Born: Fort Benning, Georgia, May 7, 1962
B.A. Microbiology, Ohio State University
M.A. Molecular Biology, University of Wisconsin
M.B.A. Business Administration, University of Chicago
Thriller Sub-genre: Techno-thriller
Future of the series: Though Richards doesn’t have any immediate plans for an additional book in the series, he hasn’t ruled out the possibility for one. I will update if I hear any news.
The Simon Review
I have previously reviewed Douglas E. Richards’ Wired series and I decided to take on his more recent Nick Hall series. The two series share something in common which would be the technological advancement of the human brain. In the Wired series, Richards focuses on the enhancement of human intelligence through gene therapy whereas the Nick Hall series centers on implants that have the ability for the brain to connect directly to the internet as well as reading minds. Now both seem to be in the realm of total science fiction without a hint of any real science and I would probably say that is true of Wired, but the reading of minds may not be so far-fetched (see What about the science?).
Nick Hall is a marine biologist while on an expedition had the misfortune of being kidnapped along with his crew to be experimental guinea pigs in a brain implant study designed by a rather ruthless genius. Hall was the only one to survive and to be the first human to have implants that not only could connect to the internet but gave Hall the capability to read minds. Hall manages to escape from his captors but becomes a wanted man not only by those that had abducted him, but also by the US government that regards him as a national threat. Hall eventually convinces the US government that he is a good guy and a great asset in being a terrorist’s worst nightmare and the story continues from there.
But reading minds is not all fun and games and this ability takes a psychological toll on Hall, but lucky for him there is a woman that becomes his shining light. Megan Emerson has the unique capability of blocking out Hall’s ability to read minds. Not only that, she can communicate with him telepathically which, of course, makes them the perfect couple.
Richards has created not only a fun series but one that is also quite thought provoking. Richards puts the reader in the position of seeing through the eyes of Hall on what it would be like to be a mind reader and it isn’t pretty. My only gripe about the series is that the romantic interludes, particularly in the first book Mind’s Eye, were at times cringe-worthy. Nora Roberts you need not worry. But on the other hand, if you are into provocative technology, breathtaking action, and a hero with a big heart then you will love this series.
It isn’t necessary to read Mind’s Eye before reading BrainWeb and Brain War, but BrainWeb and Brain War should be read sequentially.
Most Favorite Novel in the Series- Mind Wars– because Hall meets his match
Least Favorite Novel in the Series-Mind’s Eye– because of the eye-rolling love scenes
What about the science? A while back I did a review of Ramez Naam’s Nexus series which also dealt with technological interfaces with the brain namely in the form of nano-drugs. In that review I brought up the topic of mind reading with a study that was done by an international group of scientists that designed a device that has the ability to create a very limited mind to mind communication that involves the use of electroencephalogram (EEG) technology and robotized transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Some believe that this form of communication maybe possible by the year 2030. So it looks like mind reading may be more than just science fiction.
The Nick Hall Technical Word in Review: Botulism Toxin– is a neurotoxin produced primarily by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, a bacteria that thrives in environments devoid of oxygen. Clostridium botulinum is naturally found in soil and water samples but derives its infamous reputation by causing food-borne poisoning and wound infections. The botulism toxin is the most lethal toxin known to mankind resulting in paralysis, and death through respiratory failure. Even though the toxin can be quite deadly, it also has its positive side. Many may know the toxin by the name of Botox® which can be used in cosmetics and medicinal purposes such as treating migraines.
There are 9 different botulinum toxins labeled as A, B, (C1, C2), D, E, F, G, and H with A, B, E, and sometimes F causing botulism in humans. Type H also known as BoNT has only recently been discovered and there were concerns about its use as a potent bioweapon as there is no antitoxin, but one recent study indicates that it may be a hybrid between type A and F toxin and be susceptible to antitoxin A.
The botulinum toxin works by preventing the release of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine from nerve cells. Neurons use acetylcholine to stimulate muscle cells, so when acetylcholine release is blocked the nervous system is cut off from the muscular system which results in paralysis.
The man wasted little time before mixing himself the Manhattan he so desperately longed for. It never occurred to him to check the small vial of botulism toxin he kept hidden at this residence so it would be available if he ever needed it again. It never occurred to him that Hall would dig through his mind to find this piece of circumstantial evidence tying him to the most heinous of crimes.
Hall watched the cocktail glass come to Fisher’s lips, seeing it through the man’s eyes. Fisher took a sip, sighed in contentment, and set the glass back down on the table.
Fifteen seconds later, as he was rolling on the floor, struggling to take a breath that refused to come no matter how great his efforts, he finally understood. Hall read his mind that with his last thought, he realized that he had, indeed, underestimated his former prisoner.–Brain Web
Books in the Series by Order:
Most Favorite in the series: Mind War with a score of 4.50
Least Favorite in the series: Mind’s Eye with a score of 4.03
Based on overall ratings from Goodreads, Barnes and Nobles, Library Thing and Amazon (US & UK)
The stench was absolutely horrid that it seemed to be attacking him.
