thrilling action; imaginative plot; mind-bending sci-fi concepts; unputdownable pace
characterization take a backseat to the action
A thrilling start to a mind-bending new series.
Following his successful Maze Runner YA series, James Dashner is beginning a new cyberthriller series, The Mortality Doctrine, with an action-packed thrill ride of a starter, The Eye of Minds. Our protagonist Michael is a skilled gamer in the VirtNet, the fully immersive virtual reality world that all humans can access easily through “coffins”—hi-tech devices that jack them into this shared virtual world nicknamed “the Sleep.”
Within the Sleep, anything is possible—dancing on the moon, fighting in wars from the past, flying, you name it. Any experience can be easily accessed, and a skilled gamer and coder can move up the ranks in this world of few consequences and many rewards. If they’re successful, they can access deeper virtual experiences, like the ever-elusive and seductive Lifeblood Deep, the most immersive virtual world within the Sleep.
When Michael is recruited by the government to help them track down Kaine, a dangerous cyberterrorist who is hiding out in the Sleep, he and his friends embark on the most dangerous game of their lives, navigating a terrifyingly realistic virtual maze, and it makes for a highly entertaining and fast-moving read.
From the very first death-defying scene we see that the Sleep isn’t the completely safe gaming space it was intended to be. There is real danger that raises the stakes beyond simply winning or losing a virtual game. That sense of danger lies beneath every terrifying situation Michael and his friends encounter as they follow Kaine’s digital trail. Anyone familiar with Dashner’s Maze Runner series will not be surprised at the number of twisted, terrifying creatures and situations these teens face. Dashner knows how to make a scene stick uncomfortably in your mind for days.
Coding Made Cool
I’m not sure coding needs much help in the coolness department; it seems like everyone’s trying to learn to code these days with easily accessible sites like Code Academy and Code.org. Maybe we haven’t reached the near future world where knowing how to code will be as second nature as knowing how to drive a car or operate a cell phone, but it’s not too far off. In The Eye of Minds, having amazing coding skills is the only thing standing between Michael and his friends and failure. They can manipulate the worlds they’re trying to beat and give themselves extra advantages, and after reading, I had the urge to sign up for an online coding class just in case I ever need to quickly summon up a laser beam or a fireball.
Blurring the Line Between Reality and Virtual Worlds
The Eye of Minds hits all the sweet spots of my favorite cyberpunk/virtual world movies and books, including The Matrix, Inception and Neuromancer. It’s clear Dashner is a fan of these stories, as he cleverly employs many of the same conventions and plot twists used by them, albeit with his own unique touch. In spite of my familiarity with the plot twists and possibilities of these movies/books, the big twist at the end of the book still took me by surprise, which was quite wonderful.
Dashner has always excelled at writing action scenes and mind-bending plot turns that just beg to be put onscreen. His books often read like a movie, which is probably why The Maze Runner adaptation is shaping up to be another huge YA movie franchise. I really hope The Eye of Minds gets an adaptation as well, because it is definitely big screen ready, with almost nothing to be lost in translation. With Divergent also releasing in 2014, I predict there will be a hunger for more virtual world based sci-fi and an adaptation of The Eye of Minds would be the perfect follow up (just as The Maze Runner movies will hopefully fill the void left behind when The Hunger Games movies are over).
I’ve come to expect a lot from James Dashner’s characters, after developing fierce love for Thomas, Minho, Newt and Chuck from The Maze Runner. I instantly felt connected to the Maze Runner crew, and genuinely felt fear, triumph and a whole host of intense emotions for them as they navigated unspeakable dangers. With The Eye of Minds, there was a slight disconnect, particularly with Sarah and Bryson, who were a bit vague and fuzzy compared to Michael. I hoped the characters would be a bit more fleshed out with more personality, but characterization took a backseat to the thrilling action. I’m hoping there will be more to sink my teeth into character-wise in the next book.
The Eye of Mindsis a non-stop thrill ride thatexcels at what James Dashner has always been best at: action, plot and imagination. If you love mind-bending technothrillers in the vein of Neuromancer, Divergent, Insignia and Brain Jack, run, don’t walk to the store to get yourself a copy of The Eye of Minds. I can’t wait to find out what happens next in The Rule of Thoughts!
Update: Thanks to the lovely folks at Random House Children’s Books, we’re hosting a giveaway! Enter to win your very own copy of THE EYE OF MINDS via the Rafflecopter widget below. (US only, please). Extra entry points for following James on Twitter and Facebook, following Random House Kids on Twitter and Facebook, and using the #dashnerarmy hashtag (twitter, tumblr, pinterest, instagram, facebook, anywhere you like).