Game Over (The MindWar Trilogy)
Thomas Nelson, 2016
320 pp., $15.99
In the summer of 2014, I wrote about MindWar, the first novel in a trilogy by Andrew Klavan. You may know Klavan as a suspense novelist—his latest, Werewolf Cop, was one of my favorite books of 2015—but in recent years he's also become an accomplished writer of Young Adult fiction, specializing in "boy books," an underrepresented category in the burgeoning YA market.
With Game Over, published in January, Klavan has concluded the trilogy begun with MindWar and continued in Hostage Run. If you want to put a toe in the water, this third book is not the place to start. Start with the first one—and if you like it, as I did, you'll want to read all three. (If not, no blame.) My review, linked above, sketches the scenario without giving too much away.
While I was reading Game Over, I happened to see an ad for a medication called Symbicort, which is supposed to help people burdened with COPD. An older man is reading the story of "The Three Little Pigs" to his adorable granddaughters. When he comes to the bit about how the wolf "huffs and puffs," one of the grandkids asks him if he means "the way you do sometimes." Yes, grandpa says, with COPD a certain amount of huffing & puffing is to be expected, but—and, as he's talking we see animated figures on the screen. A clearly enfeebled wolf can't huff and puff enough to blow down the little cottage in which the three little pigs are sheltered. Cut to a doctor's office, where a female wolf physician is explaining to grandpa wolf that Symbicort can help him to breathe a bit more easily. Aww. How sweet!
This is one of the most popular storytelling devices of our day. Those "enemies"? Hey, they're just like us. In some important ways this is true—and a needed corrective. Andrew Klavan knows this. The climactic battle between young protagonist Rick Dial and his diabolical foe, Kurodar, truly is a "mind war," as each of the two has "entered" the mind of the other to a degree that isn't normally possible. And even as he is fighting to destroy Kurodar (and save the lives of countless people, not to mention his own), Rick feels a stab of sympathy, because he is able to some degree to experience from within Kurodar's suffering and rage and despair.
But when a "corrective" shifts to become the default mode—that wolf you feared is really just a benign, vulnerable figure with eyeglasses sliding down his snout—distortion ensues. Hence the tonic effect of reading Andrew Klavan, whether you are young or old or somewhere in between.
John Wilson is the editor of Books & Culture.
Copyright © 2016 by the author or Christianity Today/Books & Culture magazine.
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