What if the current pop-culture obsession with “brains” took a different turn? What if professional football declined, and professional trivia teams took their place, complete with overpaid players, competitive coaches, tabloid media, player infighting, rookies under pressure and all of the other fabulous sports clichés that go along with it?
Brains follows a professional Chicago trivia team, the Philosophers, on their quest for the Brains Bowl championship. The story begins just as a new player is recruited to fill the gap in the lineup after their history specialist has a mental breakdown.
The winning-focused Philosophers coach, Rock, is compared to the obsessed captain in Moby Dick, and quotes from Melville’s classic story run throughout the book, setting the tone for the increasingly intense competition. As a former football coach, Rock lacks most of the academic skills that would seem prerequisite in a Brains league leader. In fact, his primary coaching technique is screaming and threatening his players.
The trivia was written so that I could kind of play along with the characters. The reality competition in the story reminded me of Carolyn Parkhurst’s Lost and Found. Both books have a caper feel; they are enjoyable romps through extraordinary adventures where the reader can imagine themselves alongside a team of regular people in contrived circumstances that are increasingly believable.
Author Daniel Breeze builds the paces of the story using the media frenzy and competitive pressure of the characters to pull the reader into the excitement. Brains is definitely of interest to people who enjoy playing on trivia teams – the Brains Bowl would be the ultimate — although possibly not the most enjoyable — way to crank it up a notch!
Bonus: If you enjoy playing trivia that is slightly less competitive than the Brains Bowl, be sure check out the library’s quarterly trivia nights!