Readthroughs and Random Thoughts

Writing about what I'm reading…

Mind Fuck (Book One in the Administration Series), Manna Francis: Chapter One

A first chapter should introduce the story, give the reader an idea of what they’re dealing with, all that sort of stuff, IMHO. No punches are pulled here; we see Para-investigator Val Toreth at work in his department in the governmental offices of the European Administration.

He works in the innocuous-at-a-glance I&I department. Which stands for investigations (duh) and, um, interrogations. Toreth, as he prefers to be called (though nothing surprises him and he’s been called just about everything else in his line of work) is dealing with a suspect and requiring some answers. And he’s legally sanctioned to do particular things to the suspect in order to get them.
Nothing personal, of course, that’s just his job.

And, okay, I know he’s not meant to be a sympathetic character. I know I’m probably meant to be horrified by what he’s doing. But watching him at work –as you do for the first chapter– you can’t help but note a couple of things: firstly, Toreth isn’t brutal about what he’s doing. He lays what looks like his hand on the table, he’s pleasant and polite, and he gives the suspect the opportunity to cooperate with him. We’re not talking cops with phonebooks and exotic torture methods. Toreth’s not a bad guy, not really: he seems too efficient and dignified to resort to low-life thuggery (though my first thought upon reading this scene was “Okay, he mightn’t be abusive and creepy, though what about other people in his rank?”).

The second thought I had was, “Nice place to start a book called Mind Fuck. Because this is precisely how Toreth gets his interrogation to work, his suspect to cooperate, and the information he wants. Yes, it’s classic, Hans Scharff, honey-not-vinegar type stuff: and it works.

There is so much I love about the series, and to be honest, the first time I read the book, I didn’t pay much attention to the opening scenes. But this is a really good portrait of Toreth in his professional environment (which is where he seems to spend most of his time and where he comes across as being the most comfortable from my view). He’s been there for awhile, he knows his job, he seems to be challenged by it and interested in it, and he has an understanding of everyone in his workplace.

Down the track, we learn a bit more about them and the office politics and the feelings those in I&I inspire in others.

But for now, we have Toreth, work completed, information gained, walking out and whistling off-key, feeling quite pleased with himself.

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2 thoughts on “Mind Fuck (Book One in the Administration Series), Manna Francis: Chapter One

  1. mannafrancis on said:

    For a while, the interrogation scene in this chapter was the interrogation scene that’s now in ‘Control’, where Toreth deliberately kills the prisoners to get his information. But my editor said “I think if you do that people are pretty much to read this scene and then STOP”, so I cut it out and replaced it with this. (And then I recycled the scene later for ‘Control’, because I never throw anything away.) I definitely think it was the right choice — and that’s what editors are for — but I do sometimes wonder what the general reaction would’ve been if I’d left it.

    • I agree with your editor, though to be honest, I probably would have continued. When I first read ‘American Psycho,’ there were a number of times I felt physically ill, and would put the book down going, “I can’t read the rest of this,” but I’d pick it up and keep on with it because I got curious about the characters, and that had actually taken hold for me quite early.

      Like I’ve said though, I’m probably not a wonderful example of market research.

      That said, it would have SERIOUSLY changed the game plan for a lot of people, and for the setting of everything. Instead of coming in seeing Toreth rather neutrally, the reader would be getting a seriously brutal view of the guy after he’s crossed the moral event horizon in many people’s eyes and there’d be that challenge of “winning them back” to keep them empathising with him on some level (for the most part). It’s a bloody hard thing to do.

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