Source: Review copy and purchased Audible version
Publication: 2nd September 2021 from Viper/Hachette Audio
Narration: Narrated by Joe Jameson
Listening time: 10 Hours 46 minutes
One body. Five minds. One killer.
The Earth’s growing population has finally been controlled. Lifespans are limited to 80 years, except for those who make an extreme choice: to become a commune. Five minds sharing one body, living for four hours at a time. But with a combined lifespan of nearly 150 years.
Alex, Kate, Sierra, Ben and Mike are a commune. They have already spent 25 years together, arguing, reconciling, alliances shifting and re-forming. They travel to a Death Park where games are played in which extra lifespan can be gambled like money. The plan is to win time to upgrade their next host body. But then Kate accepts a dangerous offer and one of them disappears.
Someone is trying to kill off members of the commune. Is one of them responsible? Or is someone else playing a deadly game? It’s hard enough to catch a murderer. It’s almost impossible when you might be sharing a body with them….
Talk about mind-blowing! I’m not usually a fan of speculative fiction but of course I love a good murder mystery. Could Guy Morpuss reel me in to his dystopian futuristic book? I bought the audio book having realised that I wasn’t going to be able to read it in time to leave a publication review and from the beginning I was captivated.
That proved to be a good decision as Joe Jameson’s narration is excellent and drew me into Guy Morpuss’ game playing futuristic world where the prize is time on your life – or in this case lives, and the penalty for losing is death.
We are in a future, not too far away, where having woken up to the destruction that we have wrought on the planet, we have come up with a novel idea to address the conservation of future resources. Flying is out for all but billionaires, but the most radical implementation has come in the way that we live our lives.
The solution is a novel take on population control. Every child lives their life as normal until the age of 17 and thereafter they are required to choose what option they want going forward.
Which option you choose dictates how long you will live – with shorter lives having added incentives. Five Minds is the story of five people who have been selected to share one body as a commune – parcelling out the hours between themselves so each gets 4 hours a day and there is 4 hours downtime. After 25 years the worn out body can be exchanged for another.
The commune personalities are chosen to work together. No individual has a say in who is part of their commune. It is possible to add time to a life, but the way to do this is risky. There are Death Parks where participants compete against each other to win added time, but the penalties for losing are severe, so it really is a last resort unless you are a born gambler. These competitions are really tricky puzzles involving VR simulations and I really got caught up in the quests and adventures that our challengers became embroiled in.
Kate, Alex, Sierra, Ben and Mike share a body. They have very different personalities and enjoy different activities. They have chosen their parcel of time to best reflect their interests. Each has a distinctive voice and a unique personality; it is simply that they share a body – which makes it interesting when it comes to relationship forming!
What makes this work is the level of detail that draws you into this high concept world. It is wholly believable and so skilfully done that it is not hard to accept the concept from the outset. Morpuss creates a world full of flawed and believable characters where it seems not at all unusual that five of them should be sharing a body. They communicate by leaving messages for each other and need to act in concert on big decisions.
When one of the commune disappears, the others try to find out what has happened to that person, only to be hampered by the fact that they have no ‘collective memory’. Not all of the 5 commune members like each other, either and there is tension between them which is exacerbated by some rogue behaviour on the part of one member.
When it becomes clear that someone is targeting the commune, they have to try and work out who that might be and why, and this forms the crux of this novel which left my head spinning and my mind blown.
Verdict: Five Minds is innovative, daring and not a little mind-blowing, but mostly it is a brilliantly plotted and highly original crime thriller. It has pace and verve and never lets the action drag for a micro-second. All the way through I was guessing and second guessing and still my mind was well and truly bamboozled. I inhaled this one. Brilliant, intense and inspirational writing from a debut author to watch!
Guy Morpuss is a barrister and QC at a commercial law firm in London, specialising in financial and sports law. To the surprise of everyone, including himself, he suddenly found time to write a novel about five people stuck in one body, trying to kill one another. He lives in Surrey with his wife and two children.