds of things, adjustments to new technologies, psychological effects of estrangement due to different powers and perspectives, bigotry, the national interest, family relationships, that feeling that the normal world is just changing too fast, etc. It is a fantastic and layered premise sprinkled with his interludes that give it color and make it more real to the reader. (If there were a generation of brilliant people, wouldn’t there be a “personals” section focused on them specifically? Yes. Yes there would. Of course!)
Then he has to go and screw it up with one dimensional characters and monkeywrenching the suspension of disbelief he asks of his readers.
First the characters: Most are made of wood. Professorial, wishy-washy President. Ambitious, conniving SecDef. Diabolical, megalomaniacal villain. “Protect my Family!” Hero. Other “Protect my Family!” Hero. Supportive wife. Other supportive (ex) wife. There are a few with human-like motivations, but some characters who were much better fleshed out in the first book became more one dimensional here. Daniels does yeoman-like work fleshing them out, but you can’t make substance out of nothing.
My major gripe is the laziness with which Sakey treats the contract he writes with the reader. I am all for suspension of disbelief in fiction. If the author tells me that Superman is super strong and can basically lift, well, anything, I say ok. If the author tells me then that Kryptonite is the only thing that makes him weak and it makes him weak as a kitten, I say ok. But if the same author tells me that, despite the previous statement, Superman can pick up an entire Island of Kryptonite and throw it into space because he just grits his teeth really hard simply because the author needed something really dramatic (I’m looking at you Bryan Singer), you lost me. In that case as in this one, the author breaks the promise he makes.
Nick Cooper is the greatest profiler in the world, a Brilliant who can look at people’s patterns of behavior and predict pretty much exactly what those people will do next. At the start of the first book he tracked a hacker across country to a specific bar, basically by looking at her rap sheet and her clothes closet. And I say ok. But he goes through most of this book forgetting about his fantastic gift for reading people until the end. This makes me want to scream. Cooper is supposed to be a Brilliant, but only seems to remember his gift after the author has had a chance to build the tension.
This is the problem with trying to write perspective characters who are supposed to be really, really aware. Cooper can read people’s intentions, but he never seems to use it to head off a problem; he just conveniently turns it off when the author needs to create a plot twist. If Cooper is such a brilliant profiler, why isn’t he doing it all the time to stay a step ahead of the bad guys? If you want to put a limitation on a character, you have to do it in the story, you can’t just have him forget he’s brilliant until it’s convenient.
And speaking of forgetting: Ethan Park has no idea why people might be after him or his boss until he just happens to remember halfway into the book that his lab had made the biggest scientific discovery in the last 30 years on an amazingly controversial issue? The author made the choice that it would be better for the drama if the danger was unexpected when any reasonable person would have been paranoid from page 1.
One final hang-up that has to do with poor research: Tanks can’t get “hacked.” Sure you can foul its GPS, or maybe screw with some of its electronic systems, but the breech is loaded by human hands and the tracks are driven by mechanical linkage. And before you say it, no we weren’t waiting around for some Brilliant to invent an auto-loader. That technology has been around since before tanks. We intentionally put the human element in for safety reasons. Hacking a high-tech jet’s avionics and control systems? Ok, but tanks are mechanical; you can lock the turret with a physical lever. The funny thing is, Sakey didn’t even need to do this; the physical threat from guided missiles going off course and jets crashing would have been plenty destructive.
With Book 3 of the Brilliance Saga being released next month I finally got around to listening to Book 2. The concept of the thriller series is unique in my reading experience. The US is being torn apart by a war between the brilliant people, the relatively few mentally and physically talented individuals, and normal people.
Luke Daniels does a great job of narration.
I have a rule with books: give it at least 3 hours before making up your mind. I gave this one 6 hours, since I really did enjoy the first in the series. It just didn't grab me, not in the slightest. Terribly disappointing.
It's not completely surprising though. It was a great one book concept. Clearly 'Brilliance' was enough of a success that Sakey and his publishers felt a 'saga' was warranted. Unfortunately, in this listener's opinion, that is not the case.
Much of the book felt extremely forced. Emotions were being shoved down my throat rather than enticed out organically. While it's sic-fi/alt. reality/semi-apocalyptic in nature, the plot line didn't seem natural or 'realistic', even within the confines of Sakey's created world. It feels very much like Sakey had to force out a continuation of Book 1, rather than letting the story end at its natural place.
