Written In Fire
A novel by Marcus Sakey
Book review by Jules Brenner
Thomas & Mercer, released 1/12/16, 345 pp., $15.95
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The third and final book of Sakey's futuristic "Brilliance Trilogy" can be confusing for someone who hasn't read the first two, but enough comes through in this finale to understand that his metaphoric vision of societal breakdown provoked by contending forces with an "us against them" mentality is a dramatic firestorm.

Violent madman John Smith leads his militia toward civil war because he wants to destroy the country in order to have it start over his way. Remarkable but unstable scientist Abraham Couzen, in a variation of genetic engineering and cloning, discovered a way, in 1986, to chemically alter people's minds and has turned 1% of the population into "abnorms" or "brilliants" -- with supernatural gifts (ala X-Men?).

All of which is quite enough of a task for sympathetic abnorm Nick Cooper, a federal agent and an island of reason amidst terrifying currents of annihilation. He uses his gifts to steer through the toxic mix of fear, distrust and brutality. He plays thoughtful arbiter against both Smith and twisted Secretary of Defense Owen Leahy who is goading the people toward a final confrontation.

Giving the trilogy a touch of humanity is Nick's involvement in different ways with two women: his ex-wife, who represents family, and a fellow abnorm who commands his deeper affections as they team up in the battles.

The abnorms, wanting to secede from the union, have mounted an attack which destroyed the White House and retreated to their Wyoming stronghold, Tesla (aka, "New Canaan Holdfast"), protected behind a microwave-weaponized wall.

With fear of the abnorms rising to higher levels in the government and general population, laws are enacted to force every one of them to be microchipped for tracking even as society seems to be coming apart, provoking lynching parties, a growing militia and a new fundamentalist group calling itself the "New Sons of Liberty..

Sakey, whose palette is vast and his pace relentless sheds light into a dark side of humanity with suggestions of Hunger Games' class warfare. I appreciated Sakey's choice of super intelligence becoming a threat and possible cause of a society breakdown. How he went about using it is the basis of an inventive thriller of a story. Smart stuff.

If you don't yet own Written In Fire and would like to purchase it (usually at a sizable discount), click here.