When I was a kid I loved the X-Men. They were my favorite superheroes and I watched all the cartoons and read all the comics. Now many years later, that love has in no way diminished. In fact it has likely grown. So when I discovered multiple books about mutants I was very excited. The book series I discovered are Shadow Ops by Mike Cole and Brilliance by Marcus Sakey. The books focus on very different elements of mutations and society, and both come away with different flavors of story.
Lets start with Shadow Ops. The book is about a world where when mutations start occurring, all of the mutants are either co-opted into the military or killed in order to protect the normal population. Mutations come in two groups, acceptable and forbidden. The acceptable mutations are elemental magic (fire, earth, air, water) and the unacceptable tend to deal with some weirder things such as necromancy, and making portals. Our protagonist is a military mutant hunter who manifests one of the forbidden mutations, and to deal with going from hunter to hunted. These books jump head first into the human vs. mutant theme with a military flavor. It is very clear from the onset that Mike Cole has some familiarity with armed services and the book blends mutation and military fiction very well. I have no experience with any armed forces, but I still found the book very accessible and interesting. I have found there is a tendency in military books for authors to get bogged down in very minute detail of army procedure, which I felt this book avoided for the most part. The real pull of Shadow Ops is that Myke Cole made a world that blends military and mutation really well. The army and the mutants both feel like they are equal forces to be respected in the books and gives them both equal time in the spotlight. Each book in the trilogy follows a different protagonist as you get to see both different mutations and jobs within the army structure. While I had a few problems with pacing, the books left me very satisfied and I definitely recommend.
The second mutant series I looked into is a bit weirder. Brilliance, on top of having a gorgeous cover, is another story about mutants: but not your standard variety. In the world of Brilliance, mutations don’t give you superpowers. Instead they make you really good at things like accounting. Now if you are like me you are thinking “What? That sounds super boring.”, but bare with me. Brilliance is a different kind of story than Shadow Ops. Mutants in Brilliance gain powers like being able to think in computer code, making them the best programmers in the world, or being able to intuitively understand cause and effect in human actions, making some people super detectives. Marcus Sakey created a world where 1% of the population is making 99% of the rest of the world obsolete in a non-violent manner and it leads to some truly fascinating scenarios. One example is one of the mutants is able to understand the patterns of stocks and bonds and as a result amasses hundreds of billions of dollars on the stock market; essentially crashing the economy. All of these mutants change the world around them in thought provoking ways, while unintentionally ruining the lives of 99 people around them. This inevitably leads to conflict between mutants and humans and the book follows the conflict as it grows. For someone who is looking for an interesting take on superpowers or mutations I highly recommend.
While I enjoy both of these mutant series a lot, I find myself still desiring something more. Both of the stories focus on the human vs. mutant element which is the standard go to in mutant stories. I would love to see a series in the future that focused more on the intense mutant on mutant rivalries that occur in the X-Men between Magneto and Prof X. The fact that these two series have come out recently, and done so well, gives me hope that new authors might come up with ideas for mutants I haven’t even thought of. Regardless, I recommend both of these series and encourage anyone looking for a good time to pick them up.
Shadow Ops: 7.0/10
P.S. As a bonus, another good mutant/superpower book that I have already written about is Vicious by V. E. Schwab. If you are looking for even more mutant/superpower action you can find it here.