The Eye of Minds
James Dashner's young adult novel centers on an online video game, but even non-gamers will find this story enthralling.
You wouldn’t think I could get this excited about another young adult novel so soon after Matthew Quick's Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, but I fell hard for gaming thriller The Eye of Minds. James Dashner is best known for his dystopian bestseller "The Maze Runner," but he’s outdone himself with "The Eye of Minds," the first installment of "The Mortality Doctrine" trilogy. It’s a brilliant, visceral, gamified mash-up of "The Matrix" and "Inception," and I can’t get enough.Skip to next paragraph
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Earlier this year, Dashner spoke to Publisher’s Weekly about "The Eye of Minds," saying, “The idea has been with me a long time. I had the first spark when the Matrix movies came out in the 1990s." He went on to explain, "I kept thinking as I watched them that this certain plot twist was going to happen – but it never did. Then when the movie 'Inception' came out, I was struck by its concept of a dream within a dream. So for 'The Eye of Minds,' I applied this concept to a virtual reality world with that plot twist that never happened, but had always stayed in my head.”
Dashner's story begins with a gamer named Michael, who spends most of his time in the VirtNet, an immersive MMO (massively multiplayer online) video game. The better you are at coding, the wilder a time you can have, and Michael’s a top-shelf programmer. He hangs out with his Virt friends Sarah and Bryson, hacking code and exploring endless fantasy worlds.
But soon the three begin to hear troubling stories about a mysterious gamer called Kaine. Apparently Kaine is holding avatars hostage inside the VirtNet, causing real-life brain damage to the players. There are whispers of players killing themselves to escape the cyber-terrorist and his monstrous creations, called KillSims.
Michael is contacted by the Virtual Network Security (VNS), who have been watching him. All the VNS know about Kaine’s motive is the phrase “The Mortality Doctrine.” They believe it’s some kind of file or program that could damage both the real and virtual worlds. The VNS asks Michael to help find Kaine and identify The Mortality Doctrine.
To do that, Michael must delve into the off-grid VirtNet underworld and follow a digital trail known as the Path. Bryson and Sarah, skilled hackers themselves, volunteer to go with him.
While navigating the Path, Bryson and Sarah are eliminated and sent back to the main VirtNet. Michael must finish the Path alone, facing real danger as the border between fantasy and reality begins to blur. What he discovers is a staggering secret – and a stomach-turning truth about himself. I love well-executed final twists and this one is on par with the cliffhanger in Veronica Roth's "Insurgent."