When Rick lost the ability to run, he came one step closer to becoming a hero.
High Score! New Record Time!
Rick nodded with grim satisfaction. He laid the game controller aside on the sofa and reached for his crutches.
Rick Dial was the best quarterback Putnam Hills High School had ever seen. Unflappable. Unstoppable.
Number 12. But when a car accident left him crippled, Rick’s life as he knew it ended. He disavowed his triumphant past. He ignored his girlfriend. He disappeared into his bedroom—and into the glowing video screen.
But Rick’s uncanny gaming skills have attracted attention. Dangerous attention. Government agents have uncovered a potentially devastating cyber-threat: a Russian genius has created a digital reality called the Realm, from which he can enter, control,
and disrupt American computer systems . . . from transportation to defense. The agents want Rick, quick-thinking quarterback and gaming master, to enter the
Realm and stop the madman—before he sends America into chaos.
Entering the Realm will give Rick what he thought he’d never have again: a body as strong and fast as it was before the accident. But this is no game, there are no extra lives, and what happens to Rick in the Realm happens to Rick’s body in reality.
Even after Rick agrees to help, he can’t shake the sense that he’s being kept in the dark. Why would a government agency act so aggressively? Can anyone inside the
Realm be trusted? How many others have entered before him . . . and failed to return?
In the tradition of Ender’s Game and The Matrix, MindWar is a complex thriller about a seemingly ordinary teenager who discovers a hidden gift—a gift that could make him a hero . . . or cost him everything.
"Edgar Award–winning Klavan’s well-orchestrated fantasy thriller features . . . an imaginative mix of gaming action with real-life stakes.
With just the right cliff-hanger ending, this trilogy opener shows promise." —Booklist
About the Author
Andrew Klavan is a bestselling, award-winning thriller novelist whose books have been made into major motion pictures. He broke into the YA scene with the best-selling Homelanders series, starting with The Last Thing I Remember. He is also a screenwriter and scripted the innovative movie-in-an-app Haunting Melissa. Website: www.andrewklavan.com Twitter: @andrewklavanFacebook: aklavan
Read an Excerpt
By ANDREW KLAVAN
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2014 Andrew Klavan
All rights reserved.
RICK DIAL STREAKED through the vastness of space, starlight and gunfire blazing all around him. The seat of his battlecraft shook beneath him as he pressed the button to unleash another deadly barrage from his two forward guns. He caught one glimpse of the pilot of the Orgon ship veering in toward him from starboard, then his shot struck home. There was an orange blast of flame and scrap metal. When it was over, both the Orgon ship and its pilot were gone.
That was the last of the guardians. Rick righted his battlecraft and zoomed in toward the mothership, which now hovered in the endless darkness undefended. He held the Fire button down. His forward guns bucked and spat death in a continual rattle. The black wall of the mothership frayed, chipped, and then burst apart. The landing bay was laid open to the vacuum of space.
As Rick guided his craft in toward the interior landing strip, he could see the insectile Orgon crewmen screaming in terror as they were swept from their battle stations into the infinite emptiness around them. He kept firing. The last parked crafts of his alien enemies exploded, killing whatever crew members were still on board.
With that, it was over. None of the giant bug-like creatures were left. The landing bay was clear.
Rick slowed his craft into a sleek glide and headed toward the centerline. He touched down effortlessly. The moment he did, words flashed on the television screen:
New High Score! New Record Time!
Rick nodded with grim satisfaction. He laid the game controller aside on the sofa and reached for his crutches.CHAPTER 2
A HALF Life
WITH THE RUBBER pads of the aluminum crutches wedged under his arms, Rick swung himself across the dark room to the door. He paused by his workstation there. Reached down to touch the keys of his Mac. The monitor woke and glowed in the shadows. There was a new e-mail—another note from Molly.
For a moment, he let himself remember her. The light brown hair tumbling down to frame the high cheekbones on her robust, delicately freckled face. The tall, shapely figure. The smart, strong gaze. He remembered the last time he had kissed her—four months ago—the feel of her lips. The last words he had spoken to her, face-to-face:
I never expected this, Molly.
