It’s been a while since I’ve posted (for which I apologize) and I’ve been doing a lot more reading lately (which has nothing to do with my non-postiness) so here’s a short book review. And never fear, it’s not just filler for NOWM–this is a gem!
If you’re like me, then the name Fredric Brown is obscure at best, if not completely new. The fact that someone who’s got a blog called “Nerd Out With Me” hasn’t heard of Brown aside, this is one terrific author from the “New Wave” age of science fiction–the 60s and 70s–whose writing style was more akin to the older classics of the golden age in the 40s and 50s. To be fair, Brown was a bit of a switch-hitter, writing mystery and horror novels/short stories for every science fiction yarn he spun. I’m assuming this is a big reason he’s gone under the radar for a lot of sci-fi readers. Speaking of which, this novel is just as much horror as sci-fi, for you horror junkies out there.
Published in 1961, The Mind Thing is generally considered one of Brown’s better novels. The story begins with an introduction to eponymous creature: an emotionless, immobile and turtle-like being (in appearance at least) exiled to Earth for unknown crimes against it’s own kind.
It becomes clear very early in the story just how terrifyingly logical the Mind Thing is. It knows no remorse or sympathy, has no conscience, and it regards all life on earth–even humanity–with the same dispassionate nature with which the average undergrad considers, say, personal hygiene or their parents’ money. Oh, and did I mention the Mind Thing can enter and control the minds of all living things, so long as they’re sleeping? And did I mention it can only give up control of its host organism after it’s died, been killed or committed suicide? Those are both important. Important and terrifying. The worst part is, when the Mind Thing goes on a mind-usurping bonanza with a plan to get home, it’s to bring its own kind back to Earth: a planet ripe with hosts of all sizes, strengths and levels of intelligence. Logical, practical and ruthless.
Enter MIT professor, “Doc” Staunton. The astrophysicist and electrical engineer is not only a prime candidate for the Mind Thing’s ends, but he’s also the single greatest hope for deciphering the sudden rash of eerie suicides (for he’s convinced they all are) in the small Wisconsin town near his vacation cottage. How does one surmise from a series strange deaths that something other-worldly is going on? I guess it takes a special kind of open-mindedness. While the story does make a few small leaps such as this one (and it’s awfully lucky that a super-smart tech genius is vacationing nearby to begin with), it follows an unpredictable path that is easy to appreciate. For the sake of saving you the juicy goodness of the story, I’ll stop there. Just know that Brown’s characters are unique, his villain is memorable, and The Mind Thing is really a quick and rewarding read. If you’re looking for a good story to devour in a rainy day or two, The Mind Thing is a diamond in the rough from the time when sci-fi really started to get weird.
The Mind Thing cover Image from Goodreads.