A Review of BZRK by Michael Grant
Egmont USA, 2012
by REBECCA, July 21, 2013
On one side of this near-future war, the Armstrong brothers seek mindless utopia; on the other, a guerrilla group (code name BZRK) fights to keep our messed up humanity. The technology is nano; the battleground is the human brain. Can the hackers of BZRK intervene, and save humanity from itself?
In the near future, humans have developed the ability to manipulate nanotechnology so deftly that certain highly-skilled operators can simultaneously see from the perspectives of two tiny biots as well as their own. They can direct these nanobots with their brains because they are, strictly speaking, part of them. They can tell these biots to climb in through your eye socket and make their way to your brain. And then they can control you. Note: in case it’s not clear, THIS SHIT IS TERRIFYING! The Armstrong brothers are conjoined twins who have built an empire and are now leveraging their wealth and power in attempting to turn the world into a utopia where there will be no more war and we’ll all get along. (I think we all know how that one’s going to turn out, guys.)
Opposed to the Armstrongs is BZRK, a ragtag group of hackers who are fighting against this takeover, and are willing to do whatever it takes to stop the Armstrongs. This is no Hackers; this is high-level international politicking. And it’s all done with something so small it’s invisible.
BZRK is told from the perspectives of both BZRK and the Armtsrongs’ team of hackers, and it is a thrill ride, y’all. Michael Grant does an amazing job of making nanotechnology come alive. The explanations are rigorous enough that I was completely convinced that this will all come to pass soon, and I have actually not been this horrified while reading a novel in a while. Manipulating biots is sort of like a combination of playing a video game, commanding soldiers, and being in a virtual reality simulation. Sometimes while running for your life in the real world. The hackers call having your biots on or in someone’s body as “being in the meat” and the descriptions of the landscapes of the human body are thrilling. It sounds a bit like this ride at Universal Studios, Body Wars, where you’re a blood cell or something and you move through the body! My mom got totally sick on it, but I thought it was awesome.
I was lately bemoaning my own lackluster science experience in middle and high school and saying to a friend that if I had learned about science from doing research into elements of my favorite science fiction books I would have been totally captivated. BZRK is one of those books that I immediately recommended to everyone science-y that I know (which is, like, two people, so spread the word).
what were this book’s intentions? did it live up to them?
Grant’s goal seemed to be to terrify the ever-loving bejeezus out of me, and he succeeded unequivocally. Reading about fighting a battle where the landscapes are the surface of someone’s optic nerve, or the folds of their brain? Truly awesome. And that’s where the real innovation of this novel was—the ideas. I was sold on them 100% and I can’t wait to read the sequel. But the ideas aren’t instead of a plot or good characters. The dialogue in BZRK is great, and the characters well delineated. There is definite room for development in the sequel, BZRK Reloaded, out October 8th.
Bonus: I have never met a ragtag group of hackers that I didn’t like! I also really love that we’re at the point now where a book can just go ahead and assert that the side that is trying for utopia is clearly the villains and not need to explain why because we all totally get it. Refreshingly, BZRK does some things that make them just as villainous as the hackers for the other side, so this isn’t a sunshine and rainbows high school computer club that makes us all warm and fuzzy.
BZRK is violent, harsh, and intense, and I loved every minute of it. Read this immediately if you like sci-fi, tech, strategy, hacking, and good, old-fashioned awesomeness.
procured from: the library