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The Eye of Minds (Mortality Doctrine, Book One) (The Mortality Doctrine)
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 3, 2013
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
When I read THE MAZE RUNNER, I was pulled in from the very first page, and couldn't put the book down. So, I eagerly picked up THE EYE OF MINDS, hoping for - and expecting - the same result. Did that happen? Not so much.

I'll start by saying that, even with the above in mind, this is not a bad book, and in all fairness, I had let my expectations rise a bit too high. As other reviews have mentioned, it does have some shades of READY PLAYER ONE (an excellent book), in terms of the gamer culture, references to the various games being played, the point of playing them, and all the wonders of the virtual reality in which all if it takes place. Just as is the case with the aforementioned book, one does not have to be a gamer to understand and/or enjoy the plot, the characters, or the book, as a whole. The amount of exposition given is enough to explain all of those things and give readers an understanding of the world-building, while not straying too heavily into boring recitations of information that would make one's eyes glaze over and seek to skip any number of pages devoted to nothing but rote explanations.

All of that was fine. My problems with the book started with the pacing. Initially, even though the story doesn't get bogged down in unnecessary details, it does take awhile for the action to really get going, so my interest was not captured right off the bat with this one. That may sound odd, given what transpires when the book begins, but after that first situation is resolved after a handful of pages, nothing much happens until Michael is given his mission (which is mentioned in the book's summary). After that comes the preparation for the mission, and it is only after Michael and his friends begin that particular journey that things really take off. From that point on, the suspense grabs you and doesn't let go until you turn the final page - it just takes a little while to get there. (Pacing is also something of an issue at the end, though, as the climactic event(s) for which readers have been waiting since the first page just sort of happen and then they're done. For now. It seems like a lot of build-up for not too much pay-off. I suspect that that's largely because this is just the first installment in the trilogy, though, so it's not a huge problem.)

Then, there is some of the dialogue. Though this tapers off as the book progresses, when everything begins, a fair amount of what is said is just so stilted and unnaturally phrased that it doesn't resemble actual conversations, and serves to take the reader out of the story a bit. Things do get better in that regard, but when the conversations begin in earnest between Michael and his friends, another issue - albeit a small one - rears its head. Yes, they are teenagers, and yes, they are prone to sarcasm. However, when they start to take the time to get snarky and quippy when time is of the essence and their lives are in danger, well, it got a little irritating.

In terms of Michael and his friends, Bryson and Sarah, they are not only typical teenagers, they are typical teenagers in a young adult novel. By that, I mean that each fills a relatively stereotypical role, and that's about it. Bryson is the fun and funny best guy-friend who comes through when he's needed, and Sarah is the smart, responsible girl who keeps the boys in line, and whose existence is necessary for the requisite hint of romance. Michael, the main character, is exactly what you would expect him to be: a very good gamer/hacker, alternately scared and incredibly brave, who is tasked with a giant responsibility. And is always hungry. It is easy to root for all of the characters, even though there is not a huge amount of character development - the roles they play/fill at the beginning are basically the same ones they play/fill at the end, with one notable exception. The government agents are clichés who play small roles, and the people/gamers he meets along the way are basically more of the same. As for the villain of the piece, well, he's somewhat cartoony; an evil genius, sure, but cartoony. Again, I expect that we'll learn more about him in subsequent installments.
As for the twist that other reviewers have mentioned: it is a good twist, I'll give it that. It's not a totally unpredictable one, because clues are given throughout the story, but it does set things up nicely for the sequel(s).

The bottom line, for me, is that this one isn't as good as James Dashner's first book, and it does have some flaws, but once it really gets going, it's imaginative and suspenseful, and it really does make you wish that it was Fall 2014 so that you could pick up the next book.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on November 2, 2013
The Eye of Minds is an action-packed and edgy cyber adventure with plot that revolves around the concept of virtual reality, otherwise known as VirtNet. Sporting an intriguing, futuristic premise and highly imaginative vision, this book is a treat for all fans of science fiction thrillers. Suspenseful and twisty, The Eye of Minds blurs the line between what's real and what's not, making the reader question everything that transpires within the pages. It's a great mind-bender written in signature Dashner style - gripping, intense and stimulating.

