Thursday, May 26, 2016

Page of Enlightenment

When I finished reading The Enlightened, the third book of Dima Zales' Mind Dimensions series, I felt I may have just experienced the epitome of a guilty pleasure. The book was bad on a lot of levels, but I'd still enjoyed the ride and was seriously considering the next volume.

I've written here before about books one and two, The Thought Readers and The Thought Pushers. They center on Darren, a young man with the ability to stop time by retreating into a mental state he calls "the Quiet." Over the course of the first two books, he learns that this ability is just the first step to unlocking even more mental powers. Book three finds one of Darren's mothers in an assassin's crosshairs, and he himself the target of a powerful group with mental abilities of their own -- a group that seeks to use Darren for their own purposes.

So here's the guilty part of these books: this is some serious Mary Sue fiction (albeit with a male protagonist). The main character of Darren is the writer's proxy, and he leads a perfectly charmed life. He has money, loving parents, a hot girlfriend, and psychic powers. And in a world that he learns is actually brimming with people who have similar powers, his are just better -- he's far stronger and can last longer. (Giggity.) In each of the three books, when events seem to be going against him, he resolves his problems by unlocking another powerful ability he didn't know he had, and kicking psychic ass.

And yet... there is some ineffable quality here that makes this lack of any real suspense or obstacle a bit of a page turner. It helps that the books are all very short. Plus, of course, sometimes you just get a thrill from an invincible hero. Comic book movies (or even comic books themselves) wouldn't be such a big thing if that weren't true. Actually, this is exactly the same thing: Darren has what boil down to superpowers.

Now, the good comic books (and comic book movies) aren't content with simple escapism and wish fulfillment, and set out to tell a deeper story. The Mind Dimensions series is certainly not that. Yet the books do manage to be fun in the end. I certainly hope the next book I read does a bit more to make me think. But after that, I'll probably pick up Mind Dimensions book four. As for this installment, The Enlightened -- I give it a B-.

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