Title: The Minders.
Writer(s): John Marrs.
Publisher: Berkley Books.
Release Date: February 16th, 2021.
Genre(s): Science-Fiction, Thriller.
My Overall Rating:
Sometimes you have to wonder how far you’d go to get the chance to reset your life, to have a brand-new beginning where your past has no incidence on who you are and who you become. In a world where tragedy strikes us off guard far too often and inevitably chains us to misery, it isn’t out of the ordinary to wish for a clean slate to start anew. But at what cost? With our identity at the mercy of this technological era, only drastic measures could create such a quixotic opportunity but maybe that’s all you need to approach life with brand new lenses. Writer John Marrs returns for a brand-new novel set within the same world as his previous hits, The One and The Passengers, to explore a near-future science-fiction thriller where secrets drown humanity and bring out the worse of us.
What is The Minders about? Following the deployment of a government initiative created to counter the ever-growing issue of cyberterrorism, five ordinary individuals have been selected to become “Minders”, people who go through an invasive yet revolutionary biochemical engineering procedure that allows the government to insert top-secret classified information into their genetic code through the head. On the promise to keep these secrets to themselves, from conspiracy theories to cover-ups, for five years, restrained in their interactions and habitual routines, they’ll only be rewarded with the means to a new life upon completing their contract. Unfortunately for the government, humans are flawed and they too have secrets of their own. After all, nothing is ever safe in the world.
“What would you say if we offered you the opportunity to start your life again?”— John Marrs
Alternating between five different characters (Emilia, Flick, Charlie, Sinéad, and Bruno) through short and snappy chapters, the story indulgently explores the lives of these individuals while laying out the plausible near-future setting. Although it allows the reader to better grasp the motives and drives of these characters set in a world not too unrelatable to ours, as you slowly peel away at their darkest secrets, the mundanity of their lives drags the narrative through more than the first half of the book. It is only when you finally see the effect of becoming a Minder on who these characters are and watch as they become targets, that the story picks up its pace and requires the reader to suspend his disbelief to revel in the author’s ideas. First-time readers of John Marrs’ books are bound to find his vision quite confusing at times, making you wonder within which framework he is building this world and this story.
Nevertheless, intriguing questions on nature versus nurture are seamlessly interspersed in the narrative, especially through the behaviours of certain characters, while other questions on faith and utopia are also tackled. While the focus isn’t necessarily on introspective reflections about life, the story at least tries to invite readers to ponder society’s progress and the societal risks related to our identity that we face in our daily lives. Unfortunately, there’s a certain absence of coherence in what goes on in this story that a not-too-versed reader of this universe will likely find unappealing, deterring them from fully appreciating its potential. Although the action picks up a bit too late in the story, it does allow it to remain thrilling and captivating to those who dare to be patient but ultimately suffers from its numerous characters and incongruous twists.
The Minders is an intriguing and oddly-paced near-future thriller following the lives of five strangers whose secrets will send them headfirst into danger.