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Literature / BZRK

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"In this war, there are only two outcomes: victory or madness."

All around us, there's a hidden war being fought. One side wants to control our minds to create utopia, and the other is fighting for us to be miserable if we chose. It's being fought with state-of-the-art technology in the nano, in us. Our bodies. Our brains. And if any of them lose, it could mean madness for them.

BZRK, written by Michael Grant is a (ostensibly) Young Adult series about a group of freedom fighters fighting against the Armstrong Twins in a micro-war to save human free will. Teenagers Noah and Sadie are recruited after both are dragged into the war after family tragedies and they find themselves in a high-tech conspiracy where there's even doubt on whether or not the good guys are all that good.

BZRK Reloaded is the second novel in the trilogy released Fall 2013, which deals with the devastating aftermath of the first novel. The third and final novel, BZRK Apocalypse, was released in 2014.

The series is also notable for expanding the world of the novel with extensive transmedia projects. The ARG, Nexus Humanus is here, with the official website being here.


  • Action Girl: All the girls to be major characters. (Which is to say Sadie, Ophelia, Wilkes, and One-Up.)
  • The Alcoholic: Burnofsky, and he also does opium. He does drugs to cope with his guilt for letting his daughter be killed by the Armstrong Twins, and he at least made the death pleasant for her.
  • And I Must Scream:
    • Bug Man had a fantasy: he wanted to take one of Vincent's biots alive and haul it out into the macro. Keep it alive and play with it for a while. As Vincent went slowly mad.
    • BZRK Reloaded reveals that Jessica was somewhat aware that she was wired/brainwashed by Bug Man, but couldn't quite grasp her situation.
    • Vincent, who at the end of BZRK loses one biot and in the next book he's insane, but since he has other biots, his consciousness is still someone in his head.
  • Anti-Hero: Vincent, who killed a woman in the first chapter in which he appeared, which did nothing to reassure the reader that the side of the biotic twitchers was the 'good' side.
  • Apologises a Lot: Tony, the boy that Sadie goes to the football game with at the beginning of the novel.
  • Ax-Crazy: Wilkes, a great twitch who is also very unhinged. Her backstory reveals that it's more or less justified as she was raped by the football team, and in retaliation burned down the school gym.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: In a way, with the deformed Armstrong twins, who are very much not good. Played straight with Stone, who was described as handsome and had too short a scene to be anything other than neutral or good.
  • Big Applesauce
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Four of them. The Armstrong Twins, Charles and Benjamin, wanting to brainwash the entire world into a Hive Mind. Karl Burnofsky, wanting to destroy everyone on the planet. And Lystra Ried, otherwise known as Lear, wanting to drive everyone on the planet mad and have them all kill each other.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Caligula when he runs in on the scene where Sadie and Noah are receiving their biots. Wilkes, when she saves Vincent from having his biots killed in Anya's body.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Both the Armstrong Twins and Lear are stopped, but it comes at a terrible price. The only surviving BZRK members are Plath (scarred by losing Keats), Wilkes and Vincent and the Bug Man survives as well and all are shaken to the core of the war and having to drop a nuclear bomb on New York City. Despite the suffering, the world shows signs of moving on and Wilkes and Bug Man actually hook up and live Babies Ever After.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: The Armstrong Gift Corporation is pretty evil, but BZRK (the good guys) pretty much do anything in order to defeat them. Then later the trope is subverted when the leader of BZKR Lear turns out to be an Ax-Crazy narcissist who is as corrupt and insane as the Armstrong Twins.
  • Body Horror: Lots of gruesome descriptions, and also the Armstrong twins are described as grotesque and they share one eyeball. The general body horror is noted by Sadie, who is greatly disturbed by what Noah might have seen in her body while looking through the eyes of his biots.
    • Ophelia gets both feet blown off in an explosion at the end of the novel.
  • Brainwashed: Anya and Jessica, who were both programmed by Vincent and Bug Man, respectively, to "love" them. Vincent so he can get access to Anya's technology, Bug Man for selfish reasons. Vincent at least tries not to take advantage of Anya.
    Anya: And whether or not it's real, Vincent, whether it's my true desires or something you've done to me, in the end, there's no difference.
    Vincent: There is to me.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: A poor guy soils himself in fear when the ETA agents raid BZRK Washington D.C. and Billy the Kid lays waste to his fellow agents.
