Just for a change of pace, I’ve decided to do a Book review. If you were coming to this blog for the usual dosage of EVE, computer games, or something related to the future of space or technology, then I’m sorry to disappoint you. But here it is.
Pros: As with most Grant Books, the central premise of the book is awesome and engaging, and it gets no small amount of attention in the book. Supporting cast is both engaging and interesting, and the technology is if not entirely sound, respectable.
Cons: The shortness of the novel leads to a pace that is simply too fast for the kind of story Grant is attempting to tell. Characters and plot suffer as a result.
So this is the latest offering from Michael Grant, Author of Gone and Animorphs fame. Did I find his work from Gone Perfect? No, but I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy them either. Grant is one of the modern masters of the Young Adult Genre, and ones that focus on the romance and personal above other considerations (A trend that began with Twilight and has now permeated the genre) and while his offerings in these fields are never weak, Grant works best when world building and working with a large, diverse cast.
This is what made Gone the hit that it was. None of the individual characters in all the books were standouts for me, but the collective whole which they made, and the intensely engaging study of sociology (Lord of the Flies-esque) and cool superpowers in a carefully crafted world is what made the series.
BZRK is not a bad book. But it noticeably fails to utilise Grant’s strengths to a level that would make it a standout.
The central premise of BZRK- a war between two organisations using organic and mechanical nanobots inside peoples heads and all the coolness that entails is certainly the centre piece of the book. And that might just be BZRK’s problem, between the characters, hell even the story, it’s clear that the idea of tiny nanobots duking it out on people’s eyeballs and optic nerves came first.
That’s not a bad thing, but that’s where the story is headed. If you don’t want detailed descriptions of what a Dust mite or a flea looks real close up, this is not the book for you. If you’re looking for a protagonist that has a dark and troubled past, a dead family, and then the reveal at the end that he/she was in fact a deep sleeper agent and another two levels of subversion, then you’re going to dissapointed. If you’re looking for a romance that transcends time and space, then you’re going to be disappointed.
BRZK was a clear step up in pace from the Gone novels, and the combination of limited space, fast pace and a painfully obvious emphasis on the tech left us with a collection of rather undeveloped characters. It’s not that these characters by their natures are impossible to develop, but rather that Grant did not have the time to go into any real detail.
That said, the supporting cast are surprising detailed and engaging. And each of them have their own story to tell, and can do it with minimal effort (or words) on Grant’s part. The problem is that the level of character, personality and the general “feel” we have for someone is about the same for the two Protagonists as for relatively minor characters.
Noticeable exception of course, goes to the resident Big Bad, the Armstrong Twins. At the risk of falling into Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory territory, Grant may have been attempting a double subversion by using a Villain archtype that became cliche back in the 60s. Perhaps more importantly, this extends to the entire opposing side to the Protagonist’s organisation.
Once again, a corporation out to take over the world, driven by a deformed, slightly cracked boss that wants to make a Utopia out of the joint is nothing new, in fact in an age where fiction goes to great lengths to avoid such stereotypes, It was almost welcome.
Provided, of course that you could ignore the fact that the corporation that was aspiring to take over the world and by all accounts has a good chance of doing it is a corporation whose wealth stems from…
In airports. The Corporation is named Armstrong Fancy Gifts.
Yes that’s right ladies and gentlemen, you see that gift store in your local airport? the Kind that sells tacky and overpriced crap? It’s evil. Sorry to disappoint you all. This is both rendered hilarious and fantastic is that every character in the book on both sides takes it dead seriously. Including the assassination squads of Land’s End clad hitmen. All this is played entirely straight. Which brings us to my next point of concern.
The Plot is the second major problem of the book. Once again, it’s not that it is structurally unsound or even handled badly, but rather that it is straight and simplistic. I spent most of the second half the novel waiting for the twist, waiting for the moment where what is established goes horribly horribly wrong, or even when an unexpected third force moves onto the field and upsets the natural path of things. When the protagonist’s romance goes through a rough patch. Something.
This never materialised, leaving to a plot that while serviceable, is only that. Serviceable. Doesn’t really add much to the story.
All this struck me as rather strange. BZRK is clearly aimed at an older audience than either Gone or Animorphs, and it is both far Darker and Edgier in themes and harder and faster with both the sex and the violence. Rather than take the opportunity presented by a older, more mature and experienced audience though, BZRK’s own length and extremely high pace betrays it, and makes the story come out as one simpler and shallower than that of either of his previous works.
However, Grant is one of those rare breed of authors whose creations tend to increase in quality rather than decrease with each successive sequel, which should hardly be surprising from one of the authors of Animorphs and to a lesser extent, Gone. Unlike the previous two titles however, BZRK doesn’t quite seem to have the same potential for a long running series.
I don’t know. But by all accounts BZRK Reloaded, the sequel is a much better book.
I don’t know. I’ll have to see.