Daniels did a fine job of narration as always. In fact he's the only thing that saved this from a one star review. That and limited aspects of the Ohio couple's storyline.
Like I said at the beginning, I only made it through about 60% of this book before giving up, so your own milage may vary and there may be an eventual payoff I am missing. I'm willing to take that chance as there are many other books in my queue.
"Solid Sequel. Luke Daniels Rocks."
I loved Brilliance, so I was really happy to continue on in this world, in A Better World. The story was slow at times, but more often fast-paced, and definitely entertaining and engaging. Once again we are following Nick Cooper, first seeing the consequences of what happened at the end of the previous book. Then seeing where he's at, who he's working for, who is out to get him, who he can trust, and where his love life is. Sorry, for being vague, but I'm avoiding spoilers.
I like Nick a lot. He's a fantastic character. So when the scenes involve him, I generally find them exciting. Then while following along with Nick and the older characters, we are also introduced to some new ones. This took an adjustment, getting used to the change of pace. But I found the new additions to be really important to the overall storyline, liked getting to know them, and enjoyed what Sakey did with them. There were some crazy things happening along the way to all the characters. All of it kept me entertained and trying to figure out where the story was going.
And then that ending! Sakey really put it all out there in a big display. The world will never be the same. Now where will they go from here? I can only imagine it will be gripping, action-packed, heart-racing excitement until the very end. And I'm looking forward to whatever is coming next.
"much better than the first book, still a way to go"
Ok, I was not crazy about the first book and liked it juuust enough to give the second a try. lack of character depth, cliche plot points, etc etc.
I was pleasantly surprised by this follow-up. still not top-shelf writing by any means, and repetitive as Hell, but when I got through it I certainly wanted more. it was topical given the recent civil unrest in our country, painting a less than flattering but totally realistic view of the government response to crisis. plot hole: didn't take state government into account at all. but I digress, if you read the first and aren't sure I'd say give it a shot.
"Simply a solid continuation of a great idea"
A Better World picks up shortly after the conclusion of Brilliance. Nick Cooper, a brilliant himself, worked for Equitable Services (under DAR) hunting down rouge or terrorist or unwanted abnorms. After taking down his boss and the President of the Untied States, after one of his charges, John Smith, enlightens Nick as to what is really going on. Now he has been asked by the new President, form Vice-President, to hunt down a new group of terrorists, The Children of Darwin. With no option to refuse.
Simultaneously Shannon, Cooper's cohort from the last story is embarking on her own missions. Both stories converge eventually. Contrasting to the last audiobook, which had only one point of view to follow, here we have to follow three. Nick Cooper, Shannon and Ethan (normal person) a scientist who's story doesn't make sense until later on. This jumping back and forth kept me for being fully immersed like I was last time.
The uniqueness that made Brilliance such an awesome story, and surrounded it with hype somewhere disappeared in A Better World. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed this sequel, it just seemed more mainstream thriller with much of the action in the second half of the story. No real surprises or major plot twists. What kept me interested was the complexity of Cooper, he is the kind of guy that would be wearing a white hat in an old western. Good guy through and through, yet awesomely imperfect.
Simply a solid continuation of a great idea, I cannot wait for the next one.
Audiobook purchased by reviewer.
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"Over the top sequel"
I really wanted to like this book. I gave Brilliance 5 stars. A Better World just falls flat.
Sakey makes the mistake of writing essentially the same story here as a sequel. The same problems, the same world views, the same far fetched political playing, only more so.
I think the world that Sakey created in Brilliance is a knock out. Love it.
The plot in A Better World is ludicrous though.
If I were writing this series, I would have turned down the heat instead of ramping it up. Many of the characters here feel very thin. Many of the events are silly. Brilliance is very much worth reading. A Better World lays waste to this series and makes it a pittance of what it once was.
Finally!!! Excitement to get back to the book no matter what I'm doing. This has not happened in a long, long time. Thank You Markus Sakey.
This is a great read and builds off the first book well. Can't wait for the next book in a few months.
"Fast pace, but getting a bit silly in places"
I enjoyed Brilliance and overall I enjoyed A Better World too, but this second book in the series is less credible and the narrator made mistakes which I found distracting. The rapid pace of action is maintained from the first book but unfortunately some chapters are ludicrous. But it was fun, so I will listen to Written in Fire, which must be a recommendation of sorts.
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