Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Review: BZRK

BZRK (BZRK, book 1)
By Michael Grant
Expected publication February 28, 2012 by EgmontUSA

This is a war between two factions: the Armstrong Fancy Gift Corporation and BZRK. This is the story of Noah, who visits his fearless older brother in the mental hospital, and Sadie, who soon will be the only member of her family left alive. This is a book in which there are only two outcomes: victory or madness.

Okay, much like with the Hunger Games, I’m one of the only people who hasn’t read Michael Grant’s Gone series. I spotted this one at ALA Midwinter, the first book in a new series. But I’ll admit: I wasn’t immediately sold on it. I’ve never read him before and the blurb on the back of my ARC didn’t really convince me. However, I went to Egmont’s session about upcoming titles and became infinitely more intrigued by the book when I heard the phrase “evil genius conjoined twins who want to create Utopia.” (It may not have been that exact phrase, but you know what I’m saying.) When I made my way back to their booth, I picked up a copy of the ARC. I’m almost thinking I should have trusted my first instincts on this one.

This is my first exposure to Michael Grant, and, if all the hype can be believed, I wish it wasn’t. I wish I had started with his Gone series, or even the Magnificent Twelve series (which I stumbled on among the “new” books a few months back). Both of these series appealed to me, but, of course, finding the time to delve into a new series is basically impossible in my life. But, you may have figured this out (or not), I can’t resist the appeal of reading an ARC before the book is officially published. So, this series, instead of the other two, is my introduction to Mr. Grant. I won’t say that I hated this book. Parts of the story really grabbed me and some sections flew by. But I also didn’t overwhelmingly enjoy this book – it was incredibly difficult for me to get into this book and it didn’t hold my attention as much as the other book I started reading around the same time. The blurb on the ARC doesn’t really provide a lot of background information (perhaps this will be different for the published version, but I kinda doubt it), and neither do the first 100 pages or so. This is an example of a book that throws you right into the story with no explanation and, in this case, this totally did not work for me. I felt confused and frustrated throughout the first part of this book and this is actually one of the few times where I considered voluntarily putting the book down and walking away from it. I’m OCD about books; if I start one, I pretty much have to finish it. And if I start a series, chances are I’m going to read the whole thing, even if it starts getting old after a while (case in point: The Chronicles of Vlad Tod). But this book was so not reaching me for the first part of it that I seriously thought about giving up on it. However, because of the aforementioned book OCD, I stuck with it. I’m not entirely won over, but I do think there were enjoyable bits that I would have missed. This book is too uneven for me – in terms of pretty much everything: plot, pacing, characters. The publisher buzz that sucked me in – evil conjoined twins who believe they are working toward a better society – was not as developed as I hoped it would be. I think there are some interesting aspects of this novel – both sides believe they are doing the “right” and “good” work – but these are interesting things that could be found in novels that worked better for me. Ultimately, this book was a disappointment for me. However, I imagine that it will still hold great appeal for Grant’s legions of fans and perhaps the faults I found with the novel won’t exist for other readers.

Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader’s copy.

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