BZRK by Michael Grant – Book Review [Bane of Kings]

BZRK

Bane of Kings reviews the young adult novel BZRK, published by Egmont Books and written by Michael Grant, author of the awesome Gone series.

“Page-turning, enthralling, surprising and enjoyable, BZRK is everything a young adult novel should be. Another strong  novel from Michael Grant.” ~The Founding Fields

When I first heard that Michael Grant was writing a new, novel set outside of the Gone series, I was wondering what it would be like, how it would compare, and how awesome it would be. Because I loved the Gone series, and Michael Grant has proved that over the course of the five books that I’ve read by him, he can do no wrong. I rarely see an author with such consistency in a long-running series, which asks what can he bring to the table that fans of the Gone series haven’t seen already?

Well, quite a lot, as it turns out.

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?

The first thing that I thought of when I saw the idea of the Armstrong Fancy Gifts Corporation vs BZRK, was the Templars vs Assassins battle that provides the backdrop for the Assassin’s Creed video games, which I’ve mentioned many, many times that I’m a huge fan of. This is chiefly because of the Armstrong Fancy Gifts Corporation are very much like the Templars, who want to turn the world into their own vision of utopia similar to the AFGC. And, instead of BZRK fighting against them, it’s the Assassins, who have similar goals to BZRK. However, there are very many differences between Michael Grant’s BZRK and Assassin’s Creed, and not just the fact that one’s a novel, and one’s a video game, and the biggest difference of all is the inclusion of nano-technology, which sees this book easily fall in the sci-fi genre. However, whilst this may be sci-fi, it’s set in the near-future on Earth, where the stakes are much higher than Michael Grant’s first series, the Gone novels.

Like all Michael Grant’s novels, BZRK is a page-turner. Once you get started, you won’t stop, as was the case with me. BZRK is a quick read, and I found it to be highly enjoyable. Unlike most YA novels these days, it’s smart, and Grant has clearly done his research here as nano-technology is stuff that you wouldn’t normally find in YA fiction. Heck, I believe you’d struggle to find it in a novel Sci-Fi fiction, period. So Grant has created an original backdrop for his novel, as well as a complex one that’s not only well plotted, but also believable and plausible, especially with the battlefields of BZRK.

If you’re familiar with Michael Grant’s Gone series, then you’ll know that he likes to include a lot of characters, and BZRK is no different. However, whilst there is a whole host of people in this book, it revolves around, like most YA novels tend to do, your two male and female protagonists, Noah and Sadie, who are snatched from various locations in England and America, and drawn into the flight to stop worldwide domination of the Armstrong Fancy Gifts Corporation. Noah and Sadie are interesting, strong and likeable characters, and the romantic tension between them is well developed, and there isn’t a third party (so far, this is book one in a series), to come in and make things complicated yet, which I am quite happy about, for there seem to be many love triangles populating Young Adult novels these days. True, these are mainly focused from the point of the main character, who is normally female, so I was interested how Grant would deal with romantic tension from a point of view of both of the protagonists, which he did in the Gone books, but only to a certain extent. We didn’t get that much of Astrid’s point of view in Gone, the first novel, so Grant still has something new to show us.

If there’s one criticism that I had about BZRK, aside from the fact that it had to end eventually (I wish it could have kept going forever, I loved this book), it’s that the fact that because Noah and Sadie are recruited by BZRK early on in the book, we don’t really get that much attention on their separate lives before they met each other. This, whilst could have potentially slowed down the pace a little, would have no doubt made the book larger, but also heightened the emotional impact that we had when their lives changed completely.

The storyline as a whole is an amazing roller-coaster ride. You won’t know who’s going to survive, and the tension is very high particularly towards the end of the novel. It’s brutal, and dark, much like Fear (Gone #5), which  I had the pleasure of reading recently. It proves once more that Grant is one of those authors who doesn’t get as much attention as he deserves, and I for one believe that he is worthy of being ranked alongside JK Rowling and (to an extent) Suzanne Collins as one of the best YA authors currently around. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next. I understand that BZRK has a sequel in the works, and I  am really looking forward to what Grant can deliver next. If you haven’t read anything by Michael Grant, then there’s only one question really – why haven’t you? Go out and buy either this or the Gone novels today.

And, I’d like to end this review with more good news. According to this website here, BZRK is going to become a movie. It’s been “acquired by Sony Pictures as the first of a trilogy for Sam Raimi and Josh Donen at Stars Road,” which is very good news indeed, as for those of us who wanted a Gone movie (me included), and didn’t get one, because Michael Grant didn’t want the storyline to be changed too dramatically (I think) by the directors and the producers (which was what happened to the Eragon film adoption of Christopher Paolini’s novel of the same name), so it’s good to see that Grant has put his BZRK novel up for a movie. This was a fantastic book, so I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes. It’s meant to be the first in a trilogy, so this should be interesting.

Verdict: 5/5

The Gone series: Gone, Hunger, Lies, Plague, Fear, Light (Coming 2013).

 

Milo, aka Bane of Kings, is a SFF/Comic reader, and watches a lot of TV. His favourite authors are Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Jim Butcher, Brandon Sanderson & Iain M. Banks, whilst his favourite TV shows are Battlestar Galactica (2003), Person Of Interest, Firefly, Game of Thrones, & Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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  • Colin Hagreen

    Now there’s timing – I read this yesterday. Plenty of frantic action, and a good contrast between the technology of the two sides. I’m uncomfortable with Keats’ recruitment scene, it seemed excessive, but overall I think it hit the spot.

    Easy reading but with some interesting ideas; I would have given 4/5 rather than your 5/5, but a decent YA book.

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