Sometimes it seems to me that there is stagnation in the science fiction genre. It is precisely at such moments that something so interesting usually comes into my hands or before my eyes that makes me feel guilty for my disillusionment with the beloved genre as a whole, or its variations. This time, the ideological shock for me was the novel ‘Five Minds’ by English writer Guy Morpuss. All the details below.
Author: Guy Morpuss
Genre: Dystopia, Cyberpunk, Science Fiction, Detective, Thriller
Number of Pages: 328
Year of Publication: 2023
Size: 140×210 mm
Near future. Humanity understands that climate threats and overpopulation are very serious, so the population on the planet is strictly controlled. Until the age of 17, everyone lives freely, but at this age, each person must choose how and how long to live further. By choice, one can become a worker and live long enough, but without a fixed term. It is allowed to be a hedonist, live in luxury, but you have to die at 42. You can also transfer your mind to an android body and live for 80 years, or combine the five minds of people in one body. Such unions are called ‘schizies,’ and they are rare. In this case, the lifespan will be 142 years, and their body is refreshed every 25 years. However, each of the five personalities in the chosen body has only four hours a day.
The main characters of the book are precisely these schizies. They live in a trained body of Mike, who is obsessed with sports. In his head, there is also the rational Kate, the gamer Ben, the former fat and kind Alex, and the sociopathic, drug addict, and alcoholic Sierra. At the end of their first 25-year cycle, the heroes go to the Park of Death. Here people play for their life in virtual reality. One day, Kate agrees to a serious game where she can win 23 years. All this is too suspicious, but the price is very tempting. In the end, it turns out to be a trap, but the thief is not someone from the outside, but one of the five people. He tries to get rid of the rest and kill them all permanently. Who is this, and how to fight him if you live in one body?
If your brain turned upside down from the annotation, then welcome to the club. Guy Morpuss really twisted the established ideas of cyberpunk, dystopia, social and science fiction into something explosive and fresh. His initial concept is impressive, and most importantly, it works wonderfully within the story, making it interesting to read, and the pages turn one after another.
Of course, the easy presentation of the text also influenced this, and the story is told from the perspective of all five individuals in turn, so the plot is constantly tense. And because we have crimes and a killer, we have a classic unreliable narrator. This is already a norm in the detective genre and thrillers, but in this key and with a similar fantastic idea, everything works as it should.
The author managed to realistically depict five different characters living in one body. They are completely different, so they create a lot of problems. However, this was a conscious choice for each of them, so these people have to find compromises and get along.
I liked how the author neatly presents the exposition, gradually revealing the world he invented, its features, realities, and danger. However, I lacked the exposition itself because, although it is carefully woven into the plot and does not force the story to slow down, the world itself was not sufficiently disclosed for me. Reading a chapter with a description of everyday life or established rules, I had numerous questions that the author did not answer. Agree, this does not affect the story, but I lacked details.
The stumble about the story happens somewhere at the beginning of the last third of the novel. Guy Morpuss twists the story so much and turns it into a detective thriller that the incredible fantastic ideas I admired earlier take a back seat.
From the annotation, for me, it was primarily a fantastic story about a strange future with a sharp social aspect. Of course, there is a detective component, but I considered it secondary. However, the author probably emphasized it, and everything else was just a spectacular decoration for him. So in the finale, we have a banal confession of the killer, which, of course, will be revealed. And that’s it. No powerful conclusions, guidelines, etc.
Of course, it’s not necessary at all, but I’m sharing my own impressions and expectations. Therefore, for me, it was logical that the author would squeeze something more out of his incredible idea than a detective story about freedom. But we have what we have.
I will also note that I am far from alone in my feelings because I read many reviews of this book, and people often wrote about the same thing. That a super-powerful idea turns into a banal detective and nothing more.
But I must admit that this is one of the most interesting novels I read in 2023. Yes, it has problems, but this is more related to my expectations. And the author saw it this way and did everything to make his story interesting, ambiguous, fresh, and powerful. All of this is here. The book is quickly and pleasantly perceived; it is well done, beautifully translated, and professionally designed. They didn’t forget about the lacing either.
‘Five Minds’ by Guy Morpuss is an explosive mixture of cyberpunk, dystopia, social and science fiction, presented from an unusual angle and making you flip through the pages without stopping. The last third of the story is not as interesting and transforms into a banal detective with stale morality. However, this is not a reason to pass by this book for everyone who loves the genres mentioned above. The author managed to create an imperfect world of the future in which you believe and want to know more about it. And although this does not always work out, the book is definitely worth your time. It is one of the most interesting stories of 2023 for me, and I hope it will be for you too.”