Travel Documents 49: Mindsight

Mindsight

Dean Kenyon
Genre: neo-noir, biopunk, dystopian, mystery

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The Dust Cover Copy

No idea is so good it can’t go bad.

Frank Mallory is a private detective working for a new type of national detective agency: a well-organized one. Private Eyes, Inc., has the latest in data analysis, training techniques, cross-discipline integration, illicit back-door deals, and cynical programmers who don’t care what they have to do as long as they don’t lose their benefits while doing it. PEI has it all covered.

The right mix of idealism and plausible deniability can work wonders.

But that doesn’t mean that Frank’s in the clear when he starts work on a case involving the new designer drug Mindsight. Mindsight is a miracle drug. It won’t give you telepathy, but it comes close, triggering a wave of pure empathy that helps treat everything from domestic violence to schizophrenia.

The problem is, if you take too much of it, you’ll understand someone else’s point of view…all the way to death.

Of course a serial killer starts butchering Mindsight addicts. As if nobody could see that coming. All he has to do is ask nicely. And maybe offer a little something the victim can’t refuse.

The real twist is when a Mindsight addict fights back…and takes down a cop, saying that he admitted to being the serial killer before he died.

Frank’s hired to find solid, incontestable proof that the man, someone he used to work with, is actually the murderer, so a rich man’s daughter, the purported victim, can walk free.

Seems straightforward, right?

Right.

The Deets

The Scene

Worldbuilding

With the flavor of a gritty noir novella drawing you in, this world is built in the best alt-earth style; just close enough to our own experience that we instinctively empathize with it, just far enough away to make us step back and question everything we unconsciously believe: that we have autonomy. That ethics are carefully inculcated and immutable in normal human beings. That terror doesn’t happen in real life. That having your dreams come true would be a good thing. And that empathy and self-sacrifice are virtues.

All these assumptions are explored on rain-soaked streets and through the work of one tired, clever gumshoe who’s going to learn more about himself than he ever wanted to know.

The Crowd

Characterization

We see this story through the eyes and the mind of Frank Mallory, and that’s a stroke of genius. Watching this reasonable, if hardbitten, man explore the issues of empathy taken too far and humanity’s needs through his own eyes makes it chillingly clear that we are more malleable than we’d often like. And as drugs, bad choices, and strange things start to creep into events, we watch how good an idea something can seem at the time, if you’ve been pushed far enough and your mind has been given the right stimuli. It’s grippingly and disturbingly believable, enough to send a nervous little shiver of fascination and revulsion up your spine. The idea of losing control of our minds or our lives is something we all fear on some level, and it’s powerfully explored in this work.

The Lingo

Writing Style

Following the mixed traditions of cyberpunk and noir writing, this book is written in a clear-eyed, fast moving style, personal asides from the access character acting as grace notes in the snaky blues beat. It’s good story with a solid rhythm to it, moving just as it should for the genre.

 

Overall Rating

This is a great new entry to the neo-noir genre, well worth a read.