Borderline: Hive Mind 4 by Janet Edwards (book review).

It is important in any series of books, from a trilogy to a long running series, that as the characters age, they continue to develop but not to have too much of a complex backstory that jumping in at any point does not detract from the enjoyment of the plot. Janet Edwards is able to do this well.

The ‘Hive Mind’ series is set in the far future where the population is confined in vast structures, mostly underground with a hundred accommodation levels. Most services, including food production and leisure’ are provided inside. At eighteen, everyone goes through ‘Lottery’ which assesses what kind of job would make the person feel like a worthwhile member of society. It is not quite a utopia. There are people who, for various reasons, become anti-social. To keep this behaviour to a minimum, the Hives are patrolled by hasties (police) and nosies. The latter, wearing all enveloping costumes are believed to be telepaths who are monitoring thoughts for aberrant behaviour. That belief helps keep order.

Amber is the first person protagonist and had her beliefs turned upside down when she went through Lottery in the first volume, ‘Telepath’, in this sequence. She tested as a true telepath and, amongst the millions in her Hive, there are only five. Amber is the youngest and least experienced and because true telepaths are so rare, they have to be protected. Most of the people guarding Amber came out of Lottery at the same time she did. They are imprinted with the knowledge they need to do their job but having information and using it are not the same thing. All the car manuals and videos cannot replace the actual experience of fixing the car. Thus Amber and her team are learning on the job.

In ‘Borderline’, Amber has several problems to resolve. The first is how to cope when her workload is increased. Though there are five telepaths in the Hive, one will be out of action in the near future because he is in urgent need of an operation. Another, Keith, has an erratic ability and does not always function at a high level. He has also taken against Amber and is set on causing trouble for her. Somehow, she has to find a way to form a truce.

More immediate is the problem of teen games. Although these are strictly illegal, they are tolerated because they allow the youngsters to gain experience in areas not normally covered in the educational curriculum. The problem is that the challenges being given to one group of players have been escalation in risk. The challenges are dangerous, people are getting hurt and one of them is Amber’s brother. He does not know she is a telepath and mustn’t find out, even though it appears that he is a Borderline telepath. This means that he gets flashes of insight into other minds. Many of those who are assigned as nosies are Borderline as the occasional insight adds to their credence as peacekeepers. They need to find and neutralise the organiser of the game without disrupting the normal teen activities. As can be expected in Edwards’ novels, this is not going to be straightforward. They will need to come up with ingenious solutions while working against a barrier of ignorance.

Borderline’ is a fast-paced novel with the action consistent with what is already known about the world in which Amber lives. At the same time, she is aware that there are things that she hasn’t been told. As Amber grows as a person, she has to make difficult decisions, discovering that the world she thought she knew has unexpected aspects to it. The reader is discovering that world along with her.

Edwards writes excellent YA fiction, keeping well within the parameters of the sub-genre. Many of her characters are late teens, eighteen or nineteen, finding their place in their world, making mistakes and relationships. It is a delight to follow Amber and her friends as they discover more about the place, mentally and physically, that they inhabit.

Pauline Morgan

January 2021

(pub: Independent Publishing, 2020. 459 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £10.99 (UK) ISBN: 979-8-60174-093-7)

check out website: www.janetedwards.com

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