Telepath: Hive Mind 1 by Janet Edwards (book review)

There is now a new kind of author: the hybrid. These are writers who have been published by mainstream publishers but have later decided, for various reasons, to self-publish. Storm Constantine was one of the first, wanting to get her earlier books back into print before going on to develop the independent publishing house of Immanion Press. Janet Edwards has joined this select band. After the success of her ‘Earth Girl’ trilogy, she had a following wanting to know where they could get hold of the next book. Publishing schedules of the major publishers tend to put out only one book per author per year. Edwards didn’t want her fans to wait that long, especially as she is a prolific writer so decided to produce the next books herself. While some authors need the input of various editors and agents to make sure a high quality is maintained, it is pleasing to discover that Edwards doesn’t. ‘Telepath’ has the same excellent production qualities as the ‘Earth Girl’ trilogy.

Edwards writes very effectively for Young Adults, properly embracing the sub-genre and placing her characters in peril, keeping the action going throughout. ‘Telepath’ has a number of parallels with the ‘Earth Girl’ trilogy. Both are set in far future societies and each has an eighteen year-old female protagonist who finds herself in a situation where she is an outsider having to prove her worth. In ‘Telepath’, the human population of Earth is gathered into huge, largely underground, complexes known as Hives. Each of these is as self-contained as a country. The Hives trade with each other and may be suspicious of each other’s motives. As in ‘Earth Girl’, much of the teen-age years of the young people are spent learning independence and living in areas that largely exclude adults.

Amber, the protagonist of ‘Telepath’, and Jarra, the protagonist of ‘Earth Girl, each begin the narrative reaching a point where their lives will change forever. For Jarra, it is choosing the university course that will shape her adult career. For Amber, it is the series of tests that make up Lottery in the year she is eighteen. From the results of these, she will be assigned a job for life, one that she is suited for and will enjoy and will have the information she needs to carry it out imprinted on her brain. She will be very unlikely to ever meet her teen-age companions again. Amber, though, turns out to have a very rare quality. She is a true telepath. As such and only one of five in her Hive, she must be protected at all costs as she is the one who effectively keep order. She will be able to find and track criminals so that they can be apprehended and dealt with by the enforcers.

Amber discovers that she has a vast area, including a park, that is part of her quarters but that she has to share it with a team of enforcers that act as her bodyguards, as well as medics, tacticians, cooks, cleaners and she has to learn to control her new-found abilities. She has to be able to pick out from amongst the myriads, the criminal mind and direct her team to find them. She has to be able to shut out the unwanted thoughts of the others around her.

From her Lottery testing, Amber’s elite enforcers have been selected to conform to the profile she would be attracted to. Since she won’t be allowed to freely socialise, any partners would have to be found amongst those in her coterie and a telepath’s desires are paramount in keeping her happy. Thus amongst the group is Forge, the friend from her teen-age years that she was obsessed with, though he was never a boyfriend. Now she finds herself more attracted to Lucas, her tactical team leader because his mind fizzes with energy. When they attend an situation when a three year-old goes missing, incidents from her childhood begin to make more sense and an unexpected threat is exposed.

In this novel, Amber has to cope not only with the dramatic change in status that the Lottery’s rite of passage throws at her and the awakening of her own physical needs, but an imminent danger to her and her Hive.

Edwards has done a good job juggling the need to write something different from her first trilogy while also keeping the elements that have attracted her fan base. Anyone who enjoyed the ‘Earth Girl’ trilogy will love this. Like Jarra, Amber dances across the page with all the hopes and neuroses of any eighteen year-old. A good job well done.

Pauline Morgan

January 2017

(pub: Janet Edwards/CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016. 348 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 8.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-53708-802-0. Kindle edition £ 3.99 (UK))

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