Prometheus

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Volume 30, Number 4, Summer 2012

Brightside

By Mark Tullius

Vincere Press, 2012, 288 pages
Reviewed by Max Jahr

Telepaths are constrained to a mountain-top reservation in this Mark Tullius novel. Brightside, the reservation’s name, houses mind-readers in an imagined America where laws enable their violent arrests, confinement, and harsh punishment when they object or deviate from the government’s benevolent prison. Called Thought Thieves, these mind readers are hunted down without any apparent due process and forced to act as if they live in a regular city; they work regular jobs, shop, dine, and go on dates, but in a very isolated world, and one where all, save the guards, are mind readers.

The narrator, Joe Nolan, appears to have been born angry. He numbers each day at Brightside, remembering events as taking place on Day N, while mixing in flashbacks of his life, each tinged with anger. Growing up he could read others‘s thoughts, and each time he said or did anything that indicated this he got in trouble. His promiscuous mother brought home lovers and didn’t appear to care what he saw or knew, yet remained married to his father. He abandoned his best friend, lied to his girlfriend, elements of behavior aimed at self-destruction.

Once in the community of Brightside, Joe has several relationships with women there, also mind readers. Their emotions jump from one extreme to another, and Joe’s anger dominates all his thoughts, dooming all relationships. He discovers a way off the mountain, but it’s not long in a society of mind readers before others gain his secret, and he discovers a plot where certain others have planned escape far longer.

Under a fairly rough prose and harsh language lies the germ of a good story. The idea that mind readers are sent to a secure and isolated location, where everyone reads minds, has a lot of potential. Unfortunately, much of this is wasted in the anger, the harsh tone and language in the prose, and the unsympathetic and un-inspiring main character. One doesn’t have to like a character to enjoy the book, but in this case Joe is more cringe-worthy than interesting, which unfortunately detracts from other aspects of the novel.

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