Game, Set (The Administration #3)

4809041Title: 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 online here and 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!


  • They rejoice in every little victory over Toreth’s conditioning and end up loving these books.

    This is it, exactly. After all, Toreth IS a sociopath and the fact that Worick affects him in a way that manages to break through those patterns (even in a small way) is fascinating. And, Carnac is a catalyst for many of those breakthroughs, even if that is not what he planned. Which is why I love when his ass is handed to him later on. 👿

    • I’ve had many discussions with people though who claim Toreth is not a sociopath at all, just an egotist, narcissist and/or douchebag . Ms Francis, wisely refuses to comment on the topic and leaves it up to the reader how to view Toreth.

      And Carnac is in his own way just as limited as Toreth, I think.

      • I think when people hear sociopath, many of them think in terms of Ted Bundy or something, so they cannot connect the term to Toreth. Not every sociopath runs around with a knife or kills for pleasure. Though they should think about the fact that Toreth sees his job as something normal – like being a hairdresser or cab driver.

        I agree on Carnac. He enjoys his games a bit too much. And there is that thing about end justifying the means.

  • You just get to the crux of these stories LenaLena, and I do understand your fixation with Carnac who is an evil genius. If you love characters who delight in fucking with the hero’s mind you don’t have far to go.

    Great review. I’ll never live up to your exceedingly high standard. 🙁

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