Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Review: BZRK by Michael Grant
These are no ordinary soldiers. This is no ordinary war. Welcome to the nano, where the only battle is for sanity. Losing is not an option when a world of madness is at stake. Time is running out for the good guys. But what happens when you don't know who the good guys really are?
Noah and Sadie: newly initiated to an underground cell so covert that they don't even know each other's names. Here they will learn what it means to fight on a nano level. Soon they will become the deadliest warriors the world has ever seen. Vincent: feels nothing, cares for no one; fighting his own personal battle with Bug Man, the greatest nano warrior alive. The Armstrong Twins: wealthy, privileged, and fanatical. Are they the saviours of mankind or authors of the darkest conspiracy the world has ever seen? The nano is uncharted territory. A terrifying world of discovery. And everything is to play for...
Confession time: I have not yet read any of Michael Grant's Gone books. I have them all, sitting there glaring at me, begging to be picked up and read. And I will read them, at some point, but with so many new books arriving each week it is sometimes difficult to prioritise reading a books that have been out for some time. Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Michael Grant at an event held to launch Egmont's teen imprint, Electric Monkey, and I squirmed as I made this similar confession to him, but I think I got away with it by telling him just how great I thought BZRK was.
If you are anything like me then BZRK will blow your mind. That's pretty much all I want to say about this book, as it is almost un-reviewable, in that to give even the slightest amount of information away would definitely spoil your reading experience. I said as much to Michael and he seemed to take this as a great compliment. BZRK is very different from pretty much any YA book out there at the moment, and the closest I can come to expressing how it is continuing to play on my mind almost two weeks later, is to liken it to William Gibson's Neuromancer which had a similar effect on me many years ago. BZRK is a gamechanger for YA literature.
I am going to be very careful with my words from this point in, as I want to give you a feel for the book without spoiling it. A Michael Grant book wouldn't be a Michael grant book if it didn't make the reader feel very uncomfortable at times, and BZRK is no exception to this. The man seems to take great delight from scaring the pants off his teen readers, by drilling deep into their psyches and toying with the things that they fear the most. And we're not talking ghosts and goblins here, were talking about the things that make them wake up terrified in the night, and refuse to go to sleep again until dawn's early light brings some relief from the dark.
BZRK deals with issues such as: identity; control; what it is that makes us independent humans with independent thoughts; and - scariest of all in this book - madness. It is a book where you question the actions of everyone, both good and bad, and find yourself asking whether the good guys are actually just slightly less bad than the villains. For both sides, it is very much a case of the end justifies the means, and in BZRK the means are pretty damn deplorable sometimes. And what makes things even worse is that to many of the bad guys, what they are up to is just a game, albeit infinitely bigger and more extreme than anything produced for your average games console. There is one speech, by a character called Bug Man, that really does leave a bad taste in your mouth.... just as Michael Grant intended, I do suspect.
If you have a son who is a reluctant reader, but loves computers, gaming, science fiction films and/or The Gadget Show then I strongly recommend that you go out and get them this book. Michael Grant will hook them from the very first chapter, and won't let them go until the last page, at which point they will be begging for the sequel.