Monday, 10 February 2014

The Eye of Minds - James Dashner | Review

In December I went along to the promotional event for The Eye of Minds at Forbidden Planet in London (you can read about that here). One of the morning of the event I hadn’t yet bought a copy of the book, and it was somewhere on my reading list but not particularly high up. That all changed after the event.

It was obvious how enthusiastic about this book James was, he was energetic in his answers to the questions we asked him and all too willing to talk about his inspirations (an ending to the Matrix that he thought would happen and never did, for one) and how the book has become what it is.  This enthusiasm pushed the book up my list and on his advice, I started reading it on the train home.
I think one of the things that was putting me off this book was how much I loved Ready Player One and I was worried that The Eye of Minds would be a less-interesting similar story. Man, I was stupid. Yes, they are both about worlds basically taken over by Virtual Reality games, but they are completely different stories. Beyond the premise of being about a Virtual Reality game they hardly match up. 

The story is based on three teens  - Michael, Bryson and Sarah, who spend all of their free time hooked up to tiny wires in a coffin-like structure that allow them to enter a virtual gaming world called VirtNet. In the VirtNet you feel everything (thanks to those tiny wires and that coffin), including pain. Michael, Bryson and Sarah have never met in real life, but spend all of their time together in the VirtNet. They are great at manipulating code and hacking and use it to advance in the game so that they can make it to the ultimate level – Lifeblood Deep. VirtNet security enlist Michael’s help and expertise in looking for cyber terrorist Kaine and the mysterious Mortality Doctrine, a serious threat to the VirtNet system. Michael agrees and he and his friends go on one adventure after another inside the VirtNet looking for the infamous Kaine.

Dashner is incredibly good at creating complicated, intricate well-developed worlds that I could imagine easily – the hall of bodies made me physically shiver more than once! The VirtNet was really well developed and I found myself getting lost in the nonstop action. Dashner creates complicated plots that seem so simple and easy to read – until you get to the end and flick back 100 pages to re-read the clue that you didn’t notice was a clue. There were so many twists and turns in The Eye of Minds and honestly each one surprised me, which happens so rarely and is so great when it happens. 

The Eye of Minds had a very good balance of adventure, action, suspense and subtle romance. The plot is refreshing and surprisingly original. I found that it was slow to start with. It got to chapter 11 (out of 25) before I was really into the story and from then I found it hard to put down. My only massive issue is what is with those mini chapters within the chapters after almost every paragraph? More than a little annoying. The ending is quite mind-blowing and in typical Dashner fashion, ends on a massive cliffhanger. 

Thankfully, the next one is out later this year so I don’t have to wait too long to find out the answer to some very important questions.

My verdict: 4/5 stars, brought down a star by the slow beginning and the weird mini chapters.
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