Author: Michael Grant

Publication: 2012, Egmont

Pages: 386

Overall Rating: bth_35_zps7a173504[1]

Rating for Action: bth_5-star-rating_zps467d5332[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary: A war is brewing between the Armstrong Twins and their army of nanobots – intent on making the world a more peaceful place by turning everyone into mindless automatons – and the forces of BZRK, who fight back with their own genetically engineered biots. It’s a war most people can’t even see. But Noah Cotton and Sadie McLure have just been recruited as BZRK’s newest soldiers, and for them the war is all too real.

Age of Main Character: 16

What I Liked the Most: Grant does an amazing job presenting the world from the perspective of a nanobot. When someone is twitching – driving their nanobot or biot – they can see the world from two perspectives. They continue to see as normal with their own eyes, but they also see through the eyes of their machines ‘down in the meat’. And that world is one freaky place. Fleas the size of an elephant, individual hairs as big a tree trunks, dead skin cells that look like a bed of leaves in fall. But the freakiest things of all are the biots themselves. When Sadie sees her own biot for the first time it almost drives her crazy – spiky antenna, a smooth green head, huge compound eyes, arms like a mantis, a hollow proboscis dripping mucus, and amidst it all a set of human eyes ‘smeared’ across its face – Sadie’s eyes. When she looks at the biot it’s like looking at an insect version of herself. Way too cool.

The Armstrong Twins themselves are two of the most unique villains you’re likely to come across. I won’t give anything away here, other than to say there’s no one else quite like them. And Grant’s description does an amazing job of bringing them to life.

What I Liked the Least: There are too many characters here – too many twitchers, biot runners, lieutenants, and enforcers on both sides of the equation. And the chapters often come from points of view other than Sadie and Noah. But most of the characters I hardly knew, and I sometimes found myself scrambling to place a name. There’s a glossary at the end of the book that lays out who the major players are – which should be warning enough that there are too many of them – but even that really does just cover the major players, and did nothing to help me keep track of all the minor twitchers and biot runners Grant writes into the story. More than just being confusing, this ended up watering down the parts of the story where bad things happened to characters I didn’t care about. Take the scene where a member of BZRK is kidnapped and tortured. It should have been powerful, except for the fact that didn’t know enough about the character that to get tied up in their fate.

How Good was the Action? Grant knows how to write some serious action scenes – full of short sentences, quick movements, and a fine balance between action and emotion. But the thing that really sets the action apart is that it’s often taking place on two levels at once. The characters might be engaged in a fight or chase at the macro level, with another fight or chase happening simultaneously at the nano level. The action flips back and forth from paragraph to the paragraph in a way that’s never confusing, and only serves to ramp up the adrenaline. Some of the scenes are freaking off the hook amazing.

How Engaging was the Story? While the action is fantastic, and the nano world is amazingly cool, the story itself wasn’t as engaging as it could have been. I found it a little too easy to put the book down for days at a time. It’s a fascinating concept and the Armstrong Twins are two of the most memorable villains out there. But there were simply too many characters. I more or less attached to Sadie and Noah, but only part of the story revolves around them, and I wasn’t attached to the rest of the characters enough to worry about their fate.

Overall Assessment: A fascinating concept with incredible action sequences, a truly memorable villain, and more than a few arresting depictions of our world from the nano perspective. BZRK has a lot going for it, and while it was definitely worth the read I sometimes found it hard to get caught-up in the story. All too often the characters and stakes didn’t matter enough to draw me in.

Profanity: Yes, and some of it’s pretty explicit

Sex: Some. There’s a lot of hinting at sex and talking about it, but very little actually happens other than some making out.

Violence: Yes. There are a couple of torture scenes, people get shot, and beaten up, and some of the early scenes involve a fair amount of gratuitous gore.

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