TITLE: Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds
AUTHOR: Gwenda Bond
GENRE: Science Fiction, Thriller, Horror Fiction (Apparently)
PUBLISHER: Cornerstone Digital
PUBLICATION DATE: 7th February 2019
MY RATING: 2/5
It’s the summer of 1969, and the shock of conflict reverberates through the youth of America, both at home and abroad. As a student at a quiet college campus in the heartland of Indiana, Terry Ives couldn’t be further from the front lines of Vietnam or the incendiary protests in Washington.
But the world is changing, and Terry isn’t content to watch from the sidelines. When word gets around about an important government experiment in the small town of Hawkins, she signs on as a test subject for the project, codenamed MKUltra. Unmarked vans, a remote lab deep in the woods, mind-altering substances administered by tightlipped researchers . . . and a mystery the young and restless Terry is determined to uncover.
But behind the walls of Hawkins National Laboratory—and the piercing gaze of its director, Dr. Martin Brenner—lurks a conspiracy greater than she could have ever imagined. To face it, she’ll need the help of her fellow test subjects, including one so mysterious the world doesn’t know she exists—a young girl with unexplainable, superhuman powers and a number instead of a name: 008.
Amid the rising tensions of the new decade, Terry Ives and Martin Brenner have begun a different kind of war—one where the human mind is the battlefield.
Thoughts and Opinions
While many of my favourite media franchises have releases and instalments using multiple mediums, I have never previously read a novel based on a TV show or movie before. Filmed mediums have an air of finality and objectivity about them. You are prohibited from developing a truly unique and individual visualization of what characters may look like, of the atmosphere that a particular location may have. Having the opportunity to fully exercise my imagination is one the main things that I love about reading, and so not being able to do so, as a result of film or television giving me preconceived ideas of what I am reading, limits my enjoyment of a book. So, while I was wary of getting stuck into Suspicious Minds, my love of the show persuaded me to give it a go.
One of the keys to the success of the TV show, in my opinion, was that it featured a group of children taking the initiative and doing what they thought to be the right thing against unscrupulous adults, in much the same vein as The Goonies, Toy Soldiers, or perhaps even E.T. Even though the group of youngsters in Suspicious Minds, who refer to themselves as ‘The Fellowship’, are college aged, they all have a sense of childlike naiveite and optimism, continuously mentioning that what they are doing ‘feels right’ and that they ‘need to fight’, that enables Suspicious Minds to retain that feel from the TV show. Despite her success in this regard, I think that Bond struggled mightily in many other areas. The book’s pace was too slow, unbearably so at times, and the darker, more insidious elements of the Stranger Things world felt overlooked and watered down on the few occasions that they did appear.
Regarding the individual characters, I found them to be very much a mixed bag; while some were rich, interesting, and dynamic, others felt flat, underdeveloped, and uninspiring. As two opposing sides in a battle of wits and wills, both Terry and Dr. Brenner were engaging in their own different ways. Terry’s ever-growing sense of paranoia was palpable and jumped off the page, while Dr. Brenner’s guile and cunning is frustratingly effective. However, it is their shared determination to come out ahead of the other that works so well, driving the story and creating an interesting and dynamic relationship between the two. Concerning the rest of the fellowship, while I found Alice to be both fascinating and endearing, the others, Ken and Gloria, felt very one-dimensional and I was unable to develop any interest in them as the book progressed..
As an expansion to the Stranger Things canon, Suspicious Minds was…OK. It provides information into how Eleven came to be who she is as well as detailing the history of the highly secretive Hawkins lab and its trailblazing scientist, Dr. Brenner. While these aspects were dealt with in some detail, the answers that I was most hungry for, about the upside down, were left tantalizingly out of reach. Indeed, the upside down and the horrors that it contains were only given brief appearances, almost like a teaser trailer for a future instalment in a book series. I really would like to have seen more. If you’re not really into the show, or don’t know much about it, I would suggest that perhaps Suspicious Minds isn’t for you. Unfortunately, if you are into the show, my suggestion remains the same. Pass on the book and wait for season 3 in July.