When a bestselling author decides to go in a new direction, you never know what might happen. So when Suzanne Brockmann announced she would be taking a break from her popular Troubleshooters, Inc. series to try something new – paranormal! futuristic! – I wasn’t sure about the whole business (especially since I was less than pleased with the last Troubleshooters book. Yes, I’m still bitter…SO?). Still, I was intrigued enough to check out the new book (and beginning of a new series), Born of Darkness. Aren’t you curious, faithful reader?? Stick with me…
First, the setting, Boston in the near future – about 30 years or so from now. Things in the world are not good. There is a severe recession. Jobs are hard to find, homeless rates are high, healthcare is difficult (birth control is banned in 48 states!), and the government is a corporate entity. Nothing so hard to believe, actually. In this future, there are people who are able to access more than the usual fraction of their brain’s abilities – aka Greater-Thans. The extra brain-power can reveal itself in all sorts of interesting talents – telepathy, telekinesis, and all sort of other things. There is also a new drug being produced (street name: Destiny) by the evil (though unimaginatively named) Organization. Destiny mimics the natural talents Greater-Thans have. It is made from a compound found in the blood of Greater-Thans – usually young girls who are taken and held in “farms” until they are no longer of use. Destiny is really, really expensive, but it can reverse aging, heal sicknesses and all sorts of good things. BUT it is instantly addictive and can lead to spontaneous insanity (aka jokering). Combine the crazy with super powers and you’ve got a bad, bad situation.
Our hero – Shane Laughlin, a former Navy SEAL (what?? just because it’s a new series doesn’t mean we don’t still get SEALs!). Shane was recently dishonorably discharged (and blacklisted) after disobeying an order on a mission. He has been contacted by the Obermeier Institute – a facility that finds and trains Greater-Thans – because he is a Potential. That means Shane’s brain is slightly more integrated than most people’s and he could, with training, become a Greater-Than. Since Shane doesn’t have a job and the few places that are hiring won’t hire someone blacklisted, he decides to take OI up on their offer. The night before he enters the program he goes out for one last hook-up and meets…
Our heroine – Dr. Michelle (Mac) Mackenzie, a pretty powerful Greater-Than. Mac’s extra powers include super-charisma (she can target someone and wrap them around her little finger…handy, if you really need something or they are otherwise out to get you) and super-fast healing. Mac has found that the super-healing is sped up even more when she has sex. Since during an earlier encounter with a joker, she hurt her ankle and was otherwise banged up, Mac needs some companionship. When she goes to visit her boyfriend (read: boy toy), she discovers he’s been cheating on her and is gone. What’s a super gal gonna do?? Mac heads off to a nearby bar and spies a hot guy across the room. That’s our pal, Shane. They instantly have a connection and go back to her place. During their first encounter, not only are Mac’s injuries completely healed, the entire neighborhood goes dark in one big power surge. Heh. However, when Mac hears that Shane is reporting to OI in the morning, she backs way off and tells him they can never see each other again, but she doesn’t say why.
In the meantime, back at OI we meet the other major players in the book – Dr. Joseph Bach, uber-powerful and the head of the Institute. Dr. Bach is in charge of training the Greater-Thans. One of his tenets to increase integration and increase power is celibacy…a tenet Mac so doesn’t follow – but Dr. Stephen Diaz does. When Stephen returns to OI after the joker incident, he accidentally touches Dr. Elliot Zerkowski and Elliot is instantly plunged into Stephen’s (lusty, amorous) thoughts. Unbeknownst to Elliot, Stephen has had a crush on him for ages. Elliot wonders if a romantic connection between a Greater-Than and a Potential or even an average person – the right person – can noticeably increase the Greater-Than’s power. A very interesting theory… Stephen and Elliot’s relationship is sub-plot number one.
Our second sub-plot involves Dr. Bach and Anna Taylor. Her thirteen year-old sister, Nika, has been kidnapped by The Organization. The researchers at OI have just found out she’s a strong Potential, but before they can find her and get her into the Institute, The Organization’s thugs find and grab her. Since family member often are also grabbed, either for leverage or to see if they also have hidden potential, Anna comes to OI for safety and to help find Nika. Dr. Bach is drawn to her, but, of course, has had years and years of resisting such impulses…Anna? Not so much.
With Ms. Brockmann, we are pretty much guaranteed a few things – several plots interwoven throughout the book, characters that feel and sound very much like real people and lots of action. Certainly, Born of Darkness doesn’t disappoint on any of those. I usually find her male characters much more likeable than her female characters and that is again true in this book – it isn’t that I think her women are unlikeable…her guys are just so excellent, it’s hard for the ladies to compete. Mac is a tough chick. She has had a difficult life and her powers have made her wary. Shane, for all his Navy SEAL-ness, seems much more open and optimistic…generally a happy dude. Same goes for Elliot – basically a happy dedicated doctor dude. And Steven and Dr. Bach are mostly zen. Even Anna seems mostly content with her less than excellent life, bumps and all…at least, before all the bad stuff starts happening.
Another good thing, even though this is the first book of a series, there iss not a lot of sequel baiting. It is easy to see the possibilities of where the series could go, but I could not even guess who might “star” in the next book. It could be Dr. Bach and Anna, but Ms. Brockmann does like to make her couples work for their happy endings and I suspect she might drag their storyline out a bit. That’s just a guess, though.
I know this review is miles long (sorry, faithful reader!) and I really only skimmed the basics of the plots. I’m very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. Obviously, it stands alone. Is it worth hardcover price? I say yes (you know, the discounted HC prices usually aren’t too bad). However, if you’re on the fence about trying a new series in hardcover – and I totally wonder what the publisher was thinking…I’m still not sure it was the best choice – there is an e-novella prequel that will give you a feel for the world she’s building and introduce you to Shane. It is a bargain at 99 cents!
If you like dystopian settings and the kind of paranormal where there aren’t any vampires or other assorted creatures – the kind of world that feels genuinely possible in the not so distant future – I encourage you to try this book. It starts off with a bang and doesn’t slow down. And you get not one but two happy endings. Yay!
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 cultivate their 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 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 epidemic. 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 finds that one of the new test subjects is none other than Shane, the same smoldering stranger who just rocked her world in a one-night stand. Although Shane 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 him—and reasons that are just as strong to want him close. She’s used to risking her life, but now, in the midst of the ultimate war on drugs, she must face sacrificing her heart.
Read an excerpt.
Other books in the series: