Round three of the Inky shortlist goes to BZRK by Michael Grant. Earlier in the year CYL staffer Liz Kemp gave a brief review here for BZRK. I thought I would follow it up with my own impressions.
Set in the near future, BZRK is the story of a war for control of the human mind. Charles and Benjamin Armstrong, conjoined twins and owners of the Armstrong Fancy Gifts Corporation, have a goal: to turn the world into their vision of utopia. No wars, no conflict, no hunger. And no free will. Opposing them is a guerrilla group of teens, code name BZRK, who are fighting to protect the right to be messed up, to be human. This is no ordinary war, though. Weapons are deployed on the nano-level. The battleground is the human brain. And there are no stalemates here: It’s victory . . . or madness.
BZRK unfolds with hurricane force around core themes of conspiracy and mystery, insanity and changing realities, engagement and empowerment, and the larger impact of personal choice. Which side would you choose? How far would you go to win?
I’m very much a fan of seeing my name (either first or last) in a book. It gives me a little celebrity thrill. So meeting Charles and Benjamin Armstrong (I know, great last name) was definitely a book highlight moment, especially being genius conjoined twins. It just doesn’t happen every day!
In all seriousness though, it was the teen judges’ reaction to BZRK that had me really excited because it was so enthusiastic. Many cries went out about the creepy ‘real life’ implications and possibilities of the nano technology. Is Wikipedia really embedded with government codes? It’s just real enough to have me joining the conspiracy theorists.
I think this is where some of the best YA literature lies: when it has the reader querying the world around them. What does it mean to be human? Is it flesh and bone, or is it memories and feelings? Is it free will? This and the reality of nano technology really spoke to our judges. They see the warring corporations, BZRK and The Armstrong Fancy Gifts Corporation, in real life with groups like Coles and Safeway, or Amazon and everyone (alas). The reality of our world isn’t always comfortable, BZRK had me facing this fact.
Grant had me questioning the idea of villains versus heroes. Thrown into the role of ‘heroes’ is the BZRK group as they fight the ‘villainous’ Armstrong corporation. But what makes BZRK good? To limit this to a fight of good versus evil doesn’t do justice to what Grant is asking you to question here. Is a person or corporation good because they happen to perform a good deed, with evil intent? Is it a good act in the first place, if evil is always it’s intent? Is being a person or corporation that is ‘bad,’ mean your every moment is an act of evil?
While reading BZRK, I was constantly reminded of one particular History class where we had gotten a little off topic (not an irregular occurrence) and the lecturer was talking about the soullessness of corporations.
A corporation is without law or morality, for these are human inventions and a corporation is not a human.
Something to that effect, anyway. It really struck a cord with me at the time; would I become a silent cog in an immoral corporation? Would I find myself doing things, not questioning how they affected me or how they aligned with my morality for a paycheck? BZRK had me thinking on these things again, just in a different way. Every time I use technology am I making myself less human? Does Warcraft affect my ideas of morality? Does technology control me, not the other way around?
Questions to pond in an exciting and thrill seeking novel. For a slightly older readership than Grant’s Gone series, BZRK is suitable for 16+.
Don’t forget to send any fans of BZRK, or any of our other shortlisted titles to insideadog.com.au/vote