Friday, December 27, 2013

Mindline (e-book) by M.C.A. Hogarth

Mindline is a self-published science fiction novel, the second in Hogarth's Dreamhealers duology. It's 101,600 words long.

Absolutely do not read this book until you've read Mindtouch.

Review:

I really enjoyed Mindtouch and was thrilled when I saw that Mindline had been released. In Mindtouch, Jahir was given a choice between remaining near Vasiht'h and developing their budding mindline, or leaving his new friends and the mindline behind and accepting a residency at Mercy Hospital on Selnor. He chose to go to Selnor. Mindline picks up where Mindtouch left off. Vasiht'h has decided it was a mistake to send Jahir off on his own and has arranged to finish up as much of his education as possible through distance learning on Selnor. While he is traveling to Jahir as quickly as his limited funds allow, Jahir, unaware that his friend is coming after him, is rapidly running himself ragged. Not only is the residency program extremely difficult, Selnor's higher gravity is making every day feel like a grueling marathon. Things only get worse when a large number of mysteriously comatose patients start showing up at Mercy.

I love Jahir and Vasiht'h. A lot. But it occurred to me, while I was reading this book, that they might be a bit too wonderful and nice for some readers. I think Vasiht'h's only failing in Mindline was that, when his temper finally exploded, which it only rarely did, it was hard for him to rein it in. Jahir had two main failings: he was so pretty that all humans fell a little in love with him (the stuff with Levine seemed unnecessary and repetitive after the minor incident with Berquist in the previous book), and he cared so much about others' well-being that he tended to neglect his own. I really wish the portion of the book in which Jahir was killing himself hadn't dragged on for so long – it made for painful reading.

Everyone around Jahir and Vasiht'h liked them or learned to like them. That didn't bug me, because I liked them too – sometimes I found myself reading with an involuntary smile on my face. What got to me was other characters' comments about their education/professional development. Jahir literally almost killed himself trying to save patients, even after it became clear that they could not be saved. I'd have thought he'd be censured for not recognizing his own physical limitations and for running the risk of turning himself into another patient in need of care or, worse, a corpse. Instead, he was later praised for his dedication.

When Jahir and Vasiht'h scheduled therapy sessions on their own after their faculty oversight canceled all their official appointments, I expected they'd be censured for doing something that could have potentially been dangerous or unethical (they were only student therapists, after all). And yet the same thing happened to them that happened to Jahir on Selnor: they were praised, told that there was no more they could be taught, and sent on their way. I would love to get a medical professional's perspective on this book, because this all seemed pretty dodgy to me.

Jahir and Vasiht'h were wonderful, nice people, a solid (asexual) couple, and students who were praised by every single teacher and patient they encountered. So, yes, they were more than a bit perfect. I can recognize that. But I loved them anyway, when I didn't want to throttle them for trying to kill themselves for the benefit of others. Mindline had fewer lovely, intimate moments than Mindtouch, but there were still some good ones. I enjoyed the hair cutting scene, and their negotiations over the details of owning their first apartment together. Their mindline added a new dimension to their relationship, allowing them to share memories and tastes.

The other characters in the book were, unfortunately, not quite as vivid as Jahir and Vasiht'h. I kept getting several of them mixed up. Paga, a Naysha (aquatic Pelted) and one of Jahir's physical therapists, was the most memorable of the bunch.

The structure of this book was odd. The first two thirds were a medical mystery of sorts, while the last third was quieter and, like Mindtouch, more focused on Jahir and Vasiht'h finishing up their schooling and trying to figure out what they were going to do with their lives. I had assumed that the epidemic of comatose patients would take up the entire book. Moving from the first two thirds into the last third was jarring, like stumbling from one story into another. I think, if that transition had been smoothed out, I'd have enjoyed the book even more than I did.

Overall, I liked this book. Jahir and Vasiht'h are, so far, my absolute favorite of Hogarth's creations, and, as usual, I enjoyed how alien culture was worked into the story. It's too bad this is a duology – I'd love a third book focused on the early days of setting up their own practice.

Extras:

At the beginning of the book, there's a brief glossary. At the end of the book, there's a recipe for Almond Saucer cookies.

Sorry for the short read-alikes list. That's the best I can do right now.

Read-alikes:
  • The Black Gryphon (book) by Mercedes Lackey - This is the first book in a fantasy trilogy, and the trilogy is part of a larger series set in the same world and spanning generations. I added this book to the list because 1) I think Lackey's characters might appeal to fans of Hogarth's book and 2) several prominent characters in The Black Gryphon are healers.
  • Elfquest (graphic novel series) by Wendy and Richard Pini - You can read the series here for free. If you choose to buy print volumes, I highly recommend shelling out for full-color editions - I've seen the black-and-white releases, and the original color versions are way better. I think this may have been the very first non-superhero comic book series I ever read. I was entranced. Gorgeous elves with psychic powers, who bonded with wolves - my teenage self was thrilled. Fans of Mindline may enjoy the character interactions. If I remember correctly, there's also at least one healer character.

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