Michael, the lead character, is a gamer addicted to Lifeblood Deep. Lifeblood is a game mimicking real life - realistic and gritty. And it's the most popular game in VirtNet. And what is VirtNet, you may ask? Why, VirtNet is a cool concept in itself! It's a vast cyber world, with games and hangouts for gamers of all ages. In VirtNet, you can experience just about anything you wish to - from physical pleasure to pain - and it's a whole body, full-stimulation experience. You can eat, but you'll never get fat in the real world because the Coffin (which is what most people call the NerveBox that allows them to connect to virtual reality) feeds you pure, healthy nutrients, even if you think you're eating some high calorie junk food. You can cut your hair, take a shower, even pee if you want to, and the Coffin will provide your brain and body with stimulants that will make the experience feel real. It's all extremely cool and entertaining, until someone decides to turn it into a nightmare. A cyber-terrorist named Kaine is somehow trapping people inside the Sleep, not letting them wake up. And not being able to get back to their real lives, some of them end up killing themselves. And not just in the virtual reality, but in the Wake, too.

While playing Lifeblood Deep, Micheal witnesses a girl dig into her own skull and pull her Core out and then jump off the bridge (the Core being a piece of code preventing you from getting hurt/killed in the real world, even if something happens to your virtual self). He then gets kidnapped by masked men who, as he later finds out, work for VNS (VirtNet Security). Turns out, the government need his experience and hacking skills to find Kaine. His friends from the virtual world, Bryson and Sarah, agree to join him on his new quest to find the cyber terrorist (a quest that he is practically forced into), despite it being extremely dangerous and potentially deadly. To find Kaine, they'll have to go through a lot, including finding the path to the Hallowed Ravine first, and by the time they reach their destination, they'll be regretting ever getting involved in this case at all.

This book will appeal to fans of science fiction interested in virtual reality, gaming and innovative technologies. Especially to teenage boys. The action packed plot is full of surprises and changes in scenery, making this a hold-on-tight-to-your-pants kind of read. The virtual world of VirtNet is well developed and described in a way that makes you wonder what it would be like to visit there one day and experience it all for yourself, but it also has a darker, more sinister side to it. And that's what makes this book so thrilling.

The character development is on a decent level, though I personally didn't feel any deeper connection with any of the lead characters, perhaps because they seemed so young and different from the kids I grew up around. And, of course, it's totally understandable, considering the futuristic setting of this book and how incredibly technologically advanced their world is. That being said, I think teenage readers would not have any problem relating to the characters at all. I guess I'm just a bit too old for that ;)

Overall, this book reminded me a lot of the movie The Matrix, and it's really no wonder, since Dashner himself admits it was one of his inspirations. The mystery behind Kaine's persona plays a big part in this book; discovering his motives is what keeps you turning the pages. And they're plenty of surprises along the way. Ultimately, The Eye of Minds is a promising beginning to a new, exciting series. It's not a perfect story, it has its shortcomings, but they're small enough to be easily overlooked, and Dashner's highly captivating writing style makes up for all of them.
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24 of 31 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 1, 2013
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This was not a book I took to immediately. For a good chunk of the first section of the book, I was not immersed in the story for a variety of reasons. As interesting as the concept was, I didn't think it was executed all that well for a good stretch. Some spoilers to follow.

The writing for a good portion of the beginning part of the book is not very good. The dialogue often felt stilted and unnatural. I also thought some sections were not just superfluous, but boring. There's too much mundane activity going on, things that don't have any real reason to be in the text.

Hand in hand with this, I didn't find the characters particularly compelling, and some of them just felt silly. The descriptions of them are laden with heavy details that serve as flags to let the reader know at an instant what sort of character they're dealing with. Agent Weber in particular struck me as ridiculous, and the description of her is so heavy with cliche that it almost dripped right off her.

