06 January 2015

The Eye of Minds

Author: James Dashner
Series: The Mortality Doctrine #1
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

Michael is a gamer, taken to another level.  He spends almost all of his time on the VirtNet, plugged into his Coffin in a very Matrix like scenario.  He can feel pain from this alternate reality, can feel it when he dies, and spends most of his time mindlessly playing games with friends in the VirtNet that he has never actually met in the real world before.  A bit of a social commentary, perhaps?

He is also a hacker, which is the main skill that gets him and his duo of friends into real trouble.  They are tasked by VNS (which seems to be the government body overseeing this virtual world) to try to track down the antagonist of this story, the mysterious Kaine, who is somehow pulling chips out of player's arms in the VirtNet.  By doing this, he can apparently kill them in real life by killing them in the virtual world.  Not that this really makes any sense at all to me, but I went with it in order to get through the book, as this is a fundamental plot for the story.

But the further down the rabbit hole I got, the more and more of a mess this story turned into.  It was a bad combination of The Matrix, Inception, and I don't know what else.  I shudder to think of a society that allows kids to spend all their time sucked into a virtual reality.  Especially a game that they play laying in a coffin, no less.  In the entirety of this novel, Michael doesn't go to school once.  In fact, he is kidnapped by an agent from VNS on his way to school, while he is thinking about how much school he has recently skipped.  To which begged the question: where are all the reasonable adults in this society?  Michael is raised by a housekeeping/nanny, as his parents are never home.  His housekeeper is the only adult he has interaction with in the real world.  And as we progress through this novel, we see adults that are obsessed with gaming as well.  At one point, they spend a few days in a row playing the same game over and over with a group of adults.  It just seems like such an absurd world Dashner has created that would be unsustainable, as no one is actually working or doing anything productive to contribute to society.  They are simply spending all their time - waking and sleeping - playing games in a virtual world.

The plot plunders through this digital world.  We probably only spend a small handful of pages in the actual world, the rest taken up by different games and different levels in the VirtNet.  And the entire novel follows these three kids as they hack their way, over and over (through the code somehow, from inside the game!), through these different levels of the VirtNet, while Kaine tries to block them at every crossroads.  The plot became monotonous and boring fairly quickly.  And then the ending.  Oh the ending broke just about every sci-fi rule I adhere to.  Dashner really went for the shock factor with this one.  The ending made me feel like I was basically just reading a tech'ed up version of The Maze Runner, which I didn't enjoy either.

The one thing going for The Eye of Minds is that at least it isn't a total snooze feast like The Maze Runner.  The pace progresses pretty quickly, and it is definitely a mind tease since Dashner is in no way limited to the rules of the universe is this mind boggle of a virtual reality world.  The ending kind of made me want to read the next novel, since it seems like Dashner might be able to pull out a decent sequel if he can pull together a solid plot and avoid of the needless hacking and coding that took up so much of this novel.  The fact that I can read these novels in a day doesn't hurt either.  But it's definitely nothing that I'll be adding to my collection.  If you liked The Maze Runner, you'll probably gobble this next series from Dashner right up.  But if not, I'd steer clear.

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