Summary review: “Mind blowing and compelling” are not an overstatement when I describe this book. It’s all that and more.
There are no bad guys or good guys. There are only better guys and worse guys. One of the worse guys is Val Toreth. In a world in which torture is a legitimate part of the investigative process, he works for the Investigation and Interrogation Division, where his colleagues can be more dangerous than the criminals he investigates.
One of the better guys is Keir Warrick. His small corporation, SimTech, is developing a “sim” system that places users in a fully immersive virtual reality. A minnow in a murky and dangerous pond, he is only beginning to discover how many compromises may be required for success.
Their home is the dark future dystopia of New London. A totalitarian bureaucracy controls the European Administration, sharing political power with the corporations. The government uses violence and the many divisions of the feared Department of Internal Security to maintain control and crush resistance. The corporations fight among themselves, using lethal force under the euphemism of “corporate sabotage,” uniting only to resist attempts by the Administration to extend its influence over them. Toreth and Warrick are more natural enemies than allies. But mutual attraction and the fight for survival can create unlikely bonds.
This is without a doubt one of the most fascinating and intense stories that I have ever read. Mind Fuck is book I in the Administration series and is set in the near future dystopia of New London. I’m not sure whether this book should be classified as science fiction or urban fantasy, but it definitely is not a romance (at least not yet) and it’s quite possible that you may end up not liking any of the main characters, but what awesome writing from the brain of Manna Francis! The protagonists are Val Toreth, a ruthless sociopath who is a Senior Para-Investigator for The Administration’s feared Investigation and Interrogation Division, and Keir Warrick, part owner of a small but valuable company whose extreme virtual reality simulation or “sim” technology the Administration wants badly enough to seduce, corrupt and manipulate those in high places to commit a series of murders to discredit the “sim” and scare away financial backers.
When Toreth and Warrick meet it’s a match made in heaven, or whatever people like them call heaven, because regardless of competing interests and moral objectives, Toreth is a sadist and a Warrick is a masochist and their mutual need to satisfy their sexual hunger draws them to each other like a moth to a flame. Toreth the master manipulator knows just how to get Warrick to do his bidding as his brand of sex is addictive to someone who can’t do without his fix, but make no mistake, outside of his sexual needs Warrick is just as controlling and manipulative and at times I wondered which character would come out on top, physically and mentally.
Mind Fuck is a mind blowing tale and Toreth, the main protagonist, is a compelling figure whose job gives him almost unlimited power to arrest and torture those that the Administration feels are threats to its objective of global domination. The plot is the stuff of dreams if you like futuristic stories, and even if you don’t, because the characters are so wonderfully drawn and incredibly flawed that you are sure to be fascinated by them and the story.
The name of the book caught my eye and I’m sure that’s what the author intended, but then I read the blurb and was hooked. The name actually had a lot to do with the premise of the story. The Division of Psychoprogramming, commonly called Mindfuck, is feared by ordinary residents and corporation executives alike because it has the ability, through the administration of mind altering drugs and other forms of torture, to get anyone to confess to crimes they did not commit.
When Toreth first met Warrick and was asked what his job was, his response was “I fuck minds.”However, it seemed for a while that Toreth had met his match because Warrick bested the master manipulator by inviting him on a virtual tour of Sim Tech and f**ked his mind and body in the sim. When Warrick turned the tables on his nemesis he repeated Toreth’s words by inviting him to experience “the future of mind fucking,” an episode where the author demonstrated that his character was as multi layered as Toreth’s, and that just because he was a masochist didn’t mean that he was anyone’s patsy. Never one to let any misdeeds against him go unpunished, Toreth was at his best when exacting revenge, and the first scene of them having actual rather than simulated sex was point and counterpoint and Warrick could only take what he had coming.
The plot is engrossing, intelligent, brilliant and incredibly complex yet not difficult to understand, and the characterizations are unusual in that neither Toreth nor Warrick was the kind of person I would have invited home for dinner, yet I admired them. At times Warrick was Toreth’s dinner.
This book is a psychological thriller about mind control, extreme virtual reality, and absolute power that corrupts. The characters are all flawed and each has a different agenda, and while I admired some of their actions their motives were selfish and self serving even while claiming to be acting for the good of others.
Mind Fuck is definitely one of the best books I have ever read and it covers themes ranging from corporate espionage, corruption at the highest levels, murder, betrayal, torture and greed in a totalitarian bureaucracy. I can’t recommend this book highly enough and if you miss it you will miss an outstanding read. Manna Francis is an incredibly gifted writer whose characters are so flawed and human they come alive in 3D as the reader is drawn into a world where there are no rules and lives have no value.
What I liked best was the author’s skillful portrayal of both her male and female characters, which is not the norm for this type of book where women are usually relegated to menial roles. The character that I was drawn to most of all was Warrick who tried to balance his need to be sexually humiliated and dominated with his abhorrence of what Toreth represented, but he knew that Toreth was absolutely essential to helping him save his sim technology by preventing it from falling into the hands of Administration officials. Murder was an everyday occurrence for Toreth to whom human life had no value, but when his own life was threatened his panic was almost funny as he realized that everything he worked for was a mirage and he would probably get his comeuppance. Toreth had so many flaws it was hard to find anything good to say about him, but despite his lack of humanity he cared for one person, his administrative assistant, who at times provided a window into his character that would have otherwise been blurred. He loved to get his rocks off and made no bones about using his male and female employees, as well as others in the Administration for sex, and even when he made them bend over to keep their jobs he had no compunction about screwing them out of those same jobs when it served his purpose.
I found it a challenge to review this book because I became so involved and immersed in the lives of the characters, many of whom I did not care for, and I wasn’t sure if I wished them to live or die. Strangely, the characters whom I respected the most in the end (and not grudgingly) was Toreth. I have deliberately not identified the secondary characters other than Toreth’s admin. because to do so would have revealed some of their roles in the book, and might have included spoilers.
This not to be missed story is dense with detail and shows how corrupt and morally bankrupt the Administration and a large percentage of the characters are as they served their own personal agendas.
Mind Fuck is available as a free download on the author’s website, however because I was so impressed and blown away by the story I bought it in paperback – one of my few recent purchases in this format. If you enjoy this type of story I highly recommend that you get it in paper. There are 3 novels, 3 novellas and 28 short stories in the series to date and I hope to review at least the other 2 novels. This is without a doubt the only review I have ever written that has the “F” word featured so prominently. :) Mind Fuck is available in paperback from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Casperian Books and The Book Depository.