By M.K. Kirti. Grade: A
The synopsis has a filtering tendency – it will either pique your curiosity enough to make you read the novel or hold a “goodbye/visit again” sign. For me, it was the former. So, with the book in my hand, hope in my heart and curiosity in my mind, I began reading Engines of the Mind.
The year is 2016, a period of intense global recession. Glomind Corp, the market leader in providing cutting-edge medical technology solutions for mental disorders has recently shut down its R&D operations. The clinical arm of Glomind opens a treatment centre in Mumbai, and soon thereafter, a celebrated Bollywood actress apparently attempts suicide shortly after visiting the clinic for the treatment of her severely depressed condition. Hari, an avid fan of the actress, and an employee of the same clinic, gets unavoidably involved when he notices that the treatment had gone awry.
A similar mishap occurs in the Netherlands a week later which then escalates into a major crisis…leaving Hari and his friend Arthi to overcome the enemy lurking in the shadows.
Basically, the plot boils down to a few things – hero getting into the scheme of things in a seemingly innocuous way; the scheme of things going awry in an unimaginable fashion, at the same time tempting to look into the matter; hero plunging in head-first into the eye of the storm; things going horribly wrong for the hero and people around him; and finally the clouds giving way to bright sunrays that is the suspense.
But, the discerning factor is the backdrop. The novel is set in a neuroscience and technology environment. Both these areas, especially neuroscience, are pretty unfamiliar and unexplored as far as laymen are concerned. Besides, it’s not just about the setting. The enmeshing of the backdrop with the plot is very important; which in this case was to an extent that it almost became a character in the novel. Mostly, it is seen that novels lose their pace when the reader is at the thickest part – the middle. This was one respect in which Engines of the Mind excelled. The pace didn’t drop; neither did the weight of the plot.
It is so refreshing to see a fiction novel in action. The plot proceeds exactly in the fashion which a fiction reader would expect – await rather. It is also immensely heartening to see espionage blended in with mystery with a slight hint of science fiction – a very potent, yet unstable mixture; one very difficult to create and sustain. Engines of the Mind gives you a glimpse of this mixture.
The characterization was good, but lacking in certain respects. The characters of any good fiction novel need to come out of the novel. No character was sketched in such a way that an image of the character was automatically generated. It was left to the reader to paint the characters in whatever image s/he likes.
The penultimate twist of the plot solving the crisis of identities was really an icing on the cake. It was a little far-fetched though. The way in which the twist went down and eventually unfolded, the sheer deviousness and sense of finality that it conveyed was worth admiring. And the final twist, the confession, was the cherry on top of the icing. This is the kind of twist that is like an aftertaste of good food – had it not been there still the taste would have been good, but it leaves an imprint on the memory. The final twist’s importance lies not in its positioning but its role. It helps the reader understand the scheme of things so much better, why the chips fell where they fell.
For an avid fiction reader, Engines of the Mind brings a platter. The platter is good and tasty, only lacking appearance and proper garnishing. But this must not stop any reader from reading this book. As the French say, Bon appetit!