What if the war of the future takes place not in the deserts of the Middle East or in the mountains of Afghanistan or even in cyberspace, but rather inside your own head? A war for your thoughts, your memories, your very ability to think independently. A nanowar. When we hear of nanotechnology, we hear of using microscopic nanobots to deliver medical treatment directly to the source of our illness. But what if those same technologies are used to cause illness? To rewire memories, to reconnect pathways of fear and desire. To control. To destroy. This is the scenario Michael Grant has created for his thriller BZRK.
Two secretive forces, one headed by the insidiously conjoined twin Armstrong Brothers, the other, BZRK (yes, short for “berserk”), headed by the shadowy Lear. Fighting, on both the nano and the macro levels (inside people’s brains—literally—and in the “real”world) for control of the world. Armstrong’s forces have nanobots at their disposal, and a squad to get them to their targets and then maneuver down in the “meat,” as they call the nano level. BZRK has “biots,” the biological equivalent of nanobots. “Biots” are created from human tissue, and when your biots die, so does your mind. The Armstrong Brothers, shielded behind their seemingly innocuous Fancy Gifts Corporation (a nice touch), want to create Nexus Humanus, a world where all of humanity is one conjoined hive mind. BZRK believes in free will, and its members are willing to risk their lives and their minds to keep it.
Into this hidden war are drawn Sadie McClure, whose father invented “biots” and whose death was orchestrated by the Armstrong Brothers, and Noah Cotton, whose brother (unbeknownst to him) was working for BZRK and became a mental casualty of war. Like the reader, these two teens are thrown into this dizzying world of simultaneous battles on the streets with traditional weapons and inside the heads of agents and targets alike. Grant’s description of the battles between nanobots and biots are marvelous, as we are forced to consider what our ears, eyes, noses, and brain matter would look like when viewed through the eyes of a microscopic creature.
Thoughtful and creepy in the best possible ways, Grant’s BZRK forces us to picture a future few of us can imagine, yet one not beyond the realm of possibility. Highly recommended—I cannot wait to put this book in the hands of my freshmen reading students.
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