  • Cain and Abel: Averted. Stone is wistfully envious of Sadie's freedom but is not resentful in any way.
  • Child Soldiers: All of the teenage members of BZRK, the main ones being Noah, Sadie, and Vincent. Bug Man, as well.
  • Church of Happyology: Nexus Humanus, the Armstrong Twins' own religious cult that promises eternal happiness.
  • Coup de GrĂ¢ce: Caligula tells Sadie to shoot the man she accidentally shot in the balls. When she refuses, he shoots the man in the head.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The Armstrong Twins, who run the Armstrong Fancy Gifts Company, a front for their Nexus Humanus cult.
  • Creepy Twins: The Armstrong Twins, a pair of Conjoined Twins joined at the body and head. They share one eyeball.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Nijinksy. More snarker than deadpan.
    Lebowski: Tell me your name.
    Nijinsky: Santino Corleone.
    Lebowski: That's very cute. Funny, you don't look Italian.
    Nijinsky: You're very observant.
    Lebowski: (smacks him with a club) What are you, Chinese? Korean?
    Nijinsky: I thought I was Italian.
    • and this:
    Nijinsky: Oh, how I've waited for this moment.
  • Don't Make Me Destroy You: Caligula to Anya.
    Caligula: Now, listen to me, whoever the hell you are. Vincent over there doesn't want me to kill you. But if I have the slightest trouble with you — any trouble at all — I will ignore young Vincent and shoot you.
  • Downer Ending:
    • BZRK- BZRK fails their objective to protect the president. Ophelia has her legs blown off and she goes mad. Vincent loses a biot and goes halfway mad. The Armstrong Twins manage to wire the president with their nanobots and nothing stands in their way of their objective.
  • Electric Torture: Sugar Lebowski tries this on Nijinsky. All she gets is snark, and then the apparatus blows her house electricity.
  • Eye Scream: The best way for a biot in get into the brain is through the the eyeball, so not only do we get lots of eerie descriptions of eyes, but eye violence later such as jamming fingers into someone's eyeball.
  • Faux Yay: Nijinsky and Vincent. Gotta keep the bad guys off their scent, after all.
  • Flesh Versus Steel: Biots versus nanos.
  • Foil: Wilkes and Ophelia, Vincent and Nijinsky. Also Vincent and Bug Man; both are on opposite sides and both are great at twitching. However the terrible mind control both do are for different reasons: Vincent does it in order to protect someone and promises to undo it whereas Bug Man basically rewires some poor girl to be his sex slave.
  • Friends with Benefits: Wilkes and Renfield.
  • Groin Attack: Sadie accidentally shoots a man in the crotch. Caligula mercy kills.
  • Gross-Up Close-Up: Depiction-wise. The "meat" is not a beautiful place.
  • The Hedonist: Nijinsky, as a stark contrast to Vincent. Other characters hint that he really enjoys seeking pleasure.
  • Heroic BSoD: Vincent, by the end, when he has one of his Biots killed.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Possibly Vincent and Nijinsky. Especially when they're arguing about whether to send Keats and Plath in on a direct attack on the Twins. Vincent addresses Nijinsky by the name Shane.
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen: Lear, who is mentioned and deferred to, but does not appear once throughout the entire first book.
    • Unless you think Lear is Tatiana Featherstonehaugh. (Never confirmed, and sort of unlikely, but Vincent suspected and she was doing something really important.)
  • Historical Domain Character: Caligula.
  • I Can Change My Beloved: Anya to Vincent, in a way.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: Vincent to Sadie when he's in her bathroom.
    Vincent: [with a pen blade up against Sadie's heart] If I were here to kill you, you'd be long dead by now.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Caligula. In the first two pages he's introduced, he shoots a man in the forehead, follows it up by shooting another man in the windpipe, and then mercy kills another man without looking in his direction.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: Noah has them, and is so far the least ruthless out of the BZRK crew.
  • Initiation Ceremony: Noah's is particularly distressing.
  • Interchangeable Asian Cultures: Lampshaded with Nijinsky, a Chinese-American. See the above conversation in Deadpan Snarker.
  • Just in Time: Caligula, in the disaster that happens when Sadie and Noah are receiving their biots. Renfield is dead and Vincent has a gun to his head. Caligula appears with a pistol and an axe and offs three people in quick succession to save Vincent, Sadie, and Noah.
  • Lady Swears-a-Lot: A minor character, Little Cora, according to Noah.
  • Madness Mantra: Noah's brother Alex in the first chapter. He is handcuffed to keep from moving, and repeats "nano nano nano" over and over ... until he gets to "berserk berserk berserk". It's chilling to the reader and only gets worse when the reader realizes that if any of the twitchers' biots die, this is what they become.
  • Meaningful Name: The whole point of their ''noms de guerre'.
