by John Marrs
Published February 16, 2021
Rating: 3 Stars ⭐⭐⭐
Genre: Thriller, Sci-Fi
Set in a future world, the UK’s cyber security is compromised and there seems to be no traditional safe way to keep it from the Hacking Collective. If breached, not only will the country’s secrets be exposed, but thousands if not millions of lives will be lost in terrorist attacks and as a result of the ensuing anarchy. Desperate and terrified to fail her country, the British Prime Minister reluctantly agrees to a radical new approach to keep the data safe – storing it in the bodies and minds of its own citizens.
Several ‘Minders’ are chosen based on a particular skill set they show after completing an online quiz and then undergoing several more extensive tests. The Minders are otherwise ordinary citizens and are completely unknown to anyone except the leader of the Minders. We follow five characters- Flick, Sinead, Charlie, Bruno, and Emilia – as they navigate their new worlds and new identities while possessing the country’s darkest and most private secrets.
Much of the novel is a character study of how the implantation of the data changes the individuals – Charlie has lost all feeling, physical, emotional or otherwise, and pushes himself farther and farther in an attempt to gain back what he feels he lost; Bruno has turned into a merciless killer seeking revenge for the wrongs he suffered during his “previous” life; Flick has finally been given a second chance, able to move on from the stigma of her serial killer Match; and Sinead has escaped the emotional abuse of her husband and finds herself happy and independent for the first time she can remember.
It took a bit to get used to each character as the chapters are very short and we alternate from character to character. Marrs was good about dropping subtle clues to remind the reader who each character was and they became more distinct to me over time. Having so many characters made it hard to put the book down as many chapters were left with cliffhangers and left us cycling through all the other individuals before returning to that piece of the storyline. However, there were also some drawbacks to having so many lead characters. I often found myself forgetting how a particular cliff hanger wrapped up or where in a plot line we left off with a particular character. It also made it difficult to form strong connections to any particular individual and I found myself more drawn to some storylines than others.
I loved that the novel picked up on themes from Marrs’ other work – The One and The Passengers – though this isn’t a series and you don’t need to read those others to understand what’s going on. However, if you’ve read either of those novels and loved them, you will absolutely love this book too as it’s written in a very similar style.
Thank you to Berkley and NetGalley for a copy of this novel.