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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Review: The Eye of Minds (The Mortality Doctrine #1) by James Dashner

An all-new, edge-of-your seat adventure from James Dashner, the author of the New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series, The Eye of Minds is the first book in The Mortality Doctrine, a series set in a world of hyperadvanced technology, cyberterrorists, and gaming beyond your wildest dreams . . . and your worst nightmares.

Michael is a gamer. And like most gamers, he almost spends more time on the VirtNet than in the actual world. The VirtNet offers total mind and body immersion, and it’s addictive. Thanks to technology, anyone with enough money can experience fantasy worlds, risk their life without the chance of death, or just hang around with Virt-friends. And the more hacking skills you have, the more fun. Why bother following the rules when most of them are dumb, anyway?

But some rules were made for a reason. Some technology is too dangerous to fool with. And recent reports claim that one gamer is going beyond what any gamer has done before: he’s holding players hostage inside the VirtNet. The effects are horrific—the hostages have all been declared brain-dead. Yet the gamer’s motives are a mystery.

The government knows that to catch a hacker, you need a hacker.
And they’ve been watching Michael. They want him on their team.
But the risk is enormous. If he accepts their challenge, Michael will need to go off the VirtNet grid. There are back alleys and corners in the system human eyes have never seen and predators he can’t even fathom—and there’s the possibility that the line between game and reality will be blurred forever.

I wasn't sure what to expect from James Dashner's The Eye of Minds. After all, I liked The Maze Runner well enough after listening to it on audio, but I was hazy on the details and never felt especially compelled to read the next two books in the trilogy. Now, after getting sucked into and genuinely enjoying this first book in The Morality Doctrine, I'm wondering if his first trilogy doesn't deserve another try.

The Eye of Minds is set primarily in a virtual world called VirtNet, a world much preferred over the boring reality of most peoples' normal, everyday lives. Daily, people slog through their necessary jobs and responsibilities with the promise of slipping into their virtual lives at the end of the day. The main character, Michael, is one of these people. He's one of the best, a talented hacker, and determined to make it the next coveted level in the game. Michael's normal, laid-back life of exploring and having fun in VirtNet with is best friends, Bryson and Sarah, is thrown off-kilter when Michael witnesses a suicide within the game - a true suicide, not a simple thrown-back-into-reality-to-begin-again death, a normal occurrence. Reports of suicide and other malfunctions are becoming more and more common and the cause of it all seems to be a mysterious and deadly hacker named Kaine. After witnessing the suicide, Michael and his friends are recruited to track down Kaine, before he's able to strike again. The stakes are high and the lines between the game and reality are becoming dangerously blurred.

The Eye of Minds starts with a bang and never truly slows. From one thrilling situation to the next, the pressure is on for Michael, Bryson, and Sarah and, when I reached the final chapter, I was a bit in awe of how much happened in just over 300 pages. If readers appreciated the action in The Maze Runner, they'll be happy to see that Dashner doesn't drop the ball in this new trilogy - in fact, he stepped it up.

I really liked Michael, Bryson, and Sarah as a team. In my opinion, there aren't enough examples of true, supportive friendships in YA literature, especially between guys and girls. While I could see some type of romantic relationship developing later in the series, there was nothing to hint at it in this first book and I really appreciated that. I liked that the three were just friends with similar interests who trusted and relied upon one another. The banter between them felt genuine and I quickly became invested in their friendship.

I'm by no means a gamer, but I soon became immersed in the world and concept of VirtNet. I could definitely understand how a person could feel the urge to spend large amounts of time in something like VirtNet, where they could look any way they wanted and experience virtually anything. For kids like Michael, who are skilled hackers, it'd be even harder to stay away. Imagine a world you can change in substantial ways at your whim. Being able to eat anything you want and never gaining a pound. Doing crazy and dangerous stunts without any fear of dying. That kind of experience could be addicting and drawing the line between what's real and not could become increasingly difficult. 

This first installment of The Mortality Doctrine is delightfully twisty. I was never sure what would happen next because the characters were never sure. Normal rules don't apply within VirtNet, so Dashner was able to throw some crazy twists and turns in and all I could do was try to brace myself for the next surprise.

I'll definitely be reading the next Mortality Doctrine book, especially after the cliffhanger of an ending in The Eye of Minds. The last few pages of the book left me spinning and anxious to know what happens next.

Delacorte BFYR, October 2013, Hardcover, ISBN:  9780385741392, 320 pgs.


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