Review: BZRK by Michael Grant

BZRK Michael Grant
BZRK Michael Grant cover

Title: BZRK 
Author: Michael Grant
Series: BZRK #1 
Genre: Science Fiction, YA 
Publication date: April 23, 2013 
Rating: ★★★★ 

Synopsis: 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?

I know lots of people didn’t like this book, but I found it very enjoyable. It’s really creative and I could find myself in the ideas. I’m not sure if he’s the first one to write about these lines of thought (probably not) but it’s the first time I’ve read about it and so I’m giving Michael Grant all the credit. Also, I like his stories. Gone really grew on me in the end.

Everything starts with the Armstrong twins. They’re conjoined twins. They are two separate persons, but their heads are connected to each other and they share an eye and a leg, which makes them a horrific sight for everyone around them. But they’re also the millionaire owners of AFGC or Armstrong Fancy Gifts Corporation, a successful business of gift shops. Everyone knows the shops, but unsurprisingly people don’t know that the business is also a cover-up. The Armstrong twins have invested in the use of nanotechnology. They are using a technique (originally discovered by Grey McLure and not yet made public) in which nanobots and biots infiltrate a person’s body to mess with his or her brains and to make them susceptible to manipulation. To do this they use twitchers, young, intelligent, talented gamers who control the nanobots from their computers as they find (or fight) their way through a person’s head. The Armstrong twins have only one goal: to link all humans and to ensure happiness for all. Doesn’t sound too bad, except they plan to do it by destroying free will.

All of this happens of course in total secret and not even the secret services are aware of what’s happening (sometimes even to their own people) and the existence of nanotechnology. There’s only one organization fighting back and that’s BZRK.

Nemo Me Impugn Lacessit—No One Assails Me with Impunity. Or the alternative version—Do Not Fuck with Us or We Will Hurt You.

The nanotechnology is actually very interesting. None of it is real of course (or that’s what I hope?), but Michael Grant has thought a great deal about it. There are some ‘scientific’ reports in the book to make everything seem more plausible and it works. I could completely find myself in what the twitchers were doing and how they operated. Plus, there’s not a distinct black-white point of view on the technique. It’s in a grey zone. It definitely has it good sides and a lot of medical applications, but the technique can be used for a lot of unethical stuff as well. Which is what the Armstrong twins are doing, and maybe BZRK too, in their attempts to beat them.

The book is written from a multiple persons POV. I’m not sure how many. A lot. We follow both people in BZRK and characters associated with AFGC and I like this. You get to know both sides and although I was still inclined to root for the just cause of BZRK, I started to sympathise with certain characters on the ‘bad side’ as well. Conflicted feelings always make things interesting for me.

I could start by listing all the characters, but that would be horribly boring so I’ll just stick with the ones I liked most and the ones I disliked most.

First: Vincent. He was probably my favourite character although there were definitely more I loved. He’s in his twenties and he’s sort of in charge of the New York faction of BZRK. Partly because he’s extremely skilled in the use of biots (he’s practically unbeatable), but also because he’s one of those persons you can’t help but trust. There’s just something about him that makes you follow him. His intelligence, his strength, his calm nature… It could be any of those characteristics or maybe all of them at once. Fact is, people would gladly die for him and I can’t blame them.

They said what doesn't kill you made you stronger. No, it left you with holes blown through your soul.

Sadie McLure/Plath. She’s the daughter of Grey McLure and the heir to the company that invented nanotechnology. I liked her a lot (better in the beginning than in the end, though), because she was her own person. She wasn’t trying to be anything for anyone else and she remained that way, even after losing about everything she once had. She suffered a lot and yet she remained strong. I always admire that.

Other characters I liked (good and bad) that are worth mentioning are: Nijinsky, Wilkes, One-Up, Bot Man, Alex, Stone, and Grey McLure. Not all of them are important characters and some of them only appear once.

There’s only one character I disliked and that’s Noah/Keats and that’s a real pity because of course he’s one of the main characters. I’m not even sure what was wrong with him. Maybe that was the point. That nothing was wrong about him. He was probably too young for me. Everyone else seemed way more mature than him and there was too strong a contrast between him and the others.

Maybe I should mention something about the romance in this book. First it’s important to say that you should not read this book if you’re looking for vivid descriptions of persons. Whoa. It was bad. The descriptions started by saying they were either attractive or not, the hair colour and ended with the length of a girl’s legs. That was about all there was too it. Good thing I have a pretty great imagination.

Secondly, I started shipping people after about five chapters (which is not exactly unusual for me), but the ones I would have liked to see were unsurprisingly the ships destined to sink. And the ones you could see coming from miles away were the ones you really didn’t want to sail – but of course did. Sigh. I suppose I should have known.

Overall I liked this book a lot and I’ll be reading its sequel in the near future. If you’re a fan of Michael Grant or if this just seems interesting to you, try it out! It’s very different from Gone, but it definitely has the potential to become great.

Fantasies don't have to make any sense, that's what makes them fantasies. They aren't meant to be logical, they're meant to keep you from losing your mind or panicking or wanting to kill yourself.

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