Thursday, January 17, 2013

Reveiw: "Open Minds (The Mindjack Trilogy #1)" by Susan Kaye Quinn

Open Minds, by Susan Kaye Quinn,  is the first book in the Mindjack trilogy. It tells the story of Kira, a sixteen-year-old girl living in a future time in which the vast majority of humanity has developed the ability to read minds. The ability shows up most commonly during the teen years, during the oh-so-challenging years of high school, where being different is a challenge few would want.

Yet being one without mind-reading abilities is a cause of social ostracism, an invitation to an open prejudice practiced by the majority. While there are many examples of this social phenomenon throughout history, I was most reminded of A Spell for Chameleon, the first in the Xanth saga by Piers Anthony. In that opening volume in the thirty-plus volume series, the main character is born without a magical talent in a world of magic where to be without is a crime, punishable by banishment to the non-magic human world. To without the ability to read minds, in the Mindjack world, is a condition ripe for abuse by those of weak character, who seek to enhance their own social status through humiliation and ostracism of those "zeros" like Kira who possess no mind-reading abilities. Classes in high school are taught via mind-link from teacher to student. Thankfully, Kira's best friend, Raf, is there to ensure that she's never lacking for protection by a popular, mind-reading friend. He makes sure that she gets the benefit of his ability in class work. And he's interested in deepening their relationship.

When he tries to kiss Kira, though, they both find out that she's different, but hardly powerless, when she knocks him unconscious with her mind. Through the help of bad-boy Simon, Kira learns that she's a mind-jacker. Others can't read her thoughts... but she can control theirs, directing them to act against their will. It's a power that makes Kira uncomfortable, and one that Simon exploits. It's also a power that cannot be revealed, for such a secret will pass rapidly among the mind-readers, like a viral video. Regretfully, Kira pushes Raf away to protect him from a secret of this magnitude.

Simon invites Kira to join the Clan, a group led by the powerful Malloy. Kira's asked to join... if being threatened with the injuries to her family and best friend, Raf, can be considered a request. At a meeting where Simon is to pledge his loyalty to the Clan, the FBI intervenes, revealing that not only are they aware of the jackers, but that many agents possess that very ability. And their plans for using that ability in others is chilling.

For me, Open Minds is about the depths of free will. In a society where there is no privacy, not even within one's own head and with one's own thoughts, can you ever truly be yourself? Will the instant knowledge of every whim and desire enhance personal relationships, or hinder them? And what freedom can exist in a world where a small percentage of people can force others to their will, without those exploited even knowing? It's one thing to be forced to act against your will as the result of legislation; it may be in opposition to your wishes, but there's some degree of transparency there. But in this world, you never see the control coming, and never even know it's happening. The irony, of course, is that those engaging in the control are the tiny minority that the majority believes are inferior zeros.

I found the concept of the future world intriguing, the various underground organizations feeding off the mindjacking abilities realistic within that framework, and the government's efforts to quietly suppress and control that ability frighteningly accurate. The ending gives rise to plenty of possible angles for the next two books of the trilogy, and I'm interested in seeing which direction the author chooses to go.

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