Nick Hall: A marine biologist that has a brain implant that allows him to surf the web and read minds
Megan Emerson: Love interest of Hall and is one of the few people that can block his ability to read minds
Alex Altschuler: Computer genius that was the designer for the brain implant
Justin Girdler: A general that is head of PsyOps
Heather Zambrana: Altschuler’s co-worker and love interest
When Nick Hall wakes up in a dumpster–bloodied, without a memory, and hearing voices in his head–he knows things are bad. But they’re about to get far worse. Because he’s being hunted by a team of relentless assassins. Soon Hall discovers that advanced electronics have been implanted in his brain, and he now has two astonishing abilities. He can surf the web using thoughts alone. And he can read minds. But who inserted the implants? And why? And why is someone so desperate to kill him?
As Hall races to find answers, he comes to learn that far more is at stake than just his life. Because his actions can either catapult civilization to new heights–or bring about its total collapse.
Extrapolated from actual research on thought-controlled web surfing, Mind’s Eye is a smart, roller-coaster ride of a thriller. One that raises a number of intriguing, and sometimes chilling, possibilities about a future that is just around the corner.
She raised her eyebrows. “You didn’t know which destination I would choose. Are you telling me that you memorized the departure times for all possible choices?”
“Not at all. I’m just taking advantage of the personal web access in my head. I signed up for a free notebook app while I was reading the schedules. One with plenty of storage in the cloud. I figured it would be helpful to think information to this app. So I can see the cities and times for each trip in my um…mind’s eye, so to speak. I’ve added a small digital clock at the bottom of any page I call up, so I can get the precise time whenever I want.”
Looking for a review of Mind’s Eye? Check out:
Amazon Rating-US: 4.30 out of 5 stars based on 2,876 ratings
Amazon Rating-UK: 4.30 out of 5 stars based on 43 ratings
GoodReads Rating: 3.84 out of 5 stars based on 4,056 ratings
Barnes & Nobel Rating: 4.00 out of 5 stars based on 2 ratings
Library Thing Rating: 3.78 out of 5 stars based on 18 ratings
Total Score 4.03
Abdul Hakim zipped up a gray jumpsuit to fully cover his elegant black tuxedo, protecting it from being marred by moist clay or dirt when he–inevitably–brushed up against the cramped tunnel walls.
Nick Hall, Megan Emerson, Alex Altschuler, Justin Girdler, and Heather Zambrana
Oregon, and California
Nick Hall, an unwilling recipient of brain implants, can surf the Web with his thoughts and read minds. And while this makes him one of the most formidable men on earth, he is determined to stay off the grid.
But when terrorists seize control of the Academy Awards and vow to butcher the world’s most beloved stars, one by one, in front of an international television audience, Hall is forced to reveal his astonishing capabilities.
Now, power players around the world will stop at nothing to capture him. And as the secretive group working with Hall begins to unravel, he is sure of only two things: he has been betrayed by someone close to him. And the stakes he is playing for could not be any higher . . .
When Kelvin Gray had used Nick Hall as an unwilling experimental subject, he had plowed through Hall’s brain like a snowed-in driveway, looking for optimal placement of what had later come to be known as BrainWeb implants. Not only were the four implants tried in any number of locations, but different electrical levels had been used along the way as well.
Looking for a review of BrainWeb? Check out:
Amazon Rating-US: 4.36 out of 5 stars based on 901 ratings
Amazon Rating-UK: 4.17 out of 5 stars based on 29 ratings
GoodReads Rating: 4.02 out of 5 stars based on 2,332 ratings
Barnes & Nobel Rating: 5.00 out of 5 stars based on 1 ratings
Library Thing Rating: 3.86 out of 5 stars based on 7 ratings
Total Score 4.11
Listed #402 out of 549 on Goodreads Best Technothrillers Ever Book List
Listed #97 out of 168 on Goodreads Best Sciencethrillers Book List
The Sikorsky S-92 executive helicopter raced low over the South Atlantic Ocean, just off the coast of Brazil, whipping forward so feverishly close to the waves the man who called himself Victor thought he could almost reach down and touch the sea.
Nick Hall, Megan Emerson, Alex Altschuler, Justin Girdler, and Heather Zambrana
Utah, and California
Nick Hall has revolutionary electronics implanted in his brain that allow him to read minds–including thoughts, memories, and even intent. He can know the passwords, future strategies, and innermost secrets of anyone he chooses, making him the most formidable man alive. But his status as the only mind reader in the world is about to change . . .
Soon Hall is fighting for his life as he races to stop an unimaginably despicable terror plot. But his problems are only beginning. Because when a member of his inner circle betrays him, and the secret to mind reading leaks out, he is forced to wage war against a merciless mind reader of nearly unequaled brilliance. One who will stop at nothing to kill Hall, his colleagues, and the woman he loves. And one who is intent on ushering in a dramatic transformation of the human species–even at the cost of billions of lives.
Looking for a review of Mind War? Check out:
Amazon Rating-US: 4.73 out of 5 stars based on 206 ratings
Amazon Rating-UK: 4.50 out of 5 stars based on 2 ratings
GoodReads Rating: 4.40 out of 5 stars based on 444 ratings
Barnes & Nobel Rating: not rated
Library Thing Rating: not rated
Total Score 4.50