Title: Game, Set
Author: Manna Francis
Cover Artist: Orit “Shin” Heifets
Publisher: Casperian Books
Buy Links: Buy Link Amazon
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia
Length: Novella (30K words)
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Lenalena
Review Summary: Carnac! How I hate to love you! But this series just wouldn’t be the same without you, you evil bastard.
It’s all fun and games until somebody loses… Socioanalysts can read minds and motives at a glance, predict the future, manipulate the smallest actions of their unwitting puppets, and crush careers with a single word…or so the popular rumors say. Their arrival is dreaded everywhere in the European Administration, even the Investigation and Interrogation Division. Para-investigator Val Toreth, accustomed to being feared himself, is about to discover the truth of the rumors at first hand, when he is assigned as personal liaison to Carnac, the socioanalyst seconded to I&I to root out anti-Administration sentiments among its staff. And to make matters worse, it seems that his admin Sara is smitten with Carnac and Warrick has a history with him. With his closest allies straddling the line of Carnac’s camp, Toreth must rethink the rules of engagement.
The Administration Series
This novella can be found onlineand can also be purchased as part of The Administration series in the book Games & Players. For reasons I’ll be stating later, this review is just for the novella, not the entire book.
Game, Set introduces us to Toreth’s nemesis. I don’t use that word lightly; not many people have enemies (although in his line of work as a professional torturer for a totalitarian regime Toreth probably does), let alone a nemesis, but Jean-Baptiste Carnac surely fits the bill. Trained to read and predict people and organizations in his job as a Socioanalyst, Carnac is delegated to Toreth’s division on a nothing-job. To battle boredom he decides to see how far he can go in fucking with Toreth’s head….
Through Carnac’s observations we gain a lot of insight into Toreth’s mind in this novella. And that is why this one is vitally important to your enjoyment of the rest of the series. There is a group of readers who think that there is nothing wrong with Toreth, that he is just a gigantic jackass and he should shape up and if not, Warrick should dump him already. These readers tend to get very frustrated with this series, because Toreth never really meets their romantic ideals. And then there are the readers who accept the premise that Toreth is flawed and will never act like a normal human being. They rejoice in every little victory over Toreth’s conditioning and end up loving these books.
Now there are two wildly divergent opinions on Carnac as well. Most readers hate him. After all, he is messing with Toreth and Warrick and nobody messes with their babies! Or something along those lines. And then there are the people who (secretly) love him, because he is sharp and intelligent and does deliciously evil things to Toreth’s peace of mind. And this is just the beginning! Because, even if nemesis maybe a little bit too strong a word for Carnac in this novella, the bastard isn’t done with our guys yet and will more than live up to that label in future books.
The only weakness of this story is that all that insight into Toreth’s psyche comes at the expense of any kind of potential action. Carnac, Toreth, Warrick and Sara spend a lot of time contemplating things here. Fortunately, Toreth’s psyche is a fascinating topic and there is a very lovely sex scene to perk things up.
There are several more short stories in the book Games & Players that I am not reviewing here, this being the longest and most important one. All but one of the stories can be found online in the Mannazone. There is one story in this particular collection that features on page m/f sex and there is also an f/f story. If you need those avoid those at all cost, skip ‘As Long as it Lasted’ and ‘Wine, Women and Cushions’. You’re not going to miss anything essential for the rest of the series.
Clear sailing after those!