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You Really Don’t Want to Know What’s Behind the Curtain

James Dashner's The Eye of Minds: Welcome to the VirtNet. A world beyond your wildest dreams...and your worst nightmares.

You Really Don’t Want to Know What’s Behind the Curtain

BOOK REPORT for The Eye of Minds by James Dashner

Cover Story: Like Every Other James Dashner Novel
Drinking Buddy: This'll Go Straight to My Virtual Liver
Testosterone Level: I'm a Real Badass Online
Talky Talk: Not a Matrix Rip-off
Bonus Factors: Lord of the Flies Syndrome--Not!, Shadowy Figures
Bromance Status: Just Who Are You, Bro?

Cover Story: Like Every Other James Dashner Novel

The cover reminds me of The Maze Runner series: darkly ominous, towering, and forboding. The book reminds me of The Maze Runner as well, which is a good thing.

The Deal:

Like most people in the late 21st Century, Michael spends most of his time in the VirtNet, a total submersion virtual reality. His favorite game is LifeBlood, another world just like our own, only more exciting. He's desperate to level up in the game, find out the secrets of the higher challenges. Until one night, he sees a girl jump off a bridge to her death. No big deal, none of this is real. But some of the things she said...

Michael is soon confronted by a government agent who demands that he help them track down the mysterious Kaine, a brilliant hacker who is destroying entire sections of the VirtNet. And destroying people...in real life somehow.

Michael teams up with two virtual friends, goofy Bryson and hard-core Sarah, two hacker buddies he only knows in the net. Pretty soon, they find themselves lost in the most dangerous, secret levels of VirtNet, places where you don't get another life...as in, if you get killed, your real body will stop breathing, or at least thinking.

Pretty soon, they start discovering things about their virtual world that no one was meant to know.

Drinking Buddy: This'll Go Straight to My Virtual Liver

Michael has kind of a cyber-geek/ anarchist thing going on. On the one hand, he's a teenager, always willing to stick it to the authorities. On the other hand, he does truly want to help the government stop Kaine Not because he's intimidated, but because he truly wants to stop Kaine from hurting anyone else. He's willing to risk both his virtual and real life on the quest, but his first loyalty is to his friends. And the more we find out about him, the more complex we realize he is...it's a little disturbing how complex.

Testosterone Level: I'm a Real Badass Online

Since this is virtual reality, there's no limit to what can be experienced: an exclusive cyber-club, a war in the arctic, a haunted house, or a magical Disney forest with friendly, housekeeping animals. Plus, Michael is an expert hacker who can break into the code to change reality...you never know when you're going to need that machine gun.

Of course, he's a teenage boy. There's one thing he oddly does not attempt to experience in a world where there are no rules. I'll wait till the next book to see if something develops with Ms. Sarah.

Talky Talk: Not a Matrix Rip-off

Okay, we do have the virtual world that's in many ways better than the real one, the shadowy authority figures, and the blurring of the line between what is real and what is computer-generated. But luckily there's no Keanu Reeves.

This is cyber punk in the best tradition. Things are not as they seem. I can say no more.

Bonus Factor: Lord of the Flies Syndrome--Not!

It drives me nuts when YA authors just kind of write all the adults out of a book. It's easier when there's no one there demanding the hero do his homework, come in for curfew, and ask why he wasn't at school. But it's not realistic, and it's sloppy writing.

At first, I was ready to accuse this book of LOTFS. Michael's parents are rich and are conveniently out of town on business for most of this book, so there's no one to demand that Michael spend time in the real world. But...

Nope, Dashner played me. Totally fell for it. Wow.

Bonus Factor: Shadowy Figures

First, there's the ominous government agents, who insist they want to track down Kaine for the good of humanity. Then there's the awesomely-named Gunner Skale, the hero of VirtNet, the greatest hacker ever, who has mysteriously vanished. And finally, there's the criminal Kaine himself. Is he a hacker? A criminal? A group of people? Or something even less believable?

Bromance Status: Just Who Are You, Bro?

Um, I went into this book thinking one thing, but...you really aren't who you said you were. I mean, it's cool, but...damn, bro.

Disclosure: Delacorte sent a free copy of this to me, and the post office thoughtfully delivered the empty envelope so I had to buy my own copy.

Brian Katcher's photo About the Author: Brian Katcher wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.