Readthroughs and Random Thoughts

Writing about what I'm reading…

Mind Fuck, Manna Francis; Chapter Twelve

So, Toreth doesn’t pussy out and he goes along to the sense-memory stacking demonstration in the sim, even though he was quite obviously apprehensive about it.

Toreth lay in absolute darkness. In fact, lay wasn’t the right word– he simply existed. He could feel nothing, not even an awareness of being inside his body. He tried to blink, and didn’t know if he had. He was a mind, adrift in an endless emptiness.

Anyone here tried sensory deprivation tanks before? (Do they still use them nowadays?) I did when I was pregnant with my now-eleven-year-old son, and after the initial period of getting used to being in the thing, you do get a sense of just being… a collection of thoughts. It was one of the trippiest, most humbling and calming things I’ve ever experienced, even though I’ve heard that it can scare the beejesus out of people.

Apart from his own thoughts, the only thing he was conscious of was Warrick’s voice, giving a running commentary on the body Toreth couldn’t feel.

“God you’re hard,” he murmured from an unguessable distance.

Again, an interesting situation here: Toreth is completely at Warrick’s mercy. Again. Like he was last time. And even though Warrick assured him that all would be safe, I had the impression that Toreth wasn’t just worried about the fact that the sim was possibly killing people… he’s had that other experience with Warrick in the sim, hasn’t he?

Toreth  asks what Warrick is actually doing, which is a fair point since he has absolutely no sense of what’s going on beyond his thoughts. Warrick explains that he’s “finger fucking the virtual Toreth, and that even though he can’t feel it right now, he will.

To be honest, the first time I read this section I was seriously trying to get my head around the technology here, but precisely why it works and is better than most other virtual realities is that thought has gone into it; it’s not magic or “it’s there so just believe in it, readers,” it’s a part of the story and it’s developing.

Toreth suggests that they just get to the fucking part, and asks how much longer they’re going to be, reminding Warrick that he’s meant to be working.

“And so you are– as in fact am I. I’m running an SMS trial on a new volunteer. You’re investigating the sim. Didn’t you say your boss was convinced it was responsible for the deaths?”

“I don’t think Tillotson will be impressed if I file an IIP saying I spent all afternoon here in the dark with your virtual fingers virtually up me.”

The warm laugh again. “So ask me a question, Para-investigator.”

I was giggling here: I love Warrick’s interpretation of things. He might be a brilliant  engineer, but can anyone else imagine this guys as a lawyer or a politician?

Toreth asks about the paper Tanit told him SimTech had suppressed, to which Warrick replies that it wasn’t so much as suppressed because of the outcome Tanit discussed but due to the fact that it breached confidentiality agreements and revealed too much about th workings of the sim itself. The sponsors received copies; the wider public did not. Warrick then explains that the sponsors didn’t see how one unfortunate happening could ruin the commercial viability of the sim.

So we have, erm, two versions of “suppressed” here, don’t we? The Tanit conspiracy version where the corporation is stopping the world knowing about a dangerous product, and the Warrick version where it would be corporate suicide due to confidentiality and sponsorship issues to talk about the sim in detail.

And then he says that Toreth’s ready for the run through the SMS.

Without any sense of change or transition, Toreth’s body flamed back into life. At the same instant, the sensory awareness of twenty minutes of Warrick’s careful handiwork exploded into his mind with perfect clarity. If he could have drawn breath, he would have screamed at the overwhelming intensity– he felt as though he had spent hours on the brink of coming. He held on to the sensation for seconds that seemed to stretch into forever, before it peaked into a blaze of ecstasy, which finally burned out back into darkness.

Okay, let’s be dead honest: this sounds fucking incredible. And I’m one of those I-highly-value-my-privacy-when-it-comes-to-my-sex-life types, and even I’m saying “Fuck yeah, I’d have to give that a go.” In short: you can totally see why people are wanting to have shares in this, can’t you?

