A Better World by Marcus Sakey (Thomas & Mercer, June 17th, 2014)-Ok, so, here’s what we know. The “brilliants”, or abnorms, were first discovered in the early 80s, gifted folks who have startling abilities, folks whose intellects are far superior to normal people. Since then, we’ve made great advances in technology, thanks to these people. However, normal people feel…threatened, some more than others. Brilliant children are taken from their parents and put in academies, ostensibly to develop their talents, leaving their families devastated and the government is threatening to microchip all abnorms in order to track them at will. Needless to say, fear is spreading, and New Canaan Holdfast, a reservation of sorts for brilliants, headed up by a very wealthy and shadowy figure, may be the only hope for them if war does break out. The tensions mount considerably as a group calling themselves the Children of Darwin hijack big rigs filled with essential supplies and set fire to their drivers, isolating three US cities and sparking outright panic.
Here’s where Nick Cooper comes in. Nick is a former agent with Equitable Services (under DAR), tasked with hunting abnorms who perpetrated terrorist activity. However, his former target, the activist John Smith, showed Nick that things weren’t quite as they seemed, the US president was taken down, and Nick’s alliances have shifted. Now the new president (former vice president Lionel Clay) has asked Nick to work directly for him, to find out who is behind the Children of Darwin, and Nick isn’t given the option of refusal.
Meanwhile, Shannon, Nick’s lover and associate of John Smith, is running her own missions (including one fantastic rescue mission), but soon her plans dovetail with Nick’s in a shocking way, and she has information about a secret that could change the future of norms and abnorms forever.
Good grief, ya’ll. I couldn’t get enough of Brilliance, the first book in the series, and the awesome continues, and ramps up, in A Better World. Nick and Shannon are both brilliants, but have no wish to see evil perpetrated by either side, and of course you have the extremists that want the brilliants subjugated, hiding behind the fear that the norms will be reduced to a form of “slavery” in the face of such superior abilities, and the most extreme of norms that want to use the abnorms for their own gain. Of course, you also have the abnorms that feel that they’re superior in every way, and don’t hesitate to use their “powers” for evil. You get the idea.
A Better World follows three main narratives: Nick’s, Shannon’s, and a scientist named Ethan, who is stuck with his family in one of the isolated cities, and is trying to get them out, while dodging the attentions of the DAR (Nick’s former agency). There’s a reason, a very important one, that Ethan is a wanted man, but all he wants to do is get his wife and baby daughter to safety, among trigger happy citizens taking up arms in the face of no food, no water, no supplies, and the resulting chaos.
Brilliance, the first book, got a ton of attention, and rave reviews, all well-deserved, and Sakey continues his superb story in A Better World (which, while a cracking read on its own, works much better if you’ve read the first book.) Nick Cooper is my favorite kind of hero: complex (like the story) in his motives, yet pure in his heart. That might sound odd considering his former role with Equitable Services, but he really is a genuine “good guy” in every way that’s important. He’s not perfect, and he’s made many mistakes, but it’s his willingness to do his best to not only make up for those mistakes (as best he can) and hopefully ensure a better world for all that is his driving force. His family plays a bigger role in this one, and there’s even a little bit of tension between his ex-wife and Shannon, but it may not be what you think. If you read Brilliance, you know what Shannon did for his family, and that still carries some monumental weight. Trust is a huge theme here, and it’s tough to save lives, not to mention the world, if you never quite know who to trust. Luckily, there are a few people that Nick trusts implicitly, and that’s very, very important to his survival. Non-stop action, punctuated by very human drama, is what A Better World is made of, and Sakey sets things up for a helluva bang in the next novel. If you like your apocalyptic action with plenty of depth, complexity, and much food for thought, these are the books for you. I really can’t recommend this series highly enough!