Countermind by Adrian Randall
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Publisher: DSP Publications
Genre: Gay Sci-fi
Tags: Psychic, Telepath, Sci-fi, Conspiracy, Futuristic, Big Brother, Paranormal, Human Experimentation, Computer Hacking
Length: 302 Pages
Purchase At: amazon.com, DSP Publications
In a postprivacy future, secrets are illegal and all communication is supervised. Telepaths are registered and recruited by a government with no qualms about invading the minds of its citizens. Fugitive psychics are hunted by the Bureau of Counterpsychic Affairs, or Countermind.
Alan Izaki is one such fugitive, as well as a hacker, grifter, and thief.
Countermind agent Jack Smith is hunting him through the twisted underbelly of Hong Kong.
But Alan possesses a secret so dangerous and profound it will not only shake Smith’s loyalties, but the foundations of their society.
And Alan isn’t the only one on the run. Rogue psychic Arissa binti Noor escapes Countermind, in search of brilliant game designer Feng Huang. She hopes that together, they can destroy the government’s intrusive Senex monitoring system.
Their goals seem at odds, and their lives are destined to collide. When they do, three very different people must question their alliances and their future, because everything is about to change.
In a futuristic world where more and more people are born everyday with powerful telepathic and psychic gifts, governments around the world perceive them as an enormous threat to humanity. Some have become extremely dangerous individuals. The abilities most have can allow them to take control of others then wipe their minds so they have no recollection of what they have done. Enslave them, cause mass panic and hallucinations with their thoughts, carry out espionage and corporate espionage, organise terrorist attacks, steal classified information, can completely incapacitate others, wipe minds, use mind control and kill with a thought. The scariest thing about this is that the psychic’s are getting other people to do some of this work for them and they have no idea.
People are now terrified of them, they are shunned by family and friends and turn to lives of crime to survive in this harsh new world. With a quick brush of someone’s mind they can collect anything they need to know to continue living. That was until the government made it illegal to be an unregistered psychic, it was illegal for them to use their powers at all. Most were involuntarily recruited, but most families were happy to hand their children over if they tested positive. The few that didn’t work for the government were closely monitored. A new global watchdog was born and run by the new world government. If they couldn’t stop them then who better to have them working for? The Government perchance? The Bureau of Counterpsychic Affairs known as Countermind, headed up the global agency and The Security Ministry was for State Affairs.
Their main objective? Capture fugitive psychic’s, rogue agents or children that slipped past the testing system for reprogramming. Most are petty thieves just trying to get by but they are ruthlessly hunted. They instinctually know they’ll be wiped if caught, where others like Jack are more than happy to work for them. The general public are constantly scanned on mass without their knowledge or permission, privacy no longer exists. Every child across the globe is subjected to rigorous testing every year, searching for powers. The government has assured the public that their system for testing has been deemed infallible.
The majority of the public and families with strong psychic bloodlines are monitored closely. The children that are taken in by the government for training are to become government operatives. The few who resist the ruthless training, once they know of its moral ambiguity, are brainwashed or wiped. They become a clean slate and are then turned into borderline sociopaths to be able to hunt down and taught how to use their skills to maximum advantage. It’s to beat the empathy out of the few psychic’s who can’t let it go, they can become sympathisers to a cause and are considered liabilities.
The unregistered people both good and bad are constantly running for their lives. Countermind is powerful and has agents out looking for suspects constantly, once you hit their radar, its time to run like you stole something. I was baffled by the fact that a mundane human with no powers always had to be in charge of Countermind. To make sure that there were never any agents with secret agenda’s. Maybe I missed something but who was supposed to protect the Commanding Officer against psychic attack?
Due to psychic’s not being able to read people over the internet, it can be their greatest downfall. Since most psychic’s have no great need for it they generally stay away from it . This highly advanced and technologically based culture has no idea that they too are having their every movement tracked. Massive main frames with hundreds of servers in place log everything. Every phone call, email and internet traffic is all being sucked in by the biggest watchdog of them all, Senex. There really is no where left to hide.
Set in South East Asia, Countermind Agent Jack Smith is their best agent by far. He is ruthless at tracking down suspected psychic’s because he’s so powerful himself, no one stands a chance against him. If you are bought to his attention it’s only a matter of time until he catches you. It’s not until he’s given a tip off from Hong Kong’s PD that a suspected psychic is involved in a series of theft’s. A man that has never been caught by HKPD has gotten away with three robberies that they’re aware of.