Afterwards, Toreth wakes up in the meadow scene, to Warrick asking him what he thought. Toreth is still coming down from the bliss of the experience, and points out that it’s all recorded anyway, though Warrick says debriefing is part of the process.

“And you get off on hearing about it, don’t you?”

“Mm.” Warrick smiled. “That would be extremely unprofessional.”

Hehe. Warrick, the sexy, slightly mischievous control freak. I find it interesting, again, that Warrick can’t help but take that– something fairly personal, when you think about it– into his work– yet when Toreth is doing his thing (in a regular, not-having-sex-with-Warrick capacity of his professional role) he’s really not, and he’s already made a few efforts to remain professional in his thoughts even though he can reognise that he, say, wants Warrick (and even though he gives in to that).

Toreth agrees to provide the feedback, provided Warrick explains how SMS works. So Warrick explains that there’s a “temporary disconnection between sensory-input-stroke-processing and conscious awareness of the same,” demonstrating on Toreth’s body by running his moistened fingers over his nipples. Only able to feel it on one side– but noticing the way the other side of him reacts, Toreth gets an explanation:

“You didn’t feel that, did you?” Warrick asked. “Except that you did. The sim fed the sensation into your nervous system, it travelled up into your brain, was processed there, and you now have the memory of being touched on that side. It’s merely not consciously accessible to you yet. […]”

I was trying to think of a way to explain it simply and “in my own words,” but I think this is about as clear and as succinct as it gets.

Warrick touches the controls and suddenly Toreth get both the touch and the surreality of feeling it now when before there’d been no sensation.

The disjunction between seeing two touches, feeling one and remembering two left him disoriented and struggling for words. “Fucking hell… Christ, that’s– that’s so fucking weird.”

Randomly, there’s something else I love about the dialogue in here: Manna Francis’ characters talk– and yes, that includes when they swear– like people. “Fuck” isn’t just a word used to express anger or to be coarse or controversial– if you’re anything like me, you realise there are a whole range of perfectly valid uses of the word. Stubbed toe? “Fuck.” Bus driving away just as it comes into sight? “Fuck.” Weird-looking thing in the night sky emitting a green light to the ground? “Oh my” just doesn’t cut it, folks.

Afterwards, they head out together, and Warrick eventually says that if Toreth wants any more sessions in the sim, then he’s sure he could accommodate him.

Toreth smiled, enjoying, as he always did, the feeling of being pursued. Of having the power to refuse. Enjoying it enough that, rather than responding with one of the more final retorts from his repertoire of rejections, he said, “I’ll think about it.”

Hehe. I love his style. Yeah, okay, perhaps it’s completely insecure and manipulative and immature, but hey, it’s also perfectly believable and human.

That drew not a flicker of emotion in response. “Well, let me know.”

Oh, Warrick, I love how you’re not rising to him.

Piqued by the lack of reaction, Toreth said, “Aren’t we due a real-world fuck, in any case?”

That got a response, if only a small one, a catch in Warrick’s breathing before he said carefully, “I suppose so, if you wish to keep score.”

See what I mean about how you could sit here forever and watch the back-and-forthing of their dialogue? I love these two. Seriously, they are awesome. And so perfect together because there’s that push-and-pull and desire to not give in.

“That would be delightful.” Mask back in place again, which made shattering it with the next sentence that much more fn.

“Should I bring something this time? Cuffs from work?”

*cackles* Oh, you romantic, Toreth.

“Well, I– ah.” Warrick licked his lips, and then grinned, suddenly abandoning all pretense of detachment. “Yes. I’d like that a great deal, I suspect. Shall we say eight? The Anchorage is very nice and quite out of the way.”

Interesting; Toreth quite clearly threw him off with that suggestion, and yet by the end of that conversation, Warrick’s back to steering the direction of things. Yay subtle shifts in power!

When Toreth nodded, Warrick turned and left at once. Toreth watched him go, mildly irritated to find himself smiling. The man refused to react as Toreth expected, and that was perversely intriguing. No time to dwell on it; he had a meeting scheduled with Tillotson, which was more joy he didn’t need.