After a while, though, both Michael and Sarah began to grow on me, and their strongest moments took place when I saw what they were doing instead of listening to them talk or explain themselves. I still take some issue with Michael, though, as there is heavy implication of how special he is, yet at no point did I feel like there was anything overly extraordinary about him. If he's so special, show me him being special, don't keep insisting that he is without providing any evidence to back the claim up.

Setting was also disappointingly weak for a good chunk of this novel. I loved The Maze Runner because the setting was so well imagined. This book seems like an even better setup for a fantastic setting, but it's not until Michael and his friends start their active pursuit of Kaine that things get interesting. I'm an avid gamer and was looking for a book that reminded me of all the reasons why that augmented reality is so appealing, but I very much failed to understand the appeal of Lifeblood. Fortunately, things took a turn for the better when the book provided a pretty fascinating and disturbing glimpse into the human mind when the teens sneak into a war game that turns out to be even more sinister than its setup implies. I also enjoyed the twisted nature of the Path, which gets weirder and seemingly more random the deeper Michael goes.

Pacing also improves at this point. There's are so many things of a mundane nature going on at the beginning of the book that reading through them was a slog. Once Michael was really on Kaine's trail, though, things got considerably more lively. Really, this is where I think Dashner fares the best. His action scenes zip right along with just enough detail--I could picture what was happening but didn't feel like I was reading a manual.

The big reveal wasn't a total shock for me, but I did like the ending. There was something sort of sinister about it, and by that point the book had sucked me in enough that I'd be interested in reading the second installment. Yet that makes me wonder about this book, and about YA lit in general. Everything has become a series, which doesn't necessarily translate into a bigger and better plot. Instead, books like this one seem like an overly elaborate setup for the actual plot, which is likely why I wasn't engaged until I was around halfway through the book. The old adage that "less is more" holds a lot more truth than publishers seem to realize, and this series in particular would have benefited from trimming much of the fat and preserving the meat.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 17, 2013
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
James Dashner has really awesome plot ideas. The Maze Runner Trilogy worked mostly because of the constant state of confusion that Dashner left his readers in. As a reader, the only way to get answers was to keep reading. Also, for the most part, you really hurt for the boys and girls who were parentless and really only seeking a home, fighting for a home to go back to.

Dashner keeps with that trend in The Eye of Minds. Michael, a young hacker who is always without parents and left with the housekeeper Helga, has two friends and VirtNet only to make life bearable. So when the "fake" world of VirtNet becomes a nightmare, he really has no understanding of the real world or any connection to it even though his two friends, Bryson and Sarah keep saying they'll one day meet up in the real world.

Unfortunately, these three [Michael, Sarah and Bryson] have become too well known in VirtNet and the government recruits them. Like all conspiracy films and books, the recruitment involves threats and mysterious directives that these three teens have no idea what they mean exactly. So their quest is a wildly speculative hide & seek with the bad guy, Kaine, who menaces them through other players in VirtNet but never really shows up otherwise.

As these three teens stumble their way through code and death that isn't real, their reality becomes less real than the fake world they're navigating. And these worlds they're trying to get past are not real in VirtNet, but when you fail, you die in VirtNet only to wake up in your coffin. So back in the real world, in your coffin (the name of the pods that you lay in to access VirtNet) you can either get out and go do something in the real world or after 30 minutes reconnect yourself to the system and come back in VirtNet. They feel they have no choice but to continue on because of the government's threats but also, because something happens to Michael in one of their quests and now he has voices in his head, as if some of his brain has been sucked out.

And that is the worst threat going on to gamers all over VirtNet. Kaine is sending people back to their coffins brain dead and no one understands how he is doing it.

Yet again, though, I feel Dashner creates these characters and purposely leaves us in the dark because it helps him keep the secrets of the plot. The thing is, I have the hardest time connecting to his characters because of it. I don't feel for them as much as I could, not even as much as I do for Maximum Ride and those kiddos from James Patterson's books, even though the writing style is extremely similar. And I am not a big fan of the short chapters, quick dialogue, and little detailing of the environment around you.