He meant he had never expected a romance between them. They had always just been friends with a lot in common. She was the child of a local college professor, like he was. She was an athlete, like he was ...
Or, that is, like he used to be.
An acid bitterness went through his heart and Rick forced the memories away. He deleted the e-mail without reading it. Molly had not given up on their relationship—not yet—but she would get the message sooner or later. He'd make sure of it.
He opened the door and, propped on his crutches, swung out into the hall.
He squinted as the morning light hit him. He was surprised how bright it was. He hadn't seen it in his bedroom, not at all. His mother had set up the new bedroom for him on the ground floor so he wouldn't have to negotiate the stairs anymore with his busted-up legs. He kept the curtains in there pulled shut twenty-four/seven. He didn't want anyone to look in at him from the sidewalk. He didn't want anyone to see him sitting there playing his video games hour after hour after hour—sleeping the days away—doing nothing—a useless cripple.
He swung himself down the hall to the kitchen. He could smell eggs cooking, bacon, too. It suddenly occurred to him he was hungry.
His mother was at the stove with her back to him when he came in. She didn't turn around—probably didn't hear him enter over the crackling of the eggs in the frying pan and the bacon sizzling. But Raider saw him—his kid brother, Wade, eight years old. Raider was sitting at the round kitchen table in the corner. When he saw his big brother come in, he lit up like a Christmas tree. Big, big smile on his round face, blue eyes bright and beaming. That was typical Raider: no matter what happened, he could always find a reason to grin. Kid probably had some kind of weird psychological condition or something.
"Hey, Rick!" he said. He sounded as glad to see him as if they'd been apart for months instead of a few hours.
At the sound of Raider's voice, Rick's mom turned and looked at Rick over her shoulder. She smiled, too, but she wasn't as good at it as Raider. No matter how hard she tried, Rick could see the sorrow in her eyes. He could see it in the way the corners of her mouth always turned down. Her face—round like Raider's—was pale and saggy. No makeup. No energy. Not at all like she used to be, like she was in the old days—the old days being five months ago, before Rick's father tossed their twenty-year-old marriage in the garbage and ran off, no one knew where, with some old flame of his.
"Well!" Mom said, trying to put some feeling in her voice. "You came out of your room!"
Rick only nodded. He hobbled to the refrigerator.
"Will wonders never cease?" his mother went on. "Who knows? Maybe you'll even shave."
"Let's not get ahead of ourselves," Rick muttered. "I just got hungry, that's all."
"Mom's making eggs!" said Raider, as if he were delivering news that World War III was over and the good guys had won.
"Wow," said Rick, but his voice was expressionless. Leaning on his crutches, he pulled open the refrigerator door and snagged a bottle of orange juice. Carrying it clumsily by the bottle neck, he thumped his way back to the kitchen table.
"I'll get you a glass!" said Raider—and he was off on the mission before Rick could stop him. He practically ran to the cupboard. Grabbed the glass like it was the baton in a relay race. Came barreling back to the table to set it down beside the juice bottle.
"Thanks," Rick managed to say. He set his crutches against the wall and dropped into a chair.
The kid kept hanging over him, though, all hopeful and eager. For what? What did he think Rick was going to do for him? Toss the football around with him in the backyard? Teach him some gridiron moves like he used to? All that was over now. He couldn't be that kind of big brother anymore—a hero a younger brother could look up to and imitate. Those days were finished. The kid just never learned, that's all.
"Hey, I know: maybe you could get some exercise today," Raider suggested helpfully. "The doctor says if you exercise enough, you'll get the strength in your legs back, then you won't have to use the crutches anymore."
Rick poured himself some juice and drank. "Aw, what do doctors know?"
"Uh ... doctoring?" said Raider.
Rick smiled in spite of himself. It was impossible not to like the runt.
"Sit down and eat your breakfast," said their mother. She set a plate with eggs, bacon, and toast on the table for Raider.
"Rick can have those," said Raider. "He's hungry. I'll get the next batch."
"Sit down and eat, punk, or you'll get the Crutch of Doom," said Rick.
