Top positive review
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Improves On Part 1
on 25 June 2014
My review of 'Brilliance', part 1 of Marcus Sakey's Brilliance series, described it as 'original' but also 'predictably plotted'. The alternative reality the author had created was both believable and fresh (I'd dismiss the comparisons with X-Men; Sakey's Brilliants are not mutants and are not superhuman in the traditional comic book sense. There are no psychics or telekinetics on display here). However, the book was let down by a plot that felt derivative and pedestrian.
There was enough promise though, to make me pick up part 2 to see where Sakey took the wider story next and whether he managed to iron out the kinks present in part 1. The answer to the first question is that he takes the story somewhere I really hadn't seen it going and the answer to the second is yes, plot & predictability-wise this is a great improvement on its predecessor.
Like most opening chapters in an ongoing series, Brilliance had relied on a relatively straight forward, narrow, linear plot to establish the world in which it was set; in its particular case the all-too-familiar 'cop goes undercover to catch bad-guys and discovers hidden conspiracy' trope. In this respect it wasn't too different to the likes of Star Wars: A New Hope (a simple rescue the princess from the dark fortress plot) or The Hunger Games (basically 'girl must compete in fight to the death').
As with both the Star Wars and Hunger Games series, with the world successfully established in part 1 and the readership invested in the setting and characters, 'A Better World' allows Sakey the opportunities to broaden that world and offer up a more complex plot. They are ones that he takes.
The result is a story that has far more moving elements to it than 'Brilliance' did, and is therefore less predictable (although one 'twist' is again so blindingly obvious that you wonder why Sakey bothered to include it) and far more interesting. It is also a great deal less self-contained, with multiple sub-plots left unresolved at the conclusion. This might dissatisfy some readers but in my opinion made the story all the more appealing, as there was no awkward struggle of trying to tie everything up in a neat bow in time for the final page.
Not that there isn't satisfying catharsis on offer in 'A Better World'. Sakey does remember to throw readers some bones in the form of 'wins' for the ostensible good-guys. However, he does so whilst simultaneously shaking up the whole world and leaving you wanting to know where the story will go next.
For that reason alone 'A Better World' has to be considered a successful second volume in the 'Brilliance Saga', but it is also offers much more than just a launch pad for part 3. I can highly recommend it
(Note: Despite my less criticism of Part 1, I would recommend reading it before tackling A Better World. It provides vital back story and establishes the characters who feature in Part 2. Its also pretty enjoyable, in spite of its predictability.)