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Quais du polar #3: Mindreader by Iain Levison

March 15, 2016 9 comments

Mindreader by Iain Levison (2015) French title: Ils savent tout de vous. Translated by Fanchita Gonzales Batlle.

Quais_polar_logoThis one was a total disappointment on two levels. The first one is on me. I’d already read A Working Stiff’s Manifesto by Iain Levison, a novel based on his experience as a poor worker in America and I heard his interview on France Inter about Mindreader whose French title is Ils savent tout de vous (They know everything about you) My previous read of a Levison book, his interview on France Inter and the French title of the novel led me into expecting a novel about internet and social media. Something in the line of Andrew Blackman’s Virtual Love. Had I known the English title, I wouldn’t have been surprised by the main idea of the book: what if the FBI had some chosen individuals operated to have them become mindreaders? What an asset they would be in international negotiations, in interrogations of terrorists, etc.

Levison_toutJared Snowe is one of them. He’s a deputy in the Kearns police force in Massachusetts and he start hearing the thoughts of other people. He’s just exploring his new power when agent Terry Dyers finds out that he’s “awaken”. She was operated too, but the other way round: her mind is unreadable to mindreaders. She protects the secrets of the program and she can meet with the mindreaders.

Now she has another mission to attend to. She needs to transfer Brooks Denny from a prison in Oklahoma to participate to negotiations at the UN building in New York. He’s also a mindreader. Problem is: Denny ended up in prison because he killed a policeman. He’s in the death row. Getting him out of here won’t be easy.

Terry and her boss Emmanuel puts things in motion though and everything goes according to plan until Denny’s ward gets nosy and goes through Terry’s things. He understands that Denny will be killed after his job, he’s happy that this cop killer will die. He thinks about it in Denny’s presence, Denny hears it and decides to take the French leave.

Who can go after a mindreader? Another mindreader. That’s where Snowe comes into the mix…

So we have two mindreaders on the loose and one FBI team who needs them back under their control but must keep things under wraps about their program. Who will win the chase?

Mindreading and the angst that go with it. No offense, Iain Levison, but Stephenie Meyer beat you to it in Twilight. Her vampire hears other people’s thoughts, except Bella’s and we know how crowded his head is from all the wandering thoughts around him.

Mindreader has nothing to do with social media and all the IT traces we leave in our everyday lives with our phones, computers, cars and so on. One evening, my work Iphone informed that if I left the office right now, it would take me 34min to get home. This is my work phone. I have no personal data in it. I guess it just tracked where I spend my days and where I spend my nights and assumed these locations where work and home. It kind of freaked me out. This topic is a tremendous playing field for dystopian fiction. (or not so dystopian, btw) Here, this path isn’t explored, except slightly through a member of the FBI team, Jerry, who has mad competences with internet tracking. It seems such a waste of good plot material and from what I heard of his interview, Iain Levison could do better on the political and social exploration of the theme. So it was a disappointment.

If it wasn’t meant to be that serious, then it didn’t go overboard enough. A few billets ago, I answered the questions of the Book FanCarroting Award and one of the questions was: Which book would you like to see re-written by your favorite writer? I have a new answer to this question now. I want Mindreader re-written by Duane Swierczynski. What a blast it would be.

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