3 out of 4 stars
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When the Eye Sees Itself by Eric Borgerson is an interesting combination of dystopian literature and science fiction with lots of political intrigue mixed in. It is set in a future society where the masses are divided into three categories. Citizens have all the power and rights. Vulnerables who are deemed as too sensitive and weak are kept in closed neighborhoods for their own protection. The third group, Agressives, are considered volatile and are often incarcerated.
The plot follows several storylines which eventually overlap and intersect in complicated and unexpected ways. First, there is Anna, a Vulnerable who wants to achieve citizenship. Together with her advocate, Leo, she decides to fight for changes in the classification system that would allow her to be reclassified as a Citizen. This leads to public uproar with both support and opposition to her case. At the same time, the Department of Domestic Intelligence (DDI) is investigating a new technology that allows people to connect mentally using a quantum neural interface. This takes group meditation and mind reading to a whole new level. It has crossed into criminal territory because some people are creating abuse videos and connecting with others to share them allowing the users to not only see but feel all the emotions of the victim and the perpetrator. A third plot line follows a group of hackers who are trying to access information to prove the government is using torture on political prisoners.
One of the most enjoyable parts of this book was how the author kept surprising me with connections between the characters. There were several ah-ha moments when I saw how the groups were intersecting in ways they did not even realize themselves. The character development was also skillfully done. I felt I knew these people and had real emotional reactions to them. Even with the science-fiction elements, the plot developments were very logical and believable. One character becomes addicted to drugs and both his descent into darkness and his struggles with recovery were skillfully presented.
The novel was well edited with only a few verb tense errors and one fragment. The author’s style was intelligent and thoughtful with excellent use of literary devices. There were a few times, however when I felt the vocabulary was falsely inflated such as when Leo describes his friend as having “solipsistic lacunae.” Still, I like reading a book where I have to look up a word or two occasionally.
The biggest problem I had with this book was the pacing. It felt like the author’s commitment to realism worked against him in this aspect. Most crime novels have events presented at an accelerated pace. In this one, if it would normally take a month to go to trial, it took a month in the timeline. There were several long gaps with no real action and way more political maneuvering than I prefer. The whole book could have been condensed and accelerated and been more enjoyable. One other concern I had was that a few minor plot lines were left unfinished. The book almost had a sense of ending without being done.
Despite these minor deficiencies, this would be an enjoyable book for anyone who appreciates dystopian and science-fiction stories. There are a few mild sex scenes including a homosexual relationship as well as minimal cursing and references to physical abuse, so it is not appropriate for younger audiences. Overall, I rate it as 3 out of 4 stars. With a little plot tightening, I would have given it a four. The premise and characters were amazing making it enjoyable to read.
When the Eye Sees Itself
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