Friday, July 06, 2012

Born to Darkness by Suzanne Brockmann

Blurb via
Dishonorably discharged, former Navy SEAL Shane Laughlin is down to his last ten bucks when he finally finds work as a test subject at the Obermeyer Institute, a little-known and believed-to-be-fringe scientific research facility. When he enters the OI compound, he is plunged into a strange world where seemingly mild-mannered scientists--including women half his size--can kick his highly skilled ass.

Shane soon discovers that there are certain individuals who possess the unique ability to access untapped regions of the brain with extraordinary results-including telekinesis, super strength, and reversal of the aging process. Known as "Greater-Thans," this rare breed is recruited by OI, where they are rigorously trained using ancient techniques to cultivatetheir powers and wield them responsibly.

But in the depths of America's second Great Depression, where the divide between the haves and the have-nots has grown even wider, those who are rich--and reckless--enough have a quick, seductive alternative: Destiny, a highly addictive designer drug that that can make anyone a Greater-Than, with the power of eternal youth. The sinister cartel known as The Organization has begun mass-producing Destiny, and the demand is growing. But few realize the drug's true danger, and fewer still know the dirty secret of Destiny's crucial ingredient.

Michelle "Mac" Mackenzie knows the ugly truth. And as one of the Obermeyer Institute's crack team of operatives, she's determined to end the scourge of Destiny. But her kick-ass attitude gets knocked for a loop when she discovers one of the new test subjects is the same smoldering stranger who just rocked her world in a one-night stand. And although Shane quickly discovers he isn't a Greater-Than like Mac, as an ex-SEAL, he's got talents of his own. But Mac's got powerful reasons to keep her distance from Shane-and reasons to want him close. She's used to risking her life, but now she faces sacrificing her heart in the ultimate war on drugs.


I didn't care for the prequel novella, Shane's Last Stand. I thought the worldbuilding was poor, and it was too short to accomplish anything that couldn't be done in a prologue, and so I resented paying the measley $0.99 for it. Given a full-length novel, Brockmann had a much greater canvas upon which to paint her story. I thought the world that she created here was well done given the greater page count. It is a bleak picture of an America where unemployment is high, poverty reigns, and society has been completely corporatized. The gap between rich and poor (or haves and have-nots, as Brockmann calls it) has gotten larger. I found it a very interesting contrast to the world that JD Robb creates in the In Death series. My thoughts on JD Robb's worldbuilding in Naked in Death is here and overall is here.

Brockmann's story takes place in the same time period as the In Death series. Yet Robb's mostly optimistic and progressive view of the future is vastly different than Brockmann's bleak world dominated by corporatized government, high unemployment, poverty, illegal birth control, lack of belief in science, big-brother surveillance, and more. Yes, both of their political views come through and while it's easy to infer that they have similar world views, their individual visions of the future as portrayed in their futuristic worlds are vastly different.

I found this contrast to be the most mesmerizing part of the book, because I could easily see either one becoming a reality, given how our country is becoming increasingly polarized.

What else can I comment on? Oh... the characters. Right. In true Brockmann form, there are several threads woven together, and each character plays a role in bringing the entire fabric together.

I'm not going to get too into the characters or even the plot, because what held me was the bleak view Brockmann gives of the future. And the sadness I felt that I could actually foresee a world where this could happen.

Anyway... just a little bit

I liked Shane. But have I ever not liked a Brockmann hero (Danny Gilman notwithstanding)? She writes awesome men. He's resourceful, alpha, and yet he completely believes in Mac. I also liked Mac, but their romance didn't grab and hold me. It's not that I didn't believe in it, but it just felt almost secondary to all the rest of the action.

I really liked the relationship between Joseph and Anna. I loved how Brockmann nursed them along, letting me believe in a future for them only to yank it out from under them. I'm very interested to see how that progresses. Of course, being Brockmann, she left an unresolved relationship here for a future book.

I also liked Stephen and Elliot's romance, though I thought it progressed very quickly from wishful thinking to I love you, to marriage proposal. I would have liked to have seen it be nurtured over the course of another book before it progressed that far. And I'm very interested to see how Nika grows and matures. I'm guessing that hers will be the final book, since she needs years to age.

Brockmann hooked me into this world enough that I will definitely be reading the next one, but it definitely wasn't as riveting as her early Team 16 books, which held me spellbound.


  1. Really interesting thoughts on the world-building. I also found it fascinating. I think the difference from the JD Robb world is a function of the time in which they were written. The first In Death book came out in 1995, when I guess we were all a lot more optimistic about where things were going. The world in Brockmann's reflects our current fears and the current mood of distrust in big enterprise, plus environmental fears. I've actually just finished reading another book that was set in a world that had a lot in common with Brockmann's (the fantastic Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline), so it's clearly not just a single person's vision of what the future may hold.

    1. That's a great point about the time in which the books were written, Rosario, and one that escaped me until you pointed it out. I think you're absolutely right.

      I just looked up the Cline book - it looks really interesting! Have it noted for the future.

  2. I'm kind of glad I never bought the novella. LOL

    I have this one but haven't felt any urgency to pick it up.


Have you read it? What do you think?

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