Mind Games is a fast paced, mind bending debut set in a future where all our memories are stored via programs in our brains. Think a YA mashup of Inception and Memento.
Rating: 2.5 Stars
This ARC was sent to me by the publisher via Storygram Tours. The decision to review the ARC was completely my own and this review is in no way influenced by outside sources.
Author: Shana Silver
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: August 27, 2019
Synopsis: Arden sells memories. Whether it’s the becoming homecoming queen or studying for that all important test, Arden can hack into a classmate’s memories and upload the experience for you just as if you’d lived it yourself. Business is great, right up until the day Arden whites out, losing 15 minutes of her life and all her memories of the hot boy across the school yard. The hot boy her friends assure her she’s had a crush on for years.
Arden realizes that her own memories have been hacked, but they haven’t just been stolen and shared… they’ve been deleted. And she’s not the only one, the hot stranger, Sebastian, has lost ALL of his memories. But how can they find someone with the power to make them forget everything they’ve learned?
Mind Games is the debut novel from Shana Silver that explores a world where our memories are nothing but 1s and 0s in a program and how dangerous that can become. The story focuses on Arden, a genius computer programmer/hacker who has a side business of selling other people’s memories, and Sebastian, the boy she can’t remember but whose life is inextricably tied to hers. Both Arden and Sebastian realize that their memories are being deleted, but they have no idea why or who is behind it.
In the world of Mind Games, Arden’s father created a program called HiveMind, which is being beta tested at Arden’s school, which is a basically a school of genius STEM teens. Memories are somehow stored in the HiveMind program and backed up in the program’s servers. For most of the computer science explanations, I really had to take the word of the author that any of what was going on was plausible. This novel just skates the line of being too complex for those who aren’t computer geniuses themselves. I really tried not to hold my lack of in-depth programming knowledge against the book, but it was really hard to not just skip over some of the explanations since none of it made any sense to me anyways.
I was really intrigued by the memory loss aspect of this story because I love plots that focus on memory, but I never felt like the characters really took what was happening that seriously. Arden is missing huge swaths of memories, but she stops to talk to her BFF about a boy she has a crush on? Arden and Sebastian would figure out something and then they’d decide to discuss it later that day after they both go home for a while…like, why? Discuss it NOW! Your memories are being erased, maybe decide to skip family dinner or whatever it is they are supposed to be doing after school. By the time the stakes seemed to finally mean something to everyone, the book was nearly over. I found myself being annoyed by certain character reactions of what was going on, and while eventually it is explained why they are reacting the way they are, I spent most of the novel being kind of annoyed.
The world building and characterization needed some fleshing out as well. The only thing I can tell you about Arden is she is into computers and wears stilettos. I got no sense of who she really was. As for the world, it’s in the future, but also the only time characters are using money is by cash. I haven’t seen this much cash use since the early 90s. That just really bothered me, because I feel like at the point in the future this seems to be set in, cash would be obsolete. I never got a good grasp on the school set up and it felt like the only time we were given any insight is when it served the plot. Also, there is basically zero building of the world outside the school. I’m kind of a stickler when it comes to world building so this bothered me as well.
I will say that the mystery of the story kept me hooked and I did not see all the plot twists coming. I liked where the twists ended up going and how the story ended. If this book had been fleshed out with maybe 20 more pages to give the world and characters some depth, this could have been a higher rating. All that said, I did enjoy the read for the most part and I think that as the author grows more into their writing, we will come to read great sci-fi novels from them.
Mind Games releases on August 27, 2019, and pre-order links cane be found at the publisher’s website.