Review: The Rule Of Thoughts by James Dashner

The Rule Of Thoughts James Dashner The Mortality Doctrine
The Rule Of Thoughts James Dashner cover The Mortality Doctrine

Title: The Rule Of Thoughts 
Author: James Dashner 
Series: The Mortality Doctrine #2 
Genre: Science Fiction, YA 
Publication date: August 26, 2014
Rating: ★★★½ 

Synopsis: Michael completed the Path. What he found at the end turned everything he’d ever known about his life—and the world—completely upside down. He barely survived. But it was the only way VirtNet Security knew to find the cyber-terrorist Kaine—and to make the Sleep safe for gamers once again. And, the truth Michael discovered about Kaine is more complex than they anticipated, and more terrifying than even the worst of their fears. Kaine is a tangent, a computer program that has become sentient. And Michael’s completing the Path was the first stage in turning Kaine’s master plan, the Mortality Doctrine, into a reality. The Mortality Doctrine will populate Earth entirely with human bodies harboring tangent minds. Any gamer who sinks into the VirtNet risks coming out with a tangent intelligence in control of their body. And the takeover has already begun.
If I was to solely judge this book on its world, I’d give it a full five stars. I think it’s safe to say I love this setting. Everything takes place in a gaming landscape. Technology has fully improved and internet is nothing like we know it now. Everyone alive is somehow connected to the VirtNet and accessing it is easy. A built-in earpiece for common usage, a NerveBox for gaming. It’s the gaming setting that is so utterly brilliant here. It is, in this future world, possible to load yourself into a game. Actually load yourself into it. Through a NerveBox full of wires and transmitters, you go from the real world (commonly known as 'The Wake’) to a virtual world (The Sleep). There you can play every game you want, as long as you follow the rules, have the required level, skills etc. Some of these games are so realistically built that they resemble the real world in minute detail. The ultimate one: Lifeblood Deep. Only the best gamers get in. Only one person is known to have ever completed it. Michael and his friends Sarah and Bryson are experienced hackers and they’ve been playing the game for several years when suddenly things go south.

A short summary of book one, The Eye Of Minds. It had been a while since I’d read the first part, so it took some getting used to the vocabulary and the rules of the world again. But once I reconnected with it, this book was a really fast read. And a lot of it was really great and well thought of and overall very enjoyable and my cursor had been hovering over the four star sign for quite a while, when I decided to only give it a three star rating after all.

Because somehow something is missing. I like the characters, especially Sarah, but they’re still a bit underdeveloped, even in this second book. Only two of the main characters, Michael and Sarah, have some depth. Everyone else is just really superficial. Except maybe Agent Weber, who is practically overdeveloped. Also, the dialogue often felt a bit.. forced. But that’s not even the main part. When I finished this book (in only one evening), it left me unsatisfied. It’s very short. And in the end, I can’t help but feel nothing really happened. There was a lot of building up to something, but apparently we’ll have to wait until the next book to discover just how all of it will affect the characters and the story. Maybe they could have just cut some pieces and make this one full book? I guess trilogies are hot these days, but not every book needs this.

When mankind can create a world that is so like our own, then how can we possibly ever know what’s real and what’s not real again? I could Lift you right now, pull you out of a NerveBox, and then you’d say, ‘Ah! I’m back in the real world!’ And then I could Lift you again, and you’d be surprised, but feel for certain that this time you’re in the.. what do you kids call it?… the Wake. I could Lift you a hundred times. A thousand. How, Michael, could you ever know again that you are truly, truly in the real world? For that matter, who’s to say there even is a real world?

In this book (way more than this was the case in The Eye Of Minds) you’re never completely sure when something is real and when it’s not and this may have been what bothered me most. At first it’s really intriguing. The gaming world is so realistic, that at some point the characters lose sight of what is real and what isn’t. So far so good, I loved this part. But then things happened and some of those that I thought occurred in the Sleep, turned out to have actually been in the Wake and vice versa. Although this essentially still sounds really good, and at first I loved this uncertainty, I had the feeling that the rules Dashner had set up for his world, were sometimes broken or conveniently altered to make sure he could keep misleading us. And that bothered me.

But, apart from that, this book was still very enjoyable and I’d recommend it to everyone who loves science-fiction/technology-gone-rogue stories. I’m definitely looking forward to part three!

Note: A lot of people seem to mind the fact that there's not a lot of 'technological support'. They're always hacking away and building virtual realities, but Dashner never mentions how they actually do this. I for one don't think this is a problem, because I really don't know anything about that anyway, but if you're expecting a lot of programming details, you might be in for a disappointment.

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