A strange and violent world …that may just drive you mad!

TITLE = BZRK

AUTHOR = MICHAEL GRANT

GENRE = SCIENCE FICTION, GAMING,

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 8,9

This is a weird and rather dark book. The opening chapters introduce us to a number of characters and a number of plot lines – a young teen visits his brother who is chained in a mental institute and screams insanely “beserk”. Another teen dies in an explosive plane crash which seriously injures his sister. So far we are in a violent and angry world but not a strange one.

And then we learn that a character named “The Bug Man” created the plane crash by rewiring the brain of the pilot – using bugs or biots. Sounds wrong. Sounds evil. But what if the “good guys” use a similar technology to try and combat the baddies. What if they use nanbots to rewire people’s brains too?? It takes skill to do this – to enter a person’s body and move inside to the right part of the eye or the brain so that you can control them. If you get it wrong … then you might die..or you might go mad! And why are they doing this? BugMan’s bosses  want to control everyone – so we can all live happy lives. The good guys want freedom of thought. But is freedom more important than happiness?? So important that they will risk madness?? And should freedom be gained by any means??

This is at times a fascinating story as we are literally taken inside people’s heads and over their eyeballs. It is often a violent book – as there are battles waged on the nanoscale and (more conventionally) on the macro scale (with fists and guns). It is also a dark book – with so many deaths, the stakes are high. The similarity of the strategies employed by both the good guys and the bad guys certainly makes for an interesting moral dilemma. There is no doubt the good guys have greater integrity and are more appealing – whether they are the cool Vincent or the newbies Sadie and Noah. However, it is somewhat disturbing that the good guys have all taken on names of people who have all gone mad: Vincent (van Gogh), Plath (Sylivia), Keats …

Michael Grant wrote the compelling “Gone” series but this new books is more complex and less easy to read, partly due to the nanotechnology and partly because it is less easy to emotionally engage with some of these characters – like those figures in the Gone series, they are all flawed.

BugMan is clearly a gamer and there are Games and iPad apps to accompany the novel. Check out the book’s website.

Intriguing. (dma) ***