"Not the Crutch of Doom!" cried Raider in mock horror. But he sat down and started eating his eggs.
Rick and his mother exchanged a look. She lifted her chin at him—a little gesture of thanks for not being cruel to his kid brother. She knew it was hard for Rick to be nice to anyone anymore. And she knew Raider worshipped the ground Rick walked on. Or hobbled on.
"I'll make some more for you," she said and moved back to the stove.
Rick's eyes hung on her retreating figure for a moment. Her sad, slumped figure, still in her bathrobe, her graying hair uncombed, all out of place. She never looked like that when Dad was still here ... but there was no point thinking about that anymore, was there? Those days were over, too. Dad was gone.
His eyes moved away from her—but it didn't matter where he looked. There was something in every direction that brought the situation home to him. Over there in the corner of the kitchen counter, for instance, there was a glass bowl full of unpaid bills. Rick could see the red writing on them: Second Warning. Urgent Notice. Final Warning. Soon the debt collectors would be after them, calling at all hours, ringing the doorbell, hounding them. Or the electricity would be turned off or the bank would come to take the house away. Maybe all those things together.
His gaze moved on—and he could see through the kitchen doorway into the dining room beyond. There on the sideboard were photographs, snapshots in frames. He couldn't really make them out from where he was sitting, but that didn't matter. He knew what was in them. They were pictures of his dad and mom with their arms around each other, smiling happily at the camera, their two sons nearby. And pictures of him, Rick, proud and straight and strong in his football uniform, holding a ball, striking a quarterback pose, looking like the local hero he was, ready to head off for Syracuse and a full scholarship and college glory ...
Was that only a few short months ago? It was. A few short months—and another lifetime. He'd been the big man at Putnam Hills High School then. Six-foot-two, broad-shouldered, muscular. Captain Hunky, the girls called him, on account of his sandy-blond hair, his even features, and his intense blue eyes, full of feeling. Good grades. More friends than he could name. As many girls as he could handle. And on the football field? A star, pure and simple. The quarterback, Number 12. His teammates, his Lions, would have followed him anywhere. No matter how far down they were in a game, no matter how outmatched, if Number 12 said to them, "Don't worry. We're going to win this," they didn't worry and they did win it. They knew that nothing could stop the man under center when he was on his game. Even on the rare occasions when Rick got sacked, when some 250-pound lineman barreled into his midsection and laid him out flat on his back, even then, when some lesser quarterback might have lain in the grass for thirty seconds or so watching the twinkling stars and twittering birdies dance around in the air above his dazed head, Rick would leap to his feet while the defender was still doing his sack dance. He would spit in the hash marks defiantly and swagger back into the huddle—and the whole team would swagger with him. Because he was Rick Dial—he was Number 12—and they would follow him anywhere.
Rick turned his eyes from the snapshots.
She oughta throw that stuff away, he thought. She ought to throw away every photo taken before Dad left and before the accident turned him, Rick, into the cripple he was. Why wallow in what they'd had and lost? Why not just forget the past and deal with the facts as they were now?
He was still gazing in the direction of the pictures, gazing into space, when his mother plunked a plate of eggs, bacon, and toast in front of him. He thanked her and lowered his head to begin to eat, but he could feel her, still standing over him, looking down.
"Raider's right, you know," she said softly after a moment. "It wouldn't kill you to get some exercise. You ought to go outside at least and get some air."
"Don't start, Ma, okay? I just want to have some breakfast," Rick said.
"You can't spend every day playing video games and nothing else."
"Sure I can. It just takes a little effort, that's all." Rick concentrated even harder on eating his eggs, but all the same he was aware his mother was still there, still looking down at him.
"Rick ...," she began.
A hot gust of anger went through him. He'd had enough. He tossed his fork down on the plate hard enough to make it clatter. He started to look up. He was about to tell his mother to back off and leave him alone, quit nagging him all the time. But before he could speak, he caught a glimpse of Raider. He saw the way the kid was staring at him, the freckles on his round cheeks standing out as he turned pale, the smile draining out of his eyes as he realized that yet another argument was about to start, and that his big brother—his lifelong hero—was about to disappoint him again.
