The Eye of Minds

James Dashner. Delacorte, $18.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-385-74139-2

This first book in the Mortality Doctrine series from Maze Runner author Dashner offers an irresistible premise: three teens must track down a dangerous rogue player in a popular virtual game. Michael, Bryson, and Sarah live for their hours in the VirtNet, where they seek out the wildest adventures possible without any risk to their physical selves. Then Michael encounters a player so haunted by a gamer named Kaine that she disables her safety device in order to kill herself. Michael is drafted by VirtNet Security to root out Kaine, and a violent quest ensues. Though the plot makes this an easy sell, some clunky writing and weak characterizations diminish the story (Michael notices the VNS agent’s “long pretty legs” and remarks, “It was clear that she was manipulative, that she used her beauty to melt men’s hearts”). The protagonists are fairly interchangeable, though when Michael explains what the VNS wants, it’s Sarah who wonders, “Why would they ask three teenagers to solve their problems?” A smart question that presumably will be answered in the next installment. Ages 12–up. Agent: Michael Bourret, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. (Oct.)