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Monday, April 2, 2012


Author: Suzanne Brockmann
Plot Type: Romantic Horror
Ratings: V5; S4; H2
Publisher and Titles: Random House
     Shane's Last Stand (prequel e-book short story, 2012)
     Born to Darkness (2012)

     Brockmann takes one of her Navy SEAL stories into the paranormal realm in this mildly futuristic foray into an economically depressed world in which power has been usurped by huge, soulless corporations. Huge portions of the populace are jobless, and civil services are no longer free. In book 1, for example, when a 13-year-old girl goes missing in Boston, her older sister has to pay exorbitant fees just to file a missing person's report. Beyond that, she is told to hire a "citizen detective" from a private agency to search for the girl because the case isn't important enough to waste the police department's time and resources. The most common security system found in public buildings involves full body scans that can look you over, inside and out, as you walk into a room. 

     The good guys work for the Obermeyer Institute (OI), which has discovered a way to tap into the brain's hidden powers (e.g., telepathy, telekinesis, physical shielding, super strength). This works only on those people who have naturally occurring psychic powers. These Potentials are subjected to rigorous training and eventually are able to use a huge percentage of their brain power at any given time. But it's more than that, as one character explains it: "It's not just about being use more of the different areas in our brains simultaneously. It's about having the potential to learn to use those relatively underutilized and definitely unexercised parts more completely." (p. 80) After their training, they are called Greater-Thans. People with low levels of potential are called fractions or Less-Thans. Greater-Thans are extremely rare; there are only 800 known to be living in this alternate U.S.

     The villains work for the Organization, a huge conglomerate that manufactures and distributes Destiny, the drug of choice for the very rich. Destiny turns Less-Thans into Greater-Thans, but with highly unpredictable side effects. As one character explains, "the drug allowed its user to access the otherwise underused parts of his or her brain that controlled regenerative cell growth. In plain English, that meant that, with this drug, theoretically, at least, a 75-year-old cancer patient would not only be able to cure his own illness, but could...transform his entire body into that of a strapping, healthy 20-year old." (pp. 85-86) Once you take Destiny, you are essentially lost forever because destiny addiction has no cureno possibility for detox. The drug is instantly and irrevocably additive from the very first use and will eventually cause users to "joker"to go totally and violently insane, with all of their new magical abilities exploding into mayhem and death to bystanders, even their own family members. Destiny also corrupts the users' sense of right and wrong. The Organization uses the blood of kidnapped adolescent female Potentials to create the psychic energy needed as the base for its insidious drug.

Here is the cast of primary characters as the series begins:
   >  Dr. Joseph Bach: The leader of the OI Greater-Thans, he has strong powers of telepathy, mind control, healing, and telekinesis as well as being able to slow down his own aging process.  
   >  Dr. Stephen Diaz: Second strongest of the Greater-Thans, he also has strong telekinetic and healing powers. 
   >  Dr. Michelle (Mac) Mackenzie: A Greater-Than with super strength, telekinetic powers, healing powers, and a talent for changing her body shape and size at will. She also has the incubus-like power to sexually attract both men and women. 
   >  Dr. Elliot Zerkowski: A Less-Than who is one of the head scientists at OI.
   >  Shane Laughlin: A dishonorably discharged Navy SEAL who is a Potential with low levels of psychic powers. 
      BOOK 1: Born to Darkness           
     As the series opens, life at OI has been moving along at a regular pace. Mac and Stephen, backed by Joseph, are regularly called in by the Boston police department when someone "jokers" after taking Destiny. They use their powers to subdue the person, as they try, but usually fail, to keep the person alive. Elliot would like to be able to test some of these jokered individuals to determine if there is a way to reverse the effects of Destiny, but they are so violent that they generally can't be captured

     Soon, though, new characters are introduced, each of whom changes the life of one of the OI mainstays. First, we have Shane, who picks up Mac in a bar one night, falls in lust with her, and then is stunned when he learns of her abilities. He is a new Potential at OI, so they must work together, but both have dark pasts and lots of secrets, so their love affair bumps along at an agonizing pace. Then, we have Anna Taylor, whose sister (Nika) is an extremely strong Potential who has been kidnapped by the Organization. The primary plot follows the OI team as they attempt to rescue Nika and do some damage to the Organization. In the meantime, romantic feelings begin to develop between Joseph and Anna, each of whom also has a tragic past. And there's one more romantic coupleStephen and Eliotas they metamorphose their relationship from a professional collaboration to an amorous partnership. is bustin' out all over, mostly in an HEA kind of way, but not always. And all that love is having wild effects on the psychic powers of the the OI Greater-Thans. Ah, yes! The power of love. By the final third of the book, the characters have gained the ability to jump in and out of each other's minds, which they do at such a mind-boggling rate that those scenes became repetitious

     I must warn you that Brockmann puts just about every female character in a rape or near-rape situation, so the going gets rough in many places. The thugs who work for the Organization are unanimously big, strong, stupid, and psychotic, so they're not at all interesting. The author skips from one love story to the next and then interjects random sections of bad-guy action. Rinse and repeat. Although the book is lengthy (500+ pages), the story jumps around so much that it's impossible to develop a sustained relationship with any of the characters. Mac spends most of the book manipulating Shane as she tries to drive him away and then capitulates in an instant at the very end, while Shane's patient, understanding approach to dealing with his lover (whom he has known only for a day or two) turns him into a character that approximates a melding of Dr. Phil and Dudley Do-Right. conclusion, I'd have to say that this is a bit of a misstep for Brockmann.

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