Review Blog

Feb 29 2012

BZRK by Michael Grant

cover image

Egmont, 2012. ISBN 9781405259941.
Nano technology in the form of biological and robotic 'bugs' is applied for both therapeutic and sinister purposes in this long-science / future fiction story. Nano bots developed for medical use by the fabulously wealthy McLure Corporation have been hijacked by operatives employed by the conjoined Armstrong twins who have delusional plans for world domination. These individuals are so ruthless that they are prepared to commit mass murder to achieve their goals and one of the many creepy aspects of this story is that the logistical and practical application of their plans has the background and sense of being little more than electronic games.
Nano bots are controlled by Twitchers and the best of these, like the Bugman who works for the Armstrong twins, can manage multiple units simultaneously in a similar fashion to an individual playing several video games at once. Competitive spirit prompts the best twitchers on both sides of the Good versus Evil divide to yearn to defeat their opponents in battle. This sense of gamesmanship must be put into perspective in that the battles are waged within the bodies of unsuspecting human beings and the gladiators are microscopic robots whose primary tasks are cellular repair or alternatively internal sabotage, depending upon the cause of the Twitcher.
This runaway, suspense filled drama will interest middle teens for its action and predictable characters, yet it contained both unexpectedly thought provoking and gratuitously unpleasant elements.
The reader is made to feel decidedly uncomfortable by the fact that subjects and targets have no choice about whether they are penetrated by nanobots. Twitchers simply introduce the particles via innocuous touch, causing them to enter bodies through eyes, ears or noses via remote control. Disturbingly, the Twitchers have access to what the subject can see, hear and, to some degree, think, with the target being completely oblivious to their presence. One particularly repellant example is how the Bugman artificially conjures affection and devotion from his impossibly beautiful girlfriend by using nano technology to rewire certain brain receptors. The fact that this girl would otherwise have no interest in him and is prompted to be intimately accommodating to an underage teen makes this little more than technologically advanced sexual assault.
Battles waged on the micro level within humans are played out as a consequence on a monstrous scale in the real or macro world. The various characters are complex and cleverly presented with operatives having colossal controlling power over sublimely developed technology whilst possessing debilitating human flaws. A theme which readily prompts consideration is that the threatening twins have repellant intentions, yet they sincerely believe that they are doing good for mankind. Alternatively, the forces who oppose them don't hesitate to use criminal or immoral means in their crusade against evil. The result is a dizzying web of interaction between players and everyone, including the reader, has little confidence in who can be trusted.
Rob Welsh

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