Jack has been patiently watching him for days, he hasn’t given off a single iota of possessing psychic abilities. He knows all to well that this suspect is casing the place to rob it though. Jack sets up his own surveillance camera’s in the shop to watch how this guy operates. Unlike any psychic, he watches him pick the locks to get in, then use bolt cutters to open the grate door. Then he’s shocked to see him inside searching for the safes combination, which takes him over an hour.
Jack finally gets so annoyed that he’s been sent on a wild goose chase, he goes in to take him out for the HKPD. He’s wasted days on this guy and just as he’s about to arrest him, Jacks life begins to change rapidly from that night forever. This elusive man evades Jack’s clutches more than once that night. Jack is severely injured, taking him off the case and out of the job for four weeks to recover. The reason he can’t leave it alone is due to the fact that this mystery man’s powers only seem to work while he’s under attack, and he is by far the most powerful psychic that Jack has ever faced.
He finally gets the reports from the HKPD and confirms that there was indeed psychic tampering at the scene of every theft. The problem is that not a single police officer can remember his face. The mystery thief had wiped his image from all of their minds. Executive Director of Countermind, Zheng thinks of Jack like his own son and gives him office work while he heals. Even though Jack is officially off the case he just can’t let this go. Jack had begun working from his hospital bed trying to find anything he can about this mystery man who handed him his arse. It was quite a spectacular fight scene.
By the five week mark he is going out of his mind. He is the only person that can make up a decent composite of his face to run through facial recognition. He is at it for days until he caves and goes to see Director Zheng, begging for time to run his image through the most thorough data base in the world, Senex. He knows it will reflect badly on Zheng and Countermind, but Zheng agrees and Jack finally gets his first hit.
It’s the spitting image of the guy, minus the facial tattoo, until he looks at the date and its over fifty years old. He is looking at one Quentin Izaki, no criminal record, American born Japanese, with two PhD’s and so many different assorted degree’s in everything from engineering, computing, biological, biomedical, and then come the multitude of publications and honours. He ended up retiring in the hills outside of Seattle until he was killed in an explosion. His home lab had blown up. No official mention of family as the American records were sloppy, but he had his starting point, Izaki. That also launches Jack into high gear.
The novel follow’s suit, rapidly moving through it’s other sub-plots which I found a bit jarring at first. It’s one of those books that you really need to pay attention too while reading it. This is a good read but it’s also quite dark in places. The sub-plots are kept very separate from each other at first, with new characters and different arc’s. This is where you need to pay attention as they initially come across as their own separate story, but they’re not. I’m not going to even try to incorporate them into this review. It will make it too confusing because, like I said, they’re literally their own separate stories that tie in together at the end.
I can see where the author was going with this and for a first novel its well written with strong characters but the switching of sub-plots could have transitioned a bit more smoothly. As each one begins there is little to no crossover until half way through the book, yet Jack is nearly in all of them. It eventually settles down as they fall into line. Each sub-plot holds a vital key to unlock the story at the end.
Jack requests to go to Seattle where he finds out from the locals that Quentin Izaki did have a son called Alan. A quiet surly kid who never spoke but just glared at everyone he encountered. Jack returns to Hong Kong like a rabid dog and begins tracking Alan relentlessly across Asia as he flee’s. Alan’s a pro, but so is Jack. He’s unfortunately blinded by the rapidly growing list of offences piling up against Alan, who just wants to be left alone. Alan holds secrets that could bring the world to its knees if the government got a hold of him. He finally has to tell Jack, while they pop up briefly on a zombie infested Island in North Korea?????
Alan has to weigh the risks of telling Jack his secrets because Jack finally gets his man. Alan’s father made one mistake, and that was telling his neighbour in Seattle, whom Jack spoke with and also told him the exact same thing as Alan. If the government were ever to get their hands on his research, he’d rather blow it all up. So did his father blow himself and his lab to smithereens? It sure looked possible after Alan told him his story and his neighbour back in the US was possibly an informant. Jack’s stubborn nature still made him drag a resigned Alan back to Hong Kong. Was it too late?
As Jack arrives home, more information is discovered about the true nature of Countermind. A shocking revelation is exposed but with it comes a solution. Will these handful of relative strangers who had all burnt each other badly, not to mention their intense dislike of each other, be able to come together in time to stop a monumental breech of ethics within the Agency? Or is it too late?
I’ve been interested in this story since I read the excerpt a few days ago on the author post. It’s not often that I read sci-fi but your review got me interested. I want to know what happens next.
Great review, Paul.
It’s great to have Paul’s review here. I’ve read the book too, and agree with Paul’s take. I hope Adrian Randall keeps writing in this vein in this genre because it’s needed.