Rick got control of himself just in time. He didn't want to torture the kid. Or his mother either, for that matter. He loved them both—more than he could say—it was a warm, pulsing ache inside him. He loved them, but they just didn't understand. He just wanted to be left alone, that's all.
He looked up at his mother, into her damp, sorrowful eyes.
"Okay," he said with a sigh finally. "Okay, Mom, sure. I'll take a walk. Or a limp. Whatever."
Mom managed a tight-lipped smile. She nodded at him. "Good," she said. "You don't want to be on those crutches your whole life, after all."
What difference does it make? he thought. No matter how strong my legs get, they'll never be strong enough. I'll never play football again, not like before. I'll never be what I was going to be. So why bother?
But—because he really did love her—he willed himself to keep his mouth shut. As his mother finally turned away from him, he looked across the bright kitchen at the window over the sink. He could see outside into the sunlit morning. He could see through the branches of the cherry tree to the front yard, and beyond the front yard to the street. He could see beams of sun falling on the scene and patches of blue sky above.
At least it's a nice day for it, he thought. And he thought:
His mom was right—a walk probably would be good for him. It wouldn't kill him anyway.
He put his head down and picked up his fork and continued eating his breakfast. He did not look up at the window again.
So he never noticed the green van parked out there, beyond the cherry tree, beyond the lawn, across the street against the far curb. He never even saw it.
But the people inside the van—they saw Rick. They had a camera with a powerful zoom lens trained on his window, and they watched him on the video screens they had set up behind the van's driver's seat.
And they waited for him to come out.CHAPTER 3
RICK STEPPED OUT of the house. As he moved down the front walk, he was slumped over his crutches like a marionette hung from a hook. He barely lifted his eyes from the concrete paving stones. He moved past the lawn toward the sidewalk with a slow, jerky shamble. With three days' growth of beard, with his hair overlong, flopping down into his eyes, with his flannel shirt hanging untucked over his worn-out jeans, he looked like a panhandler searching for pity and spare change.
He came to the end of the front path and continued hobbling on his crutches down the sidewalk.
His street, Oak Street, was lined with modest houses, lawns, and trees—oaks and maples overshadowing the pavement, their leaves turning bright yellow, bright orange, and red. This early on a Saturday morning, there were a couple of families heading out to the mall or one of the reservoirs—a woman walking her dog—but mostly it was quiet. Cars stood still in driveways and on the street, parked by the curb.
Including the green van—which Rick still didn't notice—and the people inside, watching him, tracking him, taking his picture.
It was a short walk to the corner, but it took Rick a long time, nearly ten minutes. Partly because of the weakness in his legs—because he had to pause to rest every couple of steps—partly because he just didn't care enough to hurry. By the time he reached the intersection with Lincoln Avenue, he was breathless and sweating under his shirt despite the pleasant chill in the fair October weather.
He paused where he was, standing under the yellow leaves of a broad maple, scanning the quiet streets of the small town. Putnam Hills, New York. A nowhere place a couple of hours north of New York City. Nothing special. Good fishing in the local reservoirs. Hills for hiking and limestone caves for exploring. And the sprawling campus of the university where his father used to work.
Rick wondered if it was too soon for him to turn around and go home. Would his mother be annoyed with him if he came back through the door only minutes after he'd left? Or would she finally leave him in peace, let him return to his video games without nagging him? As he considered the question, his eyes swept over the scene—and paused as he saw a panel truck rattle by the corner of Lincoln and Elm.
The sight of the truck made him grimace. Something sour came into his stomach. It was a truck just like the one that had plowed into his silver-blue Accord four months ago—and it was just at that corner, just there.