Waiting for his taxi back to I&I, Toreth thinks about the SMS in the sim, resalising why Warrick is so invested in it as a commercial venture, and why Tanit is concerned about addictiveness of such a thing.

If he personally had free access to something like that, would he ever leave the house again? Forget that, would be even leave the sim long enough to eat?

For all his indifference and unawareness about a lot of things, Toreth does have some serious libido going on. While I can see the appeal of the sim in this capacity… I can also imagine that it would eventually get boring after awhile for me. But for someone like Toreth? Different story, hey?

It took two people, though– at the moment– and presumably required a certain amount of expertise on the part of the… what would the word be? Dominant and submissive didn’t seem to apply, although there was a certain passivity to the experience. In that way, it had been, on reflection, a little unsatisfying.

Hehe. I love that it’s that aspect which makes him think twice about it.

He thinks about the commercial application of the sim and who would be responsible for trying to sabotage it, and figures that since he’s got no leads, he’ll at least get the weekend off, and he considers asking Sara for a Friday night hangout.

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7 thoughts on “Mind Fuck, Manna Francis; Chapter Twelve

  1. I love this chapter so much, and was really excited to see you’d posted your discussion of it. The SMS technology seemed brilliantly simple and obvious when described, but someone had to think of it, of course. And like you, I have to admit I find the idea intriguing.

    Also, a few observations:

    I love Warrick’s interpretation of things. He might be a brilliant engineer, but can anyone else imagine this guys as a lawyer or a politician?

    Yeah, well, in the world of the Administration, a Corporate pretty much has to be a politician, doesn’t he? At least, a successful one. There’s much made of the fact that Warrick is, after all, only a minor Corporate; he doesn’t travel in the same circles (and presumably isn’t as well-versed in the cutthroat implications) as some of the more major Corporates. But to gain and maintain all that power, that’s politics, isn’t it? And Warrick needs to be at least above average at it to have gotten to where he did. Otherwise, he’d just be an engineer in an office somewhere, and he’d leave the corporate directing to those better suited.

    Piqued by the lack of reaction, Toreth said, “Aren’t we due a real-world fuck, in any case?”

    In the early chapters of Mind Fuck, I actually felt like I was watching a match in which one player — Toreth — was severely outclassed. It was like watching my high school tennis team star go up against, oh, Rafael Nadal or something. I know we’re meant to see these two as equals, and Toreth as dangerous, but I couldn’t help thinking that Warrick keeps coming out ahead on points every single time — when he casually deconstructs Toreth’s “Marcus Toth” alter ego, with the dubious consent in the first scene in the Sim, and even when they go to dinner and Toreth supposedly won that round, but notice how it was Warrick who got exactly what he wanted out of the evening? And now here again, Toreth loses their proverbial staring contest quickly by breaking first.

    Later on, of course, it becomes clear that Toreth is outmatched; not only is Warrick by far the more dangerous of the two, but he also has Toreth at an emotional disadvantage. Not to mention, Warrick’s a powerful, rich Corporate, and Toreth is essentially a civil servant. So yeah, class imbalance there, too. But this early on, it almost felt wrong to see the power imbalance. After all, Toreth is meant to come across as dangerous, and we’re meant to see Warrick as a nice guy who’s playing with fire and getting a little too close to the flame. At least that’s how I read it. (Manna probably will have a whole different intent, but that’s okay). But I just felt like Toreth was just hopelessly outmatched from the get-go.

    All this to say, I love the interplay between these two strong men. But it never felt to me like a fair fight.

    “Oh my” just doesn’t cut it, folks.

    Unless you’re George Takei.

    (And speaking of which, if you haven’t heard George Takei’s hilarious out-loud reading of that other book you’re reviewing, you’re really missing out. Just google “50 shades of Takei”. And don’t drink anything through a straw while you’re watching.)

