A Better World by Marcus Sakey

An excellent second book, following Brilliance.

The characters continue to develop; we see the aftermath of Cooper’s dilemma at the end of Brilliance, a few months later. The cost of doing the right thing is a big theme through this book. On one level, this book has less action; Cooper may have the instincts of a field agent, but he has more responsibilities. Near the end, however, we’re back in the thick of the action. Cooper has

One of the great subplots is the Cooper’s relationships. Ironically, the kids he sacrificed so much for last book are less on stage… but his romantic relationships involve interesting juggling.

It doesn’t end on a really high note, but the struggles of book 3 are well outlined. I devoured this one very quickly and look forward to the next!

The beginning of several book series

I recently re-read God’s War, by Kameron Hurley. The first time I read it, I finished feeling a little flat and disappointed in myself. The main character, Nyx, is an earthy, pungent, no-nonsense mercenary–much more Black Company than the high fantasy mercenaries who always fight for good. The world building was very interesting, but the world’s fully immersive, so there’s a lot of wondering at the strangeness and trying to keep afloat at first on a first read.

On reread, I enjoyed the book much more. I remembered some of the good that Nyx shows later; that helped me empathize with her up front, before she gives you much reason. On reread, I also remembered more of how the world worked, so I was able to spend more time appreciating the elements–and noticing how everything, from the economy, roles, and everything else hangs together so very well. Long story short, this is a book well worth reading twice.

The series continued in Infidel; I rolled into it immediately following God’s War. There’s a jump in time and teams that makes sense. Everyone is older and more successful in their own ways, at least as the book begins. Tirhan turns out to be an interesting society on its own; it’s more than a blend of Nasheen and Chenja. It feels so much more like a first world society, rather than one collapsing from the weight of depopulation and war.

Faith continues to be important, and I liked the new characters for everyone; Rhys’ boss and wife are each interesting to discover, and Nyx’s new team has two well developed characters. The lingering impact of Nyx’s past gets explored, and the Bel Dame history gets brought to more light.

I ended this book very interested in finding out what’s next for this poor world.

Marcus Sakey’s Brilliance was a very interesting “brilliant kids remake everything” book. (It’s much more than that, but that’s the broadest hook. That societal backdrop–kids who were a step ahead evolutionarily–made me first think of Nancy Kress’s Beggars in Spain. Writing this, Darwin’s Radio by Greg Bear also came to mind.)

Cooper makes a great, conflicted, lead for the book. He’s one of the oldest Brilliants, someone raised before the Academies became common. He works for the DAR, specifically Equitable Services–which is as Orwellian as you suspect. It’s a grim vision of adaptation to the new reality of “kids” who dominate every field they touch.

His relationships, the shifting sands of his understanding of the world, his interaction with his mentor, with the gifted whose paths (and gunfire, and…) he crosses, and the world at large all feel right. He’s deep in a clandestine game, which makes it feel very spy-thriller at times, but the brilliant/gifted angle keeps it close to sci-fi.

I picked it up from the library because of the big idea piece for the second book, A Better World. Which, now that I’ve read Brilliant, looks even more interesting.

For a different dystopic future, I turned to Clean by Alex Hughes. It’s a partners in the police force book, with the primary POV as a telepath. The world building is very interesting; there are flashes of very cool future elements, but a notable lack of computing. As the book progresses, we learn more about both the Telepath’s Guild and their relations with the rest of society, and the Tech Wars, which are the cause of the uneven technology of this future.

The crime part of the novel gives the book a familiar feel, but the first person POV does a great job of embedding us in this Atlanta. It’s a mess, of course, but the history that’s led to the current society makes more and more sense and hints and explanations are dropped. It looks like another couple of books are already out, so I’ll pick them up and see how everyone deals with the drama of the last quarter of this book.