Excerpted from Mindwar by ANDREW KLAVAN. Copyright © 2014 Andrew Klavan. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
MindWar is an edge-of-your-seat, action-packed thriller that will pull on your heartstrings with its haunting yet poignant messages of family and hope. There is a unique twist to this thriller as it takes place in a virtual world where the mission is to destroy a stronghold that has been created by a madman. Each mission is dangerous and threatens the life of the one who enters, but failure is not an option. The chosen one learns more about himself and his family then he could have ever have imagined. What has been lost is nothing compared to what has been gained throughout this very real and very treacherous journey. Rick Dial had the perfect life not long ago. He was a high school football star who was on his way to college with star status. There was no end to the friends that flocked to him, and the hardest part of getting a date was choosing a girl from the throng that was at his beck and call. In one day all of that was ripped away from him. An accident not only took his legs, but it destroyed his life. He spent the following months barely living trying to drown out the pain and the devastation that turned his world upside down. To add insult to injury, his father walked out leaving only a note behind that burned an even bigger hole in his broken heart. He locked his pain, frustration, and desperation deep inside his soul. The only relief he could find came in the form of his video games. Who would have imagined that they would help him to fight and overcome the most dangerous and lethal game that anyone had ever created? Can someone who has lost so much give everything he has in order to protect everything that he loves? This story caught my eye because I loved the idea of fighting a real war with the mind. Truthfully, all war is birthed and fought in the mind. The idea has to be thought up by someone who is unhappy about something. Then, they convince others of the same problem, and from there it spreads like wildfire. We never consider the power that we wield with our minds until it is used to bring about great evil. What social issue since the dawn of mankind didn’t first start out in the mind of one person? It’s our discontent and our pride that leads us to do unspeakable things to each other. What would happen if we would purposely decide to use that power to bring about changes for good? Are we afraid that it would lack the support needed to take root, or are we afraid of what might happen if we had the courage to stand out and speak up for what we know is right? Andrew Klavan has taken me by surprise with this exciting and intriguing story of warfare waged on a virtual battlefield. MindWar is as enthralling as it is poignant in its approach to handling the truth that what we are going through right now does not determine the direction of your life forever. You can choose to change your perspective by taking your eyes off yourself and really looking around you. There will always be bumps along the road of life, but don’t let them derail you and remove your focus from the endgame. Don’t allow those times to control your life because that will force you to stand still and wallow in your misery. Instead, focus all of your attention and energy on the One who can guide you through those rough patches and bring you back into His light which will fill you with the love and purpose you need to recharge and help you to rise to the challenges to come.
“Mindwar” by Andrew Klavan is an edge of your seat thriller that will keep you guessing about what will happen next. It’s the first book in a new trilogy set around Rick Dial, a former high school quarterback who was left disabled after a car accident. Instead of facing everyone about what had happened, he disappeared into his bedroom and essentially into video games, where he discovered a whole new set of talents. But those talents didn’t go unnoticed, and he was soon contacted by government agents who wanted him to enter a new digital reality called the Realm to help save the country from a madman, but whatever happens to Rick in the Realm happens to him in real life so it’s NOT just a video game. This book was an amazing read centered around our own modern times so it was easy to get into and I would recommend it to all of my friends who like thrillers. The characters are likeable and easy to relate with in some aspects, and the view of new technology is awesome. Since it is the first book in a new trilogy, I was disappointed when I got to the end and realized that I’d have to wait who knows how long for the next book to come out. Here’s to hoping that that wait won’t be for TOO long! This book was given to me for free through BookLook Bloggers, a division of Thomas Nelson Publishing, in exchange for my honest review.
Mindwar, in my opinion, is one of the best books I've read in a while. When I got to the end, I didn't want the book to be over; I wished it would just keep going. I'm glad there's two more books to follow! The whole concept of being able to get into a machine and then have your mind be able to control a virtual body of yourself in a different world is something I thought would be cool as a kid and is something I still think is cool as an adult. However, with this "video game" experience, Rick, the main character, has to decide whether or not to go into the Realm, because if you die in the Realm, you die in Real Life. And the process is painful! A little about Rick's family, his father left them for a college woman friend. His mom is worn out. And his little brother, Raider, is full of enthusiasm and love for his brother. As the book goes along, everything about his family makes sense, and it's another reason the book is so good. Rick used to be the high-school football star quarterback, until he was in a car accident and his legs were injured. After the injury, all Rick would do was sit in his room, in the dark, and play video games. So, seeing Rick get stronger as the book goes along was very rewarding to me. One of my favorite parts about the book was when Rick is working out his legs and the pain is excruciating but he keeps at it and says he deserves the pain. That is exactly how my mind works. I can't wait for the next book!
