Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Review: Mind Over Mind, by Karina Fabian

For those of you who missed yesterday's interview with guest Karina Fabian, the author of Mind Over Mind, a little recap.

Deryl (the name is NOT mispelled) Stephen is a teenager with a few issues. He has great powers of empathy .... so great, that he will occasionally experience other people's feeling exactly as they if they were his own.  The butler to his rich aunt and uncle is a drunk, so Deryl smashes the liquor before he goes on a binge. Deryl finds and stops a rape, and has to knock himself out before he exchanges one rapist for another.

And, oh, yeah, he's being contacted by space aliens.

So, one or two people have considered him more than a little insane, which is why his address at the start of Mind Over Mind is the local insane asylum.

Enter one Joshua Lawson, who's just there for the summer, a quick job before moving on to other things.  His method of therapy: accept the delusion, and teach patients to work within their own little world.

Which is a good thing, because it looks like some of Deryl Stephen's delusions are actively trying to kill him.

If I read the book correctly, it looks like Deryl's father came for a one-night stand from another galaxy, and Deryl had inherited a sacred position -- he is the all-knowing, all seeing Ydrel (I said the name wasn't misspelled), of the planet Kanaan.  The job of the Ydrel is to provide answers to anything asked of him.

Anthony Ainley from the
original Doctor Who
However, Kanaan is in the middle of an interplanetary war.

The people who ask Deryl for information think he's an angel to help them against their enemies – an alien race who thinks that their world is the promised land.

On the other side, there is "The Master," an alien who seems quite interested in training Deryl as a weapon ... and may get him killed doing it ....

However, every time I read about "The Master," I immediately saw Anthony Ainley from the original Doctor Who.

One would think that this would make for more than enough of a science fiction epic, and move on.  It's certainly a great foundation for it.

However, the book is mostly told from the perspective of Joshua Lawson, who has enough trouble with his new job. His boss hates him, especially when Joshua is right; and Joshua seems to be developing feelings for one of the nurses, Sachiko Luchese ...

Yes, the nurse is named like a cross between a General in the Japanese Imperial Army, and a mafia godfather -- something I suspect may have been done for the express purpose of one bad pun in the middle of the novel. But that's neither here nor there.

In fact, Joshua and Sachiko's romance takes up a good chunk of the plot, though it really doesn't mention "romance" on the back of the book.

Enough of the summary, time for the review (below the break).

Overall, I liked this book. The characters have great chemistry. The three main characters click together like the pieces of a puzzle. The main cast effortlessly operates like a well-oiled machine.  Even when the novel crosses over from “mere” telepathy, and into aliens, the book works well, and slides back and forth from one to the other with ease. Even the dialogue with Deryl's  alien “handlers” is interesting. 

Mind Over Mind has a nice, complex plot. It's not convoluted, and it's easy to follow, even after the introduction of the two alien species, interoffice politics and personality clashes, and a bit of hospital soap opera.

These are the compliments, honest.

There's even a good, solid romantic subplot that, miraculously, does not make me want to acid wash my brain … and that's hard, even on a good day.  It was easy and gentle, and there were little to no cliche's … I give a range because that depends greatly on what you may consider a cliché. After all, there are common traits to any bit of developing romance, and if that makes them cliché, well, they are cliché because they're true.

The interesting part is that the most evil character in the entire novel seems to be .... the hospital administrator, who not only believes Deryl's psychic powers, but tries to manipulate Deryl anyway he can. The Master and the ones who ask him for information are antagonists (neither are certainly helpful to Deryl's sanity), but the guy who runs the asylum is an evil little bastard.  I'd read the rest of the trilogy just to see if he gets thrown down a mine shaft or something.

Overall, I liked this book.  It's a good start for a trilogy, and I suspect the story will only get better when it's complete.  Right now, it feels like The Hobbit just waiting for The Lord of the Rings.

The only problem I foresee with the book is ... the description on the back of the book.  Mind Over Mind is less about two alien races at war, and more about three people on Earth. There's a love story, and (more or less) a coming of age story ... granted, most coming of age stories means coming to grips with the world around you, and coming into one's own.  In this case, Deryl's world has two alien powers in his head vying for control of his life as he tries to come into his own.

If your focus is more on epic science fiction war novels, this may not be the book for you ... yet.  I'll let you know when I read book two.

Basically, by the time everything is said and done, I want to read more about these characters and where they're going. 

I suspect you might too.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review, John.

    If you're looking for space battles, I suggest the Honor Herrington novels. I'm taking a very different approach. Deryl is not a warrior, no matter how hard the Master tries to manipulate him. The battles fought will be battles of the mind and soul and they will be fought with intelligence, stubbornness and compassion. Mind Over Psyche has some great mind-bending stuff, and if you like the characters, you'll definitely want to see what happens when they end up on Kanaan and meet Tasmae and the Master for real.


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