Mind Games: Major points for originality

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsurban fantasy book reviews Carolyn Crane The Disillusionist 1. Mind GamesMind Games by Carolyn Crane

Justine Jones is a hypochondriac whose mental health is quickly spiraling downward. She’s convinced she has vein star syndrome, the condition that killed her mother. Then she meets the mysterious Packard, who recruits her into his team of Disillusionists. Disillusionists are essentially psychic vigilantes, attacking criminals by zapping their own psychological problems into the bad guy’s energy field. When the criminal has been reduced to a gibbering mass of anxiety, so Packard’s theory goes, he or she can start building a new life as a better person.

Mind Games is set in a fictional city where “highcaps” (high-capacity humans) exist alongside regular humans. A few holdouts don’t believe in the highcaps’ superpowers, but most people do. These powers make it difficult for highcap criminals to be caught and incarcerated, a problem that comes up several times in the story.

Carolyn Crane gets major points for originality. The metaphysics of Disillusionment is amazingly inventive, and Justine makes a unique heroine in that her powers are psychological rather than physical or witchy. The plot is original, too; you think you know how it’s going to go, but that’s not what happens. The way the climax and ending unfold is delightfully unpredictable.

The beginning is rockier than the end. There’s some “telling” where one might expect “showing” — for example, there are conversations that are mentioned after the fact when they’d be more effective onstage — and some scenes that don’t seem to advance the plot much.

Additionally, Justine can be annoying. This is partly because her hypochondria is so severe that she can’t distance herself at all during an attack. Instead of thinking “I wonder if this is another attack,” she always thinks she is actually dying at that very moment and narrates these scenes accordingly. While this can be exhausting, though, it also inspires sympathy. The larger problem is her extreme wishy-washiness about the men in her life.

I’ll definitely look into the second book, Double Cross, however. Crane has set up a creative world with paranormal phenomena that aren’t at all like the well-worn ones you’re used to. You’ll probably enjoy it if you’re a fan of Stacia Kane or Laura Bickle; to me, the “feel” is similar to the books of those two authors. Just don’t read Mind Games if you have even the slightest nagging trace of a headache — you might just become convinced you have vein star too.

The Disillusionists — (2010-2014) Publisher: JUSTINE KNOWS SHE’S GOING TO DIE. ANY SECOND NOW. Justine Jones has a secret. A hardcore hypochondriac, she’s convinced a blood vessel is about to burst in her brain. Then, out of the blue, a startlingly handsome man named Packard peers into Justine’s soul and invites her to join his private crime-fighting team. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime deal. With a little of Packard’s hands-on training, Justine can weaponize her neurosis, turning it outward on Midcity’s worst criminals, and finally get the freedom from fear she’s always craved. End of problem. Or is it? In Midcity, a dashing police chief is fighting a unique breed of outlaw with more than human powers. And while Justine’s first missions, including one against a nymphomaniac husband-killer, are thrilling successes, there is more to Packard than meets the eye. Soon, while battling her attraction to two very different men, Justine is plunging deeper into a world of wizardry, eroticism, and cosmic secrets. With Packard’s help, Justine has freed herself from her madness — only to discover a reality more frightening than anyone’s worst fears.

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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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