Also, if you are going to write this way, the pace has to be quick, witty and for the most part engaging. Dashner much like Patterson lacks the ability to maintain this pacing throughout the book. The reader is forced to stumble along the story whenever Dashner cannot write at the quickness his story demands. And the expectations to suspend disbelief sort of go beyond what I could do even with the setting being something quite possible that we will have in the future.

Overall, this story has a catchy idea but the execution of it requires a more polished author. I understand this new way of writing is popular, especially among authors for the middle school aged students, but there's a fine line between aged down and boring. This book sadly for me falls into the not so engaging category.

Dashner again uses all the tricks in his bag for The Eye of Minds and still after getting his number in the Maze Runner trilogy, it will not be hard for readers to figure their way through this supposed mind trip. I was not surprised at all by the ending, and was a little irritated with how easy and telling the SPOILER was throughout the book. Sorry... my major complaint is a spoiler.

Some days, I bemoan the lack of writerly writers in the middle school genre, but then again, there are plenty of authors who are doing it right; they just are not as popular. So does that mean, I am not in the know with this age group? Would they prefer their books just like this one? Somehow I feel the entire industry and readers are missing out though. This book was such a disappointment to me and whenever that happens, I do take it personally.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 24, 2013
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I found this to be a fun read, set in a world where if you have the right amount of money you can experience anything in virtual reality. While not a reality in our world today, I believe it isn't too farfetched and will be a reality before too much longer. I think that is what initially drew me to read the book in the first place. I found it to be well written and it grabbed me from the very start. Any hard core gamer that enjoys reading would love this book! I highly recommend it.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Having gotten acquainted with Mr. Dashner's writing style throughout the Maze Runner saga, I feel confident in saying that this new foray into techno-fantasy is a solid effort and really on par with what seems to be the maturation of a gifted writer. Keeping in mind that the intended audience is young adults, I find the concepts explored to be very mature, such as the fears of a technological takeover, pros and cons of artificial intelligence, and even deeper still, the qualities that make us human.

Is it our ability to make friends and form bonds? Is it honor, integrity, courage, morality, understanding right and wrong, and the ability to make decisions regarding our own actions and beliefs? Maybe it's the ability to love, to understand our own strengths and weaknesses, to feel pain and joy. If any of these are even remotely accurate descriptions of what it means to be human, then Mr. Dashner will cause many to rethink those ideals. That's the true success of this story and one that was certainly not lost on me.

I enjoyed the story very much and will definitely be picking up the sequel.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2013
The Maze Runner hooked me in from the very first chapter, and The Eye of Minds had me hooked as well. James Dashner's newest book has an interesting sci-fi spin on your typical dysropian that really sucked me in. In Eye of Minds, Michael seems to spend every spare minute in the Virtnet hoping to get into the next level of the game when things get disturbingly bad for him on the Golden Gate Bridge. Michael realizes that something else might be going on in Virtnet, which is all but confirmed when he's wrangled into a government agency who needs his hacking skills to solve a problem.

I had a couple of issues with this in that I wasn't able to suspend my disbelief fully to believe that a government agency would find that the best hackers is a set of three teenagers. I can only imagine that in the future the youth will become even more technologically advanced, but I can't think they would be the go to people for something as important as this.

The world's that Dashner creates inside the Virtnet reminded me a bit of the virtual worlds in Veronica Rossi's Under the Never Sky and I loved them just as much in The Eye of Minds. I really like getting to escape into an idea of something like this, and always wonder if we had technology like this in the real world, would I choose to use it?