    • Readthroughs and Randoms on said:

      >>> The SMS technology seemed brilliantly simple and obvious when described, but someone had to think of it, of course. And like you, I have to admit I find the idea intriguing.

      I love that we get it explained so well, too! The fact that Warrick knows what he’s talking about so well is a credit to the writing. It’s a bit like when Toreth makes references to prisoner depersonalisation theory. (I actually went looking for information on that afterwards because I was curious to see if there were real-life references being used there. Turns out there is no formally recognised PDT– though there’s plenty of stuff around this sort of thing which would give the idea weight– it, like Warrick’s (and Kelly and Tara’s) SMS feels like scientific information that we as a species just haven’t discovered yet.)

      And when you think about that for long enough, that’s pretty fucking incredible.

      >>> But to gain and maintain all that power, that’s politics, isn’t it? And Warrick needs to be at least above average at it to have gotten to where he did.

      Fair point. Though this guy is probably partially as decent as he is because his interests aren’t entirely tied up in power for its own sake. He genuinely loves and believes in the sim and the science behind it; he doesn’t just like it because it’s all about the money for him. (And I think that’s one of those things that separates him from, say, Lew Marcus.)

      >>> In the early chapters of Mind Fuck, I actually felt like I was watching a match in which one player — Toreth — was severely outclassed.

      Oh, wow: this is interesting, because my initial viewpoint was pretty much the exact opposite. I saw Warrick as slick and corporate and booksmart-clever, thinking he had it over– or was on equal playing field with– basically a guy who had professional training, physical strength– and a lack of what most people would see as a conscience in his favour. As things progressed a bit, I started seeing them more as equals, but my initial thought was basically that Warrick was poking at a very dangerous wasps’ nest with no real understanding of what was in it and an assumption that he had it all figured out. At one point, I remember wondering if Toreth was just going to lose his shit or try to use the law against Warrick just to put him back in his place. I think it was by the end of the third book where I came to the realisation that you did, that Warrick really *does* have it over Toreth in a lot of ways: the money and standing and the support network he has, for example– and even his capacity to understand people in a way Toreth doesn’t and never will.

      >>> After all, Toreth is meant to come across as dangerous, and we’re meant to see Warrick as a nice guy who’s playing with fire and getting a little too close to the flame. At least that’s how I read it.

      *chuckles* That WAS pretty much my understanding of things initially. 🙂

      I’ll admit, too, when Carnac showed up, the first time I was all on-the-edge-of-my-seat and “OOOH! Shit’s just gotten a whole lot more interesting.” And then once you realise what Carnac’s capable of, I was just all, “OMFG… THIS is a bad guy,” and I really found myself feeling a whole lot more sorry for Toreth. I think some of Warrick’s behaviour isn’t even as calculated as it looks to someone like Toreth, so he’s got the defense of “he wasn’t aware of what he was doing,” though when Carnac turns up, Carnac has complete awareness of how to fuck with people.

      >>> And speaking of which, if you haven’t heard George Takei’s hilarious out-loud reading of that other book you’re reviewing, you’re really missing out. Just google “50 shades of Takei”. And don’t drink anything through a straw while you’re watching

      OMFG, my life is now complete! Thankyou! Every time I hear that phrase, I hear it in his voice, which just makes Shades even more hilariously wrong. If I can listen to this on my workplace computers, you will have made my night… (and if not, I have something to look forward to when I go home) THANKYOU!

      • I’ll admit, too, when Carnac showed up, the first time I was all on-the-edge-of-my-seat and “OOOH! Shit’s just gotten a whole lot more interesting.”

        Exactly. Warrick is dangerous mostly because he’s got means and opportunity. But he has no real motive, at least not where Toreth is concerned. Toreth was lucky in making him an ally, because look how (spoilers) people fare who end up on Warrick’s wrong side, or merely in the way. But yeah, despite all that, he’s generally a “better” guy because his motives are usually pretty pure and he’s something of an idealist, for all that he lives in the real world and can play pragmatist when he needs to be.

