What do we do when hackers get so proficient they are able to breach even the most secure networks? No computer is safe, no firewall is strong enough, and storing the data in a brick and mortar is no longer a viable option? What can the government do when nothing seems to work, and lives are at risk if we don’t find a way to protect sensitive information? How would you feel if the only way to truly encrypt and hide information was by implanting a chip containing all that information into a person’s brain.
The brilliant mind of John Marrs gives us such a conundrum in The Minders. You can always count on Marrs to give us a suspenseful, unique science fiction story, with “no he didn’t” twists that will make your jaw drop. To really understand how stressed the UK government has to be in order to go so far as to put a chip in someone’s brain, you have to remember we are in the futuristic tech-driven world Marrs has created for us. The place where we can find our soulmate through a DNA match (The One), and there are driverless cars (The Passengers). I think in order to truly appreciate the havoc that follows a hack in the Marrs universe, you should read his previous works. The Minders is strong as a standalone, but the desperation of the people paid to keep us safe is the key to making this plot a feasible possibility. Plus, it’s just plain fun to see the connections to the other books.
The story in a nutshell: Five seemingly normal people are selected and trained for a secret operation that involves, you know, brain surgery. All agree to get chips containing all the country’s classified information implanted into their noggins because the reward after five years of service is a better quality of life. They’ll be rewarded with money, security, and most important of all, peace of mind. They get to choose where they live, so long as its in the UK. But they have to let everything go that was in their life beforehand, and be sure not to disclose what they are holding onto to anyone they meet. What follows is the impact of having this heavy responsibility on each of the five characters, and how it drives their decision making. We also see the consequences this mission has on their relationships, their self-esteem, and their mental and physical acuity. To complicate matters, the evil hacking collective has caught onto the government’s game and starts tracking and targeting these top secret individuals.
This novel made me question if I would ever do something like this, and I think it will for you, too. Most of the characters were stuck in an unhappy rut in their previous lives. They desperately wanted a change, so they decide to be lab rats and participate in something insane that leads to a more fulfilling existence, or so they think. The character that really spoke to me was Sinead, who leaves an abusive marriage and does a complete 180 after passing the selection process. I enjoyed seeing her develop into a strong character, and I thought it was meaningful for Marrs to give her a storyline that showed how her former life as an abuse victim shapes her actions in her new one. Because pain and trauma go with us wherever we end up in life. Humans aren’t robots. We aren’t supposed to serve as hard drives for other people’s lives. We carry enough.
Warning: This is a violent one. More so than any other Marrs book I’ve read. You won’t like all the characters, or what they do to themselves and others. But that’s the point. When sensitive data involves a human carrier, destroying and/or protecting such information (depending on what side you are on) will involve physical confrontations, and a lot of blood.
If you’ve never read John Marrs, and you like Black Mirror, what are you waiting for? Because I have news for you, Marrs is better.
Rating: 4/5 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Edward Karczewski: Andrew Lincoln
Flick: Elisabeth Moss
Charlie: Martin Freeman
Sinead: Nicola Coughlan
Emilia: Felicity Jones
Bruno: Paul Anderson