Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Review - "Mind Games " by Carolyn Crane

Book Description:
Mind Games heroine Justine Jones isn't your typical kick-ass type - she’s a hopeless hypochondriac whose life is run by fear.

She's lured into a restaurant, Mongolian Delites, by tortured mastermind Sterling Packard, who promises he can teach her to channel her fears. In exchange, she must join his team of disillusionists - vigilantes hired by crime victims to zing their anxieties into criminals, resulting in collapse and transformation.

Justine isn't interested in Packard's troupe until she gets a taste of the peace he can promise. Soon she enters the thrilling world of neurotic crime fighters who battle Midcity’s depraved and paranormal criminals.

Eventually, though, she starts wondering why Packard hasn’t set foot outside the Mongolian Delites restaurant for eight years. And about the true nature of the disillusionists.
Carolyn Crane's debut novel Mind Games had me hooked as soon as she introduced Justine Jones. You have to wonder where an author is going with a character who is a severe hypochondriac whose thoughts include -
Fashion magazine disease articles. My personal kryptonite.
The terrific and delightful thing about this is that Justine's character flaw or weakness becomes her greatest strength. This is true of the majority of the damaged characters that populate Mind Games. and who are part of  the disillusionists.

Justine is the lynchpin in the devious scheme concocted by Sterling Packard, but it takes some convincing to get Justine to join. I loved this exchange.
He regards  me carefully, green eyes the color of old moss in sunlight. "You want to join now? You're sure about it?"
Yes, quite." I say nonchalantly as if I'm accepting a mint bonbon from a butler instead of a new vigilante lifestyle from a slightly maniacal mutant.
The maniacal mutant in question (Packard) is what the author calls a highcap, which to us old school science fiction buffs is equivalent to psions, genetically gifted individuals with unique abilities such as telepathy or telekinesis. I loved seeing this SF trope applied to an urban fantasy style milieu where the focus is on a more visceral story and realistic characters. Despite the many abilities revealed, there are no mad masterminds or plans for global domination. Instead it is all kept on a very accessible and believable level which is one of its' many strengths.

Mind Games is full of intrigue and mystery that draws you in and rivets your attention. What is Packard's plan and the secret of the Mongolian Delites? What's with the Brick Slinger serial killer that has the city terrorized? Is the Police Chief more than he seems? There are no shortage of interesting plot threads that keep you guessing and turning pages. But is there any romance involved you may ask? Indeed yes there is. Justine's relationships evolve and become more complicated as her world shifts and the men in her life change. I found her romantic choice at the end quite satisfying.

Call it urban fantasy if you insist (I'm going to call it urban SF), but the label makes no difference. Mind Game's is freshly original and sophisticated with some truly surprising twists. Despite the characters handicaps, the decay and crime of MidCity and other difficult obstacles, Mind Games has a wonderful cup half full feeling of optimism. I didn't see that coming and I loved the positive outlook. Carolyn Crane has crafted an intriguing world and very special cast, especially in Justine Jones. I very much look forward to the next series of adventures with the Disillusionist crew in Double Cross this September. A final note for those that like to know, Mind Games has a totally satisfying ending with no cliff-hangers.


Excerpt of Chapter 1.

Random House/Ballantine
Published: March 23, 2010
Format: Paperback,
Pages: 371
ISBN #: 9780553592610

Justine Jones: Disillusionist Trilogy:
  1. Mind Games (March 23, 2010)
  2. Double Cross (September 28, 2010)


  1. Great review! Mind games sounds awesome, I'll definitely be reading it.

  2. Nice review! Loved this book and totally agree about the satisfying ending. I'm slavering for the next in the series, but I didn't get that "wtf just happened?" feeling at the conclusion.

    Urban SF, huh? Cool tag.

  3. Trillian the series makes my autobuy list now :)

    Jill I agree the next book should be even better now that Carolyn has layed down all the groundwork for the world and main characters. I really do consider this more SF than UF.

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