        Carnac, on the other hand, has not only means and opportunity, but motive in spades. At first it’s just boredom; he does it for the intellectual exercise. Then it becomes a personal challenge. But yes, he’s a formidable enemy indeed. Or, as the PI says, he merits a whole new pricing scheme.

        OMFG, my life is now complete! Thankyou!

        I take zero responsibility for any traumatic effects. 🙂

  2. mannafrancis on said:

    After worrying in the comment on the last post that you’d end up looking for the strings, now I’m seeing them everywhere, reminding me of why Mind Fuck was hard work to write in places. I always find it awkward to write a story when I have a fixed end point, even a fairly loose one like ‘I have to get Warrick and Toreth into a position where they’ll keep seeing one another’. Even though that leaves a huuuuuuge target to aim for, the constraint niggles.

    That aside, I freely admit I always find this scene satisfying to reread. On one level, it’s a fun sex scene, and some fun scifi tech stuff, and some relationship and character development. [SPOILERISH] Then nestled in amongst everything else, is a critical bit of plot which will settle into the background and wait until some other facts make it significant. Being able to read something afterwards and enjoy the structure and shape makes writing mysteries worthwhile, despite the pain of keeping times and places and motives straight.

    • Readthroughs and Randoms on said:

      ROFLMAO. I’m trying not to… to be honest reading that you wrote things “out of order” was amazing because it looks so seamless from here (even knowing that, too: I wouldn’t have picked it– I assumed there would have been notes on the sides, but not whole chunks of story…) and also because… I used to do that and then I started forcing myself to write in a linear fashion and I actually miss writing stuff like that and then tying it together and… yeah.

      And YES: at this stage keeping them in one another’s reality would NOT have been easy, from my POV: they haven’t got the emotional connection that compels them towards one anther entirely down pat yet. But it WORKS. Seriously. (And if you ever think not… just remember this: millionaire driving miles to go visit a girl he’s met once in a hardware shop. THAT is problematic and the whole world seems to buy it. You have nothing to worry about.)

      I think we’re all in agreement that this is an awesome chapter then. 🙂 I love the dialogue and the gradual development and awesome science (with beautifully simple explanation) and OHGODYES hints!!! (which I am seriously trying to keep hinty– I swear, reading-and-blogging like this is making me feel like I’m experiencing the series for the first time because I’m trying to look at it differently because there’s a potential audience when you’re writing in a public (or semi-public) place.

      • mannafrancis on said:

        I used to do that and then I started forcing myself to write in a linear fashion and I actually miss writing stuff like that and then tying it together and… yeah.

        I went through a phase of thinking about all the time I’d save in rewrites if I just wrote linearly and trying to discipline myself to do it. I ended up concluding that the time I save in rewrites I lose in staring blankly at the screen and not writing anything at all. Whereas I can usually unstick myself by skipping forwards in the timeline and writing a scene there, instead. On other other hand, I then end up with all the awkward scenes to write last, having already written all the fun ones. So it isn’t really an unqualified winner either way.

        millionaire driving miles to go visit a girl he’s met once in a hardware shop.

        You know, I thought about that in the chapter where he showed up at the hardware store. If I was a dysfunctional millionaire looking for pliable young girls to sex up in my dungeon, I would definitely send a scary black car for them, not go myself. It would screen out all the ones with the good sense and self-preservation not to get into a scary black car, leaving me with the easy meat. Also, I could use the time saved to shout at my minions on the phone without the risk of them calling me when I’m driving. Win-win all round.

      • Readthroughs and Randoms on said:

        >>> If I was a dysfunctional millionaire looking for pliable young girls to sex up in my dungeon, I would definitely send a scary black car for them, not go myself

        Not to mention, when the cops start asking for descriptions of the abductor, it’s a means of buying some time. “Scary black car” vs. “Instantly recognisable rich dude who does stuff in the community and who is distractingly good-looking”?

        Yeah. That’s one of those delegatable jobs. (Though maybe Grey’s jealousy won’t allow for it?)

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