Some high-concept sci-fi consists of a brilliant idea and little more. It might explore a thought-provoking theme of social significance, but the central conceit falls flat because the author can’t actually tell a good story or create convincing characters. Happily, Guy Morpuss anchors his not-too-distant future in an assembly of engaging personalities – five individuals who quite literally share headspace. And then spins an outrageously enjoyable story which absolutely hammers along.
In this over-populated future, you can live a time-limited natural life or opt to inhabit an android body (which uses less resources than a human person). Or live your life four hours at a time, sharing a single body as a Commune with the five minds of the title. The story is revealed from each distinct perspective, as their shared existence rapidly unravels in a tangled tumult of increasing risk and reward. Our protagonists are initially playing for a slightly extended slice of life – and they think they have little to lose – but they’re manipulated into deadly games with far higher stakes. Someone is trying to kill them, and they can’t even trust each other…
Events are told in short chapters from each person’s perspective, a wily destabilising device which speeds the story and adds all the uncertainty of multiple unreliable narrators to the mix. If we don’t share head-space with a particular character then we really don’t know quite what has happened in the previous four hours, which brilliantly builds bewilderment and intrigue.
Morpuss also skilfully delivers five fully-fleshed personalities – people you’re intrigued to spend time with; conflicted, complicated and definitely not to be taken at face value. The succession of life-or-death games is rather less successful, however. Our protagonists engage in a series of potentially lethal puzzles and while this device is initially entertaining, eventually it wears a little thin – although if you enjoy hours of gaming, maybe it’d be fun for you…
Even so, Five Minds is an innovative and inventive ‘what if?’ thriller. The plot weaves and whirls in bewilderingly unpredictable directions. The ending might be its weakest aspect – there’s perhaps one twist too many in the mix – but the author confidently pulls together a complex net of plot threads into a hugely satisfying read.
Loved it. More please!
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
Five Minds by Guy Morpuss is available at Amazon
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