Sunday, December 7, 2014

MindWar, by Andrew Klavan

MindWar, by Andrew Klavan, tells the story of Rick Dial, a high school football hero whose dreams of playing college ball were shattered when a tragic accident left him with painful debilitating leg injuries, necessitating the daily use of crutches. When the story begins, we find Rick in a deep depression. He'd wrapped his whole identity into playing football, and without it he feels useless and angry. Coupled with the pain and betrayal of having had his father walk out on their family as well, he is disillusioned. He has spent the past six months in his room, losing himself in video games. He has essentially given up on life, and is avoiding contact with nearly everyone, including his faithful girlfriend, who sends him email after email that goes unread.

When an initially terrifying encounter with a couple of strangers turns into an offer to use his gaming skills to complete a dangerous, top-secret mission involving a virtual world (that could potentially have devastating effects on the real world), Rick readily accepts the opportunity.  He subsequently finds his time in "The Realm" to be both illuminating and healing, as well as a powerful reminder of what it means - and doesn't mean - to be strong, in both body and spirit.

MindWar was a fast-paced, and action-packed read.  Combining elements of mystery, thriller, and sci-fi, it takes the reader on a thrill-ride (complete with the requisite twists and turns) from start to finish.  Klavan is an excellent story teller.  The characters are likable and sympathetic, and I found myself rooting for Rick and his family right from the beginning pages, even as he was sitting in his room still feeling sorry for himself.  Klavan also wove some important messages of love, forgiveness, and personal responsibility throughout the story, without being too heavy-handed with the "religious-speak" (a personal pet-peeve of mine.)

On a personal note:  As someone who has been dealing with an injury, chronic pain, and recovery from two surgeries in the past 2 1/2 years, I especially connected with the elements of Rick's injuries and recovery, and the reminder that being strong sometimes means not being pain-free, but being brave and positive and moving on despite the pain.

This was a great read that would be of particular interest to young adults who are interested in gaming/virtual worlds, or to any teen or adult that just appreciates a good story.

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