A Review of A Better World by Marcus Sakey

Hello Cleveland! And Tulsa...and Fresno. The “Children of Darwin” have shut down your power grids. Enjoy the looting and fires, the food shortages and trigger-happy National Guardsmen who have been sent to quarantine you. Perhaps consider joining your local Neighborhood Watch. Sakey’s back, and you’re going to be in trouble, America.

Nick Cooper is back too, and after a brief “leave” from the Department of Analysis and response, he takes a new job as special advisor to the new President (the last one having green-lighted an attack on American citizens, and consequently removed from office (as sometimes happens- but only sometimes)). Nick sees his primary goal as preventing a civil war between norms and abnorms, but he is opposed, on one side, by the nefarious Secretary of Defense Leahy and his associates in the intelligence-military-political complex who believe: A that they would benefit from a war against the abnorms (that one percent of us born “brilliant,” with special abilities and powers), and B that they could win it. On another front Nick is opposed by the abnorm terrorists of the Children of Darwin and others, possibly even including reformed and exonerated terrorist mastermind turned New York Times best selling author and popular public speaker, John Smith, who is theoretically an establishment ally. 

Nick negotiates a series of shaky alliances himself: with Erik Epstein, the CEO of Epstein Industries and de-facto ruler of the New Canaan Holdfast (that part of Wyoming that is a semi-autonomous, corporate-owned region where the abnorms are building a better world), with Shannon, a beautiful and deadly protege of John Smith and sort-of new girlfriend, and with his ex-wife Natalie, who seems to be rethinking her role in Nick’s life. 

Lots of your favorite characters from Brilliance are back (Best friend and DAR parter Bobby Quinn! Surly Epstein sidekick Millie the reader!), Sakey introduces plenty of cool new characters here, including John Smith’s oldest friend Soren Johansen, who experiences each second of time as if it were more than eleven seconds, and therefore an unstoppable assassin. We also meet Dr. Ethan Park, nice-guy scientist who has to get tough in order to escape Cleveland to protect his wife and infant daughter. Ethan, along with his now-missing-boss Dr. Abe Couzen, have been working on a secret pharmaceutical project which may have the power to stop the war (or win it). 

Sakey pads this sequel to Brilliance with more than thirty pages of fictionalized press briefings, advertisements, magazines, internet posts, personal ads, and excerpts from political speeches that some readers might find distracting, but are clearly intended to enrich the feeling of participating in a wider cultural experience of a society in which norms and abnorms are mostly attempting to coexist in peace. Generally A Better World adheres to the formula established in Brilliance while building towards a possible major confrontation between norms and abnorms. If you liked the first book, you will probably be happy to spend more time with Nick Cooper et. al. Have fun, and I’ll see you in Wyoming!


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