Review: 'Mindline', by M. C. A. Hogarth
This is the conclusion of M.C.A. Hogarth’s The Dreamhealers Duology. I reviewed the first book, Mindtouch, here on September 1, 2013.
In that novel Jahir Seni Galare, the colorless elflike Eldritch esper, has just entered interstellar Seersana University. His roommate is Vasiht’h, a short, skunk-furred centauroid winged Glaseah. They are both espers, but Jahir is an involuntary telepath to whom the impact of other minds is painful. In the course of Mindtouch, the two aliens develop a strong friendship, Jahir learns to control his talent – somewhat – and the two graduate.
Jahir intends to use his telepathic talent to become the galaxy’s first xenotherapist, reading his patients’ minds to help heal them. The question is whether there is any danger of the esper medic’s becoming overwhelmed by his patient’s mind.
It would be just his luck to begin his residency by reporting to the hospital as a patient. Jahir Seni Galare, nascent xenotherapist, Eldritch noble and apparently complete lightweight, sat on a bench just outside the Pad nexus that had delivered him to the surface of the planet Selnor. He had his carry-on in his lap and was trying to be unobtrusive about using it as a bolster until the dizziness stopped. (p. 1)
Tampa, FL, Studio MCAH, January 2014, trade paperback $15.99 ([1 +] 341 [+ 7] pgs.), Kindle $5.99.
Jahir is doggedly determined to succeed if it kills him, which it looks like it will starting the moment he comes to Heliocentrus on Selnor. As a native of a light-gravity world on a heavy-gravity planet, Jahir is tired all the time, in danger of failing physically before he ever gets close to practicing his medical specialty, which has its own dangers. The Selnor natives admire his dedication, and go all out to help him at the same time that they consider him a little bit crazy, even suicidal.
Vasiht’h worries about Jahir, to the point of leaving Seersana University and following him.
“Right,” Vasiht’h said, firmly. The plan was perhaps a little more nebulous than they were assuming, but then again, did it really need any more granularity than that? As the Goddess Herself would say, the point was not to dictate the future, but to shape it. Friendship was a thing that shaped, if it was good. And what he’d had with Jahir had been too good to allow to pass out of his life. (p. 9)
Jahir’s assignment is to Heliocentrus’ Mercy Hospital.
“All right. Let’s talk about Mercy. This is the biggest hospital on the planet. The planet that’s also the capital world for the entire Alliance. There’s no other facility to rival us for general practice in the Core and probably out of it. […] Five thousand beds. Nearly forty thousand permanent staff and any number of transients. And before the year is out we’ll see almost six million visits, of which about six hundred thousand will be to our crisis care center.” (pgs. 16-17)
That’s Griffin Jiron, human, one of the advanced practice nursing team in the psychiatric department. Grace Levine, another human, goes on:
“We’re the ones they call to help calm down the people who show up alone, bleeding their guts out, right as they’re being rushed into emergency surgery. That means we get the gruesome accidents and the victims of violence … and when we’re done with that, they send us in to see people who’ve been told they have almost no chance of living, or that their next surgery’s going to be their only chance. And we see to the dying who have chosen – or who have no choice but to die here.” She lifted her brows. “This is the deep end of the pool. Think you can handle it?”
“I am here to find out,” he said.
“Fair answer.” She grinned. “I’ll tell you a secret, alet: I think this is the best place to work. There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t do something important, something productive. We’re indispensable to the staff here, to the patients. It’s grueling and heart-breaking, but we make a difference. I wouldn’t trade it for something easier.” (p. 22)
Mindline does an excellent job of advancing Jahir’s and Vasiht’h’s story while showing the reader what life among the Pelted and human species of the United Alliance in the 24th century is like.
Her computer was flush to the wall, and she used it while standing – or with one foot on a ball she was idly rolling as she clasped the information projected solidi-graphically and moved it physically out of the way. Two years of exposure to the Alliance’s interfaces had worn away his wonder at their magic; now what intrigued him was how many different styles there were. Data tablets were as ubiquitous as her device-free set-up, and there were any number of variations in between. That level of personalization suggested an industrial base he still could not grasp, even now. How fortunate these people were, and often did not know. (p. 33)
I find myself wanting to quote huge sections of Mindline verbatim. There are such wonders here.
Circumstances keep delaying Vasiht’h on his journey to rejoin Jahir.
[…] and he knew with all the certainty of an esper that Jahir cared about him.
No, the possibility that distressed him most was that his friend was not just busy, but overwhelmed. And that made him too agitated to enjoy what he would normally have found comforting: the bustle of people, the hum of their conversation, the evidence of the Alliance’s wealth and variety.
Three days. Goddess hear him, but surely another three days wouldn’t matter. (p. 46)
Three days might not, but Jahir is slowly but steadily declining. It is not because of the involuntary mind-contact that he feared, but because of Selnor’s high gravity plus the rigors of the constant physical and emotional exhaustion at Mercy Hospital. By the time that Vasiht’h finally arrives to share the burden, Jahir is barely hanging on. Is Vasiht’h too late, or can he do enough to turn the situation around?
Mindline is also a philosophical novel. Here is a spaceport medical response agent:
“Oh no.” Patience laughed again. Her wings shivered when she moved; he found himself staring at them. “No, I wanted the best education I could have, and that was it. But once I was done, I wanted something a little less hectic.” She lifted her chin, nodded her head toward the passing stream of people. “This is good. I like seeing so many people come and go. I love the bustle of the port. The people aren’t here because they’re sick, they’re here because they’re going somewhere. They’re excited, or hurried, or rushed, but even at their worst they’re looking toward something. People in a hospital are …” She paused, then suggested a ball with her hands and crushed it inward until her two fists met. “They’re … folded up into themselves, involved in their own healing or sicknesses. It was a good place to learn but I didn’t want to live there.” (pgs. 3-4)
Jahir doesn’t “want” to, either, but he feels that he “has” to. But is he taking on more than he can handle? Vasiht’h, who is also an esper and a university xenopsychology major, comes to aid him. Together the two help each other to develop the new discipline of xenotherapy.
There are few novels that you HAVE to read, but Mindline is one, whether you like science fiction or medical drama. It is especially recommended to those who have any interest in Hogarth’s stories of the Pelted and their 24th century universe of the interstellar United Alliance.