Mindwar is a game winner... Mindwar The Mindwar Trilogy Book 1 By Andrew Klavan Rick Dial's life is over. His dad has run off with an old college girlfriend. He'll never play football again thanks to an accident that ruined his legs and his life. The last few months he's been living in his bedroom. And not really even living more like existing. All that he is and does revolves around video games. Everything is about to change, and it could cost Rick his life... But he could save the world... Rick's mind could turn him into the hero he always wanted to be. War is coming, but it is about to be waged on a new front - a virtual front - and few people have the ability to survive within the Realm. But Rick's recent obsession with gaming has uniquely prepared him for a mission into the Realm. But to die within the Realm means to die outside it as well. There are dangers that can't be prepared for within this virtual world - a world that is the creation of genius who has placed himself on the same level as the Creator. With time running out, Rick is the government's only chance of stopping this first major attack. The possibility of never leaving the Realm is all to real. But is Rick ready for his life to truly be over? Or is this the very thing he needs to rediscover his life and his faith? I'm looking forward to book 2 in this series, which in my opinion makes this book a game winner! Mindwar is an exciting and suspenseful series debut that will keep up into early hours. I think this book would be suitable for Tween, Teen, and Adult readers who love their reading to be suspense-filled! I think fans of Stephen Lawhead's Bright Empires series, Robin Parrish's Offworld, and Ted Dekker's Circle series will appreciate this book/series. I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher through the BookLook blogger program in exchange for my honest review.
'Mindwar' is the first book in an exciting new young adult series that follows our main character, Rick Dial, as he tries to piece his life back together from the disasters that happened months before. His father up and left his family to be with a younger woman, and then Rick was in a terrible wreck, which crippled both his legs - which meant that his football days and the full scholarship to Syracuse - were a thing of the past. Rick hasn't been dealing with the changes in his life very well. He hides in his room and plays video games most of the day, every day. However, Rick's life is about to change drastically. A secret government agency has been watching him and they approach him with a huge opportunity - to save America and the world as he knows it. Terrorist groups have new technology that will enable them to launch a cyber attack on America like they've never seen - and they believe that Rick is the best person to stop this attack. Will Rick put aside his own personal issues to think of others? Will he cast his doubts and insecurities aside and attempt to save the world? As things become more and more twisted, Rick starts to question everything the government has told him, which brings even more questions to mind. I thought this was a solid start to a new series that science fiction fans will enjoy. The book is set in our time, so there wasn't any really weird setting to adjust to. The new cyber technology that the story is centered around is fascinating and certainly made me stop and think about the possibilities of this type of science would allow. Rick was a good main character - he's had a lot of bad things happen in his life in the past few months - and his hope is all but gone. He's pretty sulky and whiny, in my opinion, and he just seems to wallow in his self pity and anger. He does have good qualities to round out the flaws - he's smart and loves his family - but he still seems to waver a bit for my taste. The plot was unique and I found the technology and all of its aspects really intriguing. It sort of went over my head at first and I had to sit and think about it for awhile before I understood it. It's a typical hero story - the hero is presented with a quest or challenge, which he must accept, and then embarks on a journey to complete the task - all while encountering unforeseen dangers along the way. The hero finishes the quest and returns home. The book pretty much follows this design to the mark. I enjoyed reading about the characters and the "quest" that Rick is thrown into, but I wasn't able to fully immerse myself in the story. Along with the obvious plot and story line, there are several meaningful topics that are dealt with - like family issues, self-confidence, love, trust, and doing the right thing, to name a few. I liked that the author included these deeper aspects to the story - it gives it a whole new depth and an overall positive message. Overall, this was a good start to an interesting series that will appeal to fans of science fiction, as well as those who enjoy a story that also sends a good message. Disclosure: I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.