The Eye of Minds
Random House, 2013
The Mortality Doctrine Series vol. 1
James Dashner offers a series opener with the same futuristic suspense and adventure as his widely popular Maze Runner series, but this time with an emphasis on computer coding. Teenager Michael lives with a housekeeper while his parents are away on an extended trip. He spends most of his time in the VirtNet; a simulated video game world. Micahel has two best friends, Bryson and Sarah, whom he has never met in real-life, only in the VirtNet. Micheal is approached by the VNS to use his coding skills to fight a destructive hacker named Kaine who is causing player's actual deaths. Kaine has developed a loophole in the VirtNet called "The Morality Doctrine" and it is here that Michael and his friends are sent to ferret him out. If Kaine remains unchecked it could lead to the worst cyber terrorism the world has ever seen. The three friends enter the VirtNet and begin a series of adventures, along the lines of mini-games, leading them further and further into the cyber world. After a particularly violent war game they find the portal that leads them to Kaine's secret domain. Coding skills, courage, and ingenuity allow the teens to conquer one challenge after another, as the stakes keep getting higher. First one friend and then another falls in the game, but Michael keeps going. Finally Michael encounters Kaine and a massive battle begins, ending in a very surprising fashion. Michael discovers secrets about his identity, world, and the VirtNet. The book ends with a big reveal and a cliff hanger, leading the reader to the next installment in the series: The Rule of Thoughts (released in 2014).
Dashner knows how to write for young teenage boys. His books are exciting, fast, imaginative and filled with plot twists. The Morality Doctrine series has even more appeal than his other books in that it deals with computer coding; which is very hot right now. All the young men I know are into coding and video games and consider themselves very adept at video technology (and compared to myself and most grown-ups, they are!). Dasher writes a cautionary tale featuring a future where video games become so advanced and encompassing that people spend all of their waking non-working hours in the cyber world. To enter this world a player lies in something similar to a tanning bed and is completely mentally taken away, able to feel, touch and taste everything cyberly. This sounds like a dream come true for most teenagers, but Dashner shows the reader the dangers of letting the cyber world overshadow reality. Kids who pick up this book will love it, careening quickly from start to finish. Each challenge Michael and his friends face is another game-like situation and they use coding and reason to move to the next challenge. Reluctant readers will find much to enjoy here. The length of the book is perfect, the chapters are short, and the print is a good size. Much of the characterization and plot lines read like a comic book, but that works for the theme of the story and the intended audience. I honestly didn't see the twist at the end coming and thought it was pretty clever. With the third title in the series coming out this month, there are places to go once readers complete this series opener. A sure hit with the intended audience.