It is the future. There is no war, no social unrest, no painful memories… and no freedom.
This debut novel by A.J Steiger thrusts the reader straight into action from word one. Mindwalker is set in a futuristic, utopian society where all traces of war, violence and crime have been eradicated by the totalitarian government. This is new America and the government, aided by the IFEN (Institute for Ethics in Neurotechnoloy), maintains peace and tranquillity by brain-wiping all disturbing experiences from people’s memories. This is the job of Lain, the youngest member of the Institute, and it is whilst attempting to wipe the memories of her troubled classmate, Steven, that she realises something is very, very wrong. As Steven discovers his mind has been altered, and the terrifying flashbacks to his past may not be entirely true, the pair set on a life-threatening adventure to unearth the truth.
This novel is incredibly thought-provoking and a brilliant choice for a Book Club or Read Along. There are so many plot points I want to discuss but, as everyone hates a spoiler, I will have to keep many of my thoughts to myself until I find a fellow Mindwalker fan to compare notes with. A.J Steiger explores the misunderstood, and often stigmatised, issue of mental health from an interesting, futuristic perspective. In a desperate bid to end social unrest, the government are categorising citizens according to their mental state. Anybody found classed as ‘unstable’ is fitted with a collar of which the government can use to control that person’s behaviour and actions. In addition to this, through propaganda, the person is persuaded to purchase a legal suicide pill to end their life and help make society more peaceful.
‘Eugenics is a word we’ve been trained to loathe, but this isn’t about wiping out a particular race or ethnicity. What is so evil about wanting to reduce the frequency of mental illness in the population? It’s a well-known truth that Type is influenced by genetics. We aren’t harming anyone – we’re giving people the option to end their own suffering. It’s a fortunate side effect that fewer mentally sick people are born as a result. If that can produce a better, more peaceful world for everyone, how is that a bad thing?’
This dystopian tale is a terrifying view into a not so distant future and it certainly left my mind whirring. Through it’s exploration of surveillance societies, genetics and mental illness, this 5 star debut hints at a future not too far removed from our present time. A. J Steiger has created an entirely believable dystopian world full of wonderful technological advances, some of which I wish existed today (because who wouldn’t want a touch-screen table top that opened in the centre to reveal your chosen food.)
Certainly aimed towards older readers, this YA debut is gripping, intelligent and a must read for all fans of dystopian fiction.
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