Friday, October 09, 2015

Readers Digest

In some random digging for books (assisted by, I found my way to one called The Thought Readers. It's the first of a series called Mind Dimensions. (Four volumes long? Open-ended? At this point, I'm not sure.)

The book's protagonist is 21-year-old Darren, an analyst at a hedge fund with a mental ability that gives him a huge edge: he's able to stop time. By slipping into a frozen parallel reality he calls "the Quiet," he's able to snoop around and gather information. The book kicks off with his surprising discovery of another person who shares the same ability -- and soon leads to the realization that he's barely scratched the surface of his full powers.

Author Dima Zales is quite good at some things and not so good at others. Plotting is one of his strengths. Though there's a familiarity to the "stepping into a larger world" aspect of the story (Dune, Star Wars, any of the stories those were actually inspired by, take your pick), there's something intriguing about the way he's put it together. It's part superhero, part spy thriller, and yet also doesn't seem too untethered from the real world. (Not completely, anyway.)

Zales is also fairly good with first-person narrative. The book is written entirely from Darren's POV, and while you can sense a "fantasy fulfillment" aspect to what unfolds, you can simultaneously get wrapped up in that fantasy as a reader. It's just kinda cool.

But detail isn't really one of Zales' strengths. He tends to rely on the same small pool of adjectives to describe things, particularly people. (Though you could argue that's being true to the POV of a 21-year-old male.) And he's not too good with exposition either. In any narrative where the protagonist "discovers a larger world," you inevitably must explain the rules of that world to the character (and the audience). Zales does so in awkward info dumps. Whether sensing this flaw in his own writing, or simply holding onto details for later plot revelations, he does tend to avoid doing this for too long at a stretch. Nevertheless, it's always a slow moment in the book when he does it.

Still, there's something fun and breezily readable about the book. That's augmented by the fact that it's quite short (I'd call it more novella than novel), and that it ends in a place that springboards you into wanting the next book. Since all of this series is quite inexpensive in e-book form, I'm likely to let myself be caught up in them. I give The Thought Readers a B.

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