Somewhere along the way, and I'm having a difficult time pinpointing what happened when, but somehow I really began to lose interest in what was happening. By the time I reached the end of the book, I felt a bit disappointed and let down. Dashner's writing really shines though and the worlds he creates are fantastically written. A sequel is scheduled to be released in 2014.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 28, 2014
I read all of the maze runner series and enjoyed them. This book starts off with a great idea, but the characters don't get fleshed out or developed at all. They all seem one-dimensional. The plot doesn't seem realistic. The government sometime in the future is recruiting kids to track down a dangerous criminal and threatening them if they won't help? The kids are 'great at coding' according to their own words, but we really don't see it anywhere. Terribly frightening and experienced coders are killed off while the kids somehow miraculously think of a way to kill the "killsims." I can suspend my reality if its worth it, but a quarter of the way through and I'm waiting for it to get interesting. Not the professional thought out writing I was looking forward to. Bummer.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 9, 2013
So something that you may not know about me is that I used to be a little bit of a gamer. Now when most people say that, they usually are underestimating themselves. But I really wasn't much of a gamer. In fact, I enjoyed watching people play video games almost as much as I liked playing them. Unless it was an RPG (role playing game) I was pretty much dismal. But even if I wasn't a top gamer, I still enjoyed playing. And I think every gamer has wondered what it would be like to live in a video game. Well The Eye of Minds shows us a world where people can spend more time in the video game world, than in the real world.

Two things that really stuck out for me when I picked up this book were the title and the cover. I seriously love this cover. It is absolutely gorgeous. It's really shiny and shiny things distract me. The landscape of it is just so pretty, that you almost don't even notice the boy standing on the side. I just love it. And as for the title, it's very deep. It made me think about how much your sight and mind are linked with one another. I'd love to ask James Dashner how he came up with the title.

The Eye of Minds starts us off with a teen gamer/hacker named Michael. In the very first scene he is in the video game world VirtNet trying to complete a mission, when he encounters a girl who is about to commit suicide. If you die in the VirtNet, you just go back into the "Wake" aka the real world. But after telling Michael some disturbing things about the VirtNet, and mentioning a mysterious person named Kaine, Tanya rips out her Core. Doing this, means that not only would should die in the VirtNet, but she would die in the real world as well. Tanya jumps off the cliff, killing herself and our story begins.

I personally love a book that starts off with such a high paced opener. This book sucked me in from the very first chapter. I liked getting to know Michael and his friends Bryson and Sarah. They have a very interesting relationship because none of them have met in real life. They only play games together. It reminded me of the early days of instant messager, when chatting online you you didn't always see what a person looked like. Nowadays with social media, that's almost unheard of because your photo is usually in your profile picture. I love how these characters interact with one another. I feel like the characters are teens. They act like teens. Sometimes I don't get that in YA books. The characters can feel old, and their language outdated.

It does take awhile before you actually get to the characters playing a game. I was impatiently waiting for it while reading. It actually ended up being a lot different than I expected, but I still enjoyed it. It was a nice flashback to 2d old school Nintendo games. Where you had to search for things. I felt like I was playing Zelda again when he was looking through the trenches. Wandering aimlessly until you find what you're looking for. Then dying a few times before you figure out what to do.

Visually I could picture the VirtNet that James Dashner created. The way he explained the scenery was pretty much on point. My one complaint was that the middle dragged a little bit, but it picked right back up again towards the end. And I absolutely loved the ending of this book. It has a twist that I actually didn't see coming, even though there were clues thrown in. I would recommend this book to the younger young adult readers, especially middle school kids. It's books like these that can actually make someone put the video game controller down and crack open a book!

Reviewed by Sana @ Step Into Fiction
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2014
Everytime I pick up the latest best-seller I'm often confounded how these people got published. I'm of the 'Just-don't-get-Twilight' type and unfortunately see through predictable plots, weak characters, tired dialogue and fall out of story when the writer has jilty style or writes out of character of which this book has in spades. IT DOES have a catchy idea if you don't mind the many steals from the Matrix, Tron and Inception movies. Hey, I loved those, so I thought I'd give this a try and see if it delivered. Weak writing kept throwing me out of story, and I continued to wonder if anybody edits these bestsellers or if they go to print right after the author's speedy 1st draft. I'm begining to think they do! I still love the idea of this book, I just wish the author had loved it as much also to spend the time developing it, like it deserves!
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