Val Toreth isn’t a good man and he’d be the first to admit that. But in the Administration, he’s probably more moral than most, although that isn’t saying much. He works in I&I, where one of the I’s stands for interrogation. Toreth’s good at his job, very good, but he’s been off world for a little while and he needs a big case to make his career pop a bit. And the discovery of a dead body at the growing corporate powerhouse, SimTech, might just be the break he needs.
Dr. Keir Warrick knows the sim technology he has created can’t kill, but his company is precariously balanced: if word of a death in the sim reaches his investors, SimTech could crumble just as it is taking off. But cooperating with I&I can’t be avoided. Doing so will put Warrick in a torture chair and sent for re-education, so he has to hope Toreth doesn’t destroy his life’s work. Instead of an adversary though, Warrick finds Toreth to be dedicated, if ruthless, in his pursuit of the truth, a truth that might just get them both killed.
By the time I discovered Manna Francis and the Administration series there were already five or six books written, Mind Fuck being the first. I think that number is up to nine now, with tons of short stories. I’ve always enjoyed dystopian fiction so I decided to give it a read. And now, years later, reading it again, I enjoyed it just as much. Now make no mistake, Mind Fuck is not a romance, at least not in any traditional sense. It’s dark and harsh and though eventually Toreth and Warrick develop some sort of relationship, there isn’t much kindness between them. Both men enjoy a measure of violence, which starts here as BDSM. It can be hard to like Toreth. He’s not a nice guy. He’s vaguely sociopathic, but he’s also strangely moral. When it matters, he wants to find the truth. That isn’t to say he won’t break the rules and doesn’t bend even more to suit his own arrogance, but he isn’t quite so sinister as others in the shadowy Administration. Keir is brilliant and collected and utterly in control of himself and everyone around him. And Toreth loves nothing more than stripping away a person’s control and leaving them utterly vulnerable. So theirs is an odd relationship and far from ordinary. In Mind Fuck, we see the beginning of something between them and even in these early moments, Toreth and Warrick are perfectly suited for one another. In fact, they need what the other has to offer, but theirs is never going to be a warm and fuzzy romance.
The world building in Mind Fuck is slow to evolve and there are times the book feels too heavy on the technical jargon. It’s all needed to explain the wider story, but it reads as info dumping at times. In addition, the book has some pacing issues and the action tends to meander in between the major scenes involving Toreth and Warrick. They really are the core of what makes Mind Fuck work, but these issues are mild in the grand scheme of things.
Mind Fuck is the first in the Administration series. It’s a book better suited to those who enjoy darker, slow building storylines. There isn’t anything overly graphic in Mind Fuck, but there are lots of unsettling themes that are touched upon and there’s no fluffiness here. But for those of you who do enjoy something with a bit more edge, then Mind Fuck will definitely be a good fit.