Friday, November 29, 2013

BZRK (BZRK #1) by Michael Grant

Set in the near future, BZRK is the story of a war for control of the human mind. Charles and Benjamin Armstrong, conjoined twins and owners of the Armstrong Fancy Gifts Corporation, have a goal: to turn the world into their vision of utopia. No wars, no conflict, no hunger. And no free will. Opposing them is a guerrilla group of teens, code name BZRK, who are fighting to protect the right to be messed up, to be human. This is no ordinary war, though. Weapons are deployed on the nano-level. The battleground is the human brain. And there are no stalemates here: It’s victory... or madness.

BZRK unfolds with hurricane force around core themes of conspiracy and mystery, insanity and changing realities, engagement and empowerment, and the larger impact of personal choice. Which side would you choose? How far would you go to win?

Released: February 28th 2012    Pages: 391
Publisher: EgmontUSA             Source: Library

First Look: ****This intrigued me, first and foremost, because Michael Grant wrote it.  I'm a huge fan of his Gone series, so I hoped this would be just as good.  That was all the reason I needed to pick this up.  

Setting: ***** 
I wish the time period of this book would have been clearer.  If this book's inside cover hadn't said, "set in the near future", I wouldn't have been sure.  The world seems like the modern world we know--it hasn't become overtly dystopian yet, at this point in time (if we assume that the world eventually turns dystopian in every fictional world, because that seems to be the trend).  Some of the technology used--the nanobots, mainly--seemed out of our current reach, but then again, you'll see equally ahead-of-its-time technology in our time if you watch Iron Man 3.  It would have been easier to figure this out if there had been a few clues placed so that we'd know this takes place a few years ahead of today.    

Characters: ****
The most prominent characters, Sadie and Noah, were fairly likable.  They each had distinct personalities and backstories, which made them seem real.  While I liked each of them individually, I'm not sure how to feel about their insta-love.  Almost as soon as they meet, they start to develop feelings for each other.  This half makes sense, and half doesn't.  Each of them desperately needed someone, given the situation they were in.  And yet, it was still insta-love, and it was too needy to be a healthy relationship.

I didn't care one way or the other about anyone else.  Every other person that was part of BZRK was one-sided.  None of them felt real.  I didn't like anyone who was working against BZRK, either.  I suppose that was Michael Grant's intent, but I wish they could have at least had interesting motivations or personalities.

Plot: ***** The plot picked up almost right away, which I appreciated.  From the first chapter, things started happening.  The action didn't let up until, well, the end of the book.  This book is very much a thriller--there's action and more action and little time for anything in between. It did have some sparse quieter moments, though, mostly between Noah and Sadie.

At times, there were two separate chains of events happening at once: one in "the macro", the type of real-life action you're accustomed to.  And then, at the same time, there were events unfolding on a tiny scale, with the nanobots.  This made things more intense, which was awesome.

Uniqueness: ***** The nanobots were what made this book stand out.  Without them, the rest of the book wouldn't stand out much.  Instead, they brought a whole new level of cool, weird technology to this book, in a way I've never seen before.

Writing: ****As I mentioned before, I'm impressed with the way Michael Grant handled having two separate action sequences happening at once, in various scenes.  It would have been so easy for these scenes to become disorienting and confusing, but they weren't.  They were clear and to-the-point, like every other thing I've read by Michael Grant.  Though there were a few sentences that made me think "Are you sure you don't want a comma there?"  I don't remember noticing an annoying lack of commas in places that should have them in Gone, but they were pretty frequent in this book.

This is just a personal thing, but many of the scenes involving the nanobots grossed me out in a fascinating sort of way.  Half of me was thinking, "This is kind of cool", but the other half was going "Great, now I need to scrub those mental images out of my brain".  It's a little bit like reading The Monstrumologist, where you can be both amazed at the sheer poetry of something, and horrified at the same time.  While BZRK wasn't poetic like The Monstrumologist, some elements left me feeling uneasy in some form or other.  Did I really need a reminder that colonies of tiny little aliens are swarming over my skin at this very moment?  Nope.

Likes: Leave it to Michael Grant to write things that make me question whether I should be disturbed by them or not.

Not-so-great: I stared at my blank review template for ten minutes like this because my feelings for this book were so confusing:

Overall: My feelings for this are very mixed.  On one hand, the nanobots were cool (if not unsettling).  The action scenes involving nanobots were written in a way that was surprisingly clear and easy to follow.  Noah and Sadie were decent characters, but their relationship developed too fast to be healthy.  I didn't care one way or another about the other characters.  Overall, this is more of a 3.5 star book, but I'll round it to four because I did enjoy it, for the most part.




Similar Books:
It displays Michael Grant's talent for vaguely disturbing weirdness, like in his Gone series (though this can go past 'vaguely', at times).  It's a thriller with teen protagonists like Boy Nobody, The Reluctant Assassin, or The Shadow Project.
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