Sakey, who built a following by putting average people in grave danger from remorseless killers (The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes, 2011), veers in a new direction: Brilliance posits that, in 1980, 1 in every 100 children born in the U.S. proved to be a savant. Three decades later, these unique geniuses have changed the U.S.; the “abnormals” are titans, and ordinary Americans are irrelevant. One “ab” quickly built a $300 billion fortune and destabilized the world economy, while another, Nick Cooper, is the top agent in the Equitable Response Unit of the federal Department of Analysis and Response (DAR). Cooper sees himself as a soldier in an undeclared war against abs who have turned to terrorism. But when he intuits that his four-year-old daughter may be an ab, he is torn because she will be taken from him, given a new name, and kept in one of several DAR-run “academies,” which he discovers are brainwashing centers. Sakey’s premise is utterly compelling; no committed thriller aficionado will be able to set the book down. His complex characters are deeply engaging, and his writing is propulsive. Best, however, is his insightful evocation of government and popular reaction to the “brilliants.” We’ve already seen it: in doctrines of preemptive war, enhanced interrogation techniques, the Patriot Act, the civil rights struggle, and the ginned-up, gnawing fear that sets Americans against Americans. Brilliance is disturbing—and brilliant.