    • Lystra Reid (aka Lear) initials of her full name spell out to Lear, her full name is Lystra Ellen Alice Reid). Also Lystra is also a biblical name meaning "that dissolves or disperses." And it's close in spelling to "Listeria" which are very dangerous bacteria.
  • Mercy Kill: When Vincent is about to have his biots killed, he requests that Caligula kill him rather than allow him to go mad.
    Vincent: Madness or death. Make it death.
    • He gets better.
  • Mind-Control Conspiracy: The whole premise.
  • The Mole: Dietrich, as Nijinsky finds out. Much to his delight.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Bug Man finally realizes his targets are human after a bad wire leads to the President killing her husband. He even de-wires Jessica.
  • Naked First Impression: When Vincent first meets Sadie, she's in the bathtub. He does not realize this until Sadie points this out.
  • Nom de Guerre: Everyone on the biot side has one, named after famous figures who descended into madness or were mad to begin with; Plath, Keats, Nijinsky, Vincent, Wilkes, Ophelia, Renfield, Caligula, and Lear. We do, however, know most of the twitchers' real names during their point of views (with the exception of Ophelia, Caligula, Lear, and other minor characters such as Dr. Pound). Bug Man's real name is given as well, and the reader learns of Alex Cotton's real name before his identity as Kerouac is revealed.
  • Off with His Head!: Caligula chops Renfield's head off in four blows in order to keep the biots from being discovered. However, Renfield is already dead when it happens.
  • Opium Den: The China Bone where Burnofsky goes.
  • Patricide: The Armstrong Twins mention smothering their father to death with a pillow.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Vincent and Ninjinsky, Ninjinksy is gay and Vincent is straight. Ninjinsky states he loves Vincent as a brother.
  • Puppeteer Parasite: The nano machines.
  • Really Gets Around/All Gays are Promiscuous: Nijinsky is indicated to promiscuous couple of times in the books. Burnofsky taunts him about that fact and reveals Nijinsky's father kicked him out as a teenager when he saw Nijinsky bent over "entertaining" a cable repairman.
  • Rich Bitch: Subverted and lampshaded with Sadie.
  • Samus Is a Girl: Lear, the leader of BZRK and mastermind is a woman, Lystera Reid.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: Inverted, because it is Plath to Keats.
  • Straight Gay: Nijinsky. Aside from the fact he's a Sharp-Dressed Man, there's no real indication (with the exception of his name, which most readers would not have picked up anyway) that he's gay until later in the novel.
    • Also, possibly Ophelia. Though in the first book, it's not explicitly stated. However, she does say, "I don't hit on boys," in response to Wilkes asking whether she's hit on Vincent. A few pages later, when they are discussing what comes after death, Wilkes says, "A bunch of hot guy virgins ... A couple girls, too, maybe, just because life is short and try everything, right?" which Ophelia pointedly ignores.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Pretty cynical. Neither side is wholly good.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: Plath again about above mentioned She Is Not My Girlfriend
  • Theme Naming: The biotic twichers name themselves after famous people in history who went mad. It's meant to remind them that their only outcomes are victory or madness.
  • The Stoic: Vincent, countered by pleasure-seeking Nijinksy. Vincent suffers from anhedonia, and cannot feel pleasure.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Wilkes and Ophelia, respectively, who are foils.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: When the events of the book actually take place is never really said, but apart from the nanomachines everything is pretty much exactly the same as present day. There are casual references to modern pop culture (the Saw series of movies, for one) and things like Starbucks, but none of the mentioned heads of state match up with their current real-life counterparts, either.
    • Really, the only reason we know it's in the future at all is because of the official summary on the Copyright page.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Nijinsky is Asian and gay.
  • Uptown Girl: In a way. Sadie is wealthy, but Noah is a poor British boy. There is less focus on their financial aspects, but that might only be because they have bigger fish to fry.
  • War Is Hell: Keeping in tradition with Animorphs. Both the sides in the conflict are pretty terrible and irredeemable and the soldiers that fight for both BZRK and the AFGC are the ones who suffer the most.
  • When She Smiles: Ophelia. According to Sadie, she has a smile that lights up the room.
  • Will Not Tell a Lie: Vincent to Sadie and Noah.
    Vincent: I need both of you to trust me. I don't meant that I'd like you to trust me. I mean that I need you to trust me. For that reason, I will never lie to you. If you were ever to catch me in a lie, you would never fully trust me again. So I will never lie.
  • You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry!: Caligula.
    Caligula: Don't accidentally shoot me. I will resent it.