Friday, April 20, 2012

BZRK - Review

Title: BZRK
Author: Michael Grant
Tags: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Action, Thriller
Format: Hardcover, 400 pages
Publisher: Egmont USA
ISBN-10: 1-60684-312-5
ISBN-13: 978-1-60684-312-3

Publisher's Description:
Love The Hunger Games? Action-adventure thrillers with a dystopian twist? BZRK (Berserk) by Michael Grant, New York Times best-selling author of the GONE series, ramps up the action and suspense to a whole new level of excitement.

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?

Violence: Gory descriptions of action scenes; dismemberment; potentially frightening creatures.
Language: Some graphic language.
Sex: Some discussion of sex; no description of sex scenes.
Rating: By film industry standards I think the book would be rated "R" based on strong language/violence.

I didn't really know what to expect from BZRK. Didn't have any preconceived notions. It's a good thing I didn't waste time thinking about it because I would have been wrong anyway. The only thing you should expect is to feel your pulse pounding a mile a minute, which is roughly how fast the action happens in the story. You should also be prepared for some graphic, often gory, descriptions of battle scenes at the macro and the micro levels. There's everything from human limbs being blown off to close up views of blood cells and bacteria. At times you'd almost think Grant was describing a documentary film about the inner workings of the human body, that is until you see microscopic killer robots battling genetically engineered spider/scorpion/human hybrids.

One of the more impressive feats in this book is the way in which Grant explains all of the complex biological and technical details of the story without making you feel like you're sitting in science class. He introduces and uses slang and technical jargon in a way which is easily accessible to the reader. It's almost as if the terms had always been part of my regular vocabulary.

I also like the way Grant develops the theme of shifting realities balanced on the knife's edge between sanity and madness. Whether it's the opening scene in the insane asylum, the moral ambiguity surrounding the tactics of the warring factions, or shifting perspectives of the narration, Grant successfully manages to keep the reader off balance.

By changing the perspective of the narration, Grant allows the reader to delve a little deeper into a wider pool of characters. Instead of just focusing on one or two protagonists, the reader has the chance to understand some of the fears and motivations of other characters they might not otherwise. It had the added fact, at least initially, of making me wonder who exactly the protagonists were. But the downside is that I never felt fully connected with any of the characters. Perhaps that will change as I read further installments in this series, but right now I just don't completely sympathize with the protagonists. Instead of having a 3 ft. shallow end and a 10 ft. deep end, the entire pool is 5 ft. And that's just not quite deep enough to fully submerge my 6'2" frame.

There were a couple of scenes (I won't get into any details here) which I didn't find completely believable. Either I felt the characters would have acted differently or the scene just needed more detailed explanations. The problems aren't major, but they did keep me from giving the book 5 turntables.

The book's concept is original. The plot is fast paced and believable. The dialogue, settings, and action sequences are all gritty and raw. Overall BZRK is one of the most entertaining books I've read recently. It's also the first book by Michael Grant that I've read and if it's any indication of his skill as a writer, then I definitely have to read the Gone series. I'm not a particularly fast reader, but I knocked this one out in two days. So I definitely recommend you give it a try.

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