BZRK Book Review

BZRK by Michael Grant

Sadie is a billionaire orphan after the tragic death of her father and brother in a plane crash into a stadium that she happened to be sitting in. Surviving the deadly accident, Sadie is soon drawn into the world of BZRK, a secret organization that uses biological nano technology to fight for the free will of humanity. Noah's brother went insane and no one knows why. When he is recruited by BZRK, Noah understands the stakes of these micro battles. This isn't just about free will, it is about maintaining ones sanity. Together Noah and Sadie have to bring down Bug man and the Anderson Twins who would enslave humanity, one human mind at a time.

As with most sci-fi stories, the idea of the story is solid. Two factions, using nano technology fight for the fate of humanity inside the mind. Tiny, microscopic robots literally battle one another behind a persons eye or within their brain. How terrifying to know that someone could crawl into your mind and rewire you. The problem is, that it has been done before and much better. The stakes are always the same, but in Brain Jack by Brian Faulkner where humans are being turned into mindless robots, the stakes felt much more immediate and possible. Because of the nature of the book, I was never sure if either group could pull off a takeover or take down and so the threat never felt immediate. Far too much micro to ever get a sense of the macro. Even in Feed by M.T. Anderson or Starters by Lissa Price, even the loss of one life felt so much bigger than in BZRK.

This may be in large part because of the characters. In the beginning, Sadie seemed like a great character, rich, spunky, and fit to take over her father's business, she is a perfect heroin. The tragic plane crash that nearly kills her only deepens the readers desire to learn more about her. When we meet Noah, we really feel for him and are curious as to how his brother has gone insane. Great character setup that sadly went nowhere. I never felt like I got to know Sadie or Noah. Their sexual liaisons aside, both felt flat and reactionary in a world that was anything but. Instead, Grant felt it necessary that we get into the heads of the bad guys. I learned more about Bug Man, understood his motivations, witnessed him interacting with his family and girlfriend and frankly, it was like being inside the mind of a cold blooded murderer. Every time the story returned to Bug Man or his cohorts I grew increasingly disgusted and confused. Did the author want me to think these guys were good? Why did we keep returning to them? Why were these characters more fleshed out than the heroes of the story?

I can promise you this though, should you read this book, you will never look at an eyeball or a flea in the same way again. With disturbing clarity, Grant describes the microscopic in detail. Eyelashes become trees. A bead of sweat, a giant pool. A fingernail, a deadly instrument. But once again, I grew confused. The characters continually speak about the microscopic world as if it is the most terrifying thing one could ever see. That by simply seeing these things, one is risking their own sanity. Yet, doctors and scientists, people who Grant probably relied heavily on for his research, look at these things all the time. They don't go mad from looking at hair follicles or fleas or pores. The detail was amazing, but personally I think it would be very cool to see things on the micro. It isn't the brain they have to be afraid of after all, it's the other guys with nano-bots that could be waiting inside.

Last thing and personally I think this one is huge, I found the description and use of conjoined twins in this book to be absolutely appalling. It is a terrible thing for a writer to fall into the trap of using disability, scarring, or deformity to show how a person is "bad" on the inside. The Anderson Twins, a pair of conjoined twins, are described with the words grotesque, repulsive, horrifying, a science experiment gone wrong, and terrible to look at among other things. But their disability is in no way a reason why they do what they do, nor is it a product of what they have done. If this is how they were born, why does every character describe them in such terms that you would think these two men were the ugliest "things" to ever be born. I seriously doubt if Grant feels this way about conjoined twins, but it does nothing for people with this kind of a disability to not only portray them as evil, but to then use such descriptive language to inform young readers about how hideous their disability really is.

All in all, an interesting concept bogged down with far too many ill-drawn characters and micro descriptions that are beautiful and obnoxious all in the same breath.