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I can't say I've been a total adherent to the Psy/Changeling series of paranormal romance books written by Nalini Singh but I've read and enjoyed a couple of them and it certainly isn't necessary to read the entire series to be able to pick up what's gone before or understand this strange vision of what Earth's future might be. Bonds of Justice is the eighth in the Psy-Changeling series and it seems as though it may be running out of steam.
The paperback edition is currently available from about £1.50 for used copies. There is a Kindle edition for £4.50.
Max Shannon, a human cop with the New York Enforcement team, is paired with Sophia Russo, a Justice-Psy who has the ability to extract memories from people's minds. They are working on the case of a Psy killer who is targeting a leading member of the Psy Council but there is a threat to Sophia from quite another quarter. She's come to be an object of obsession for Gerard Bonner, a serial killer who wants Sophia for his next victim and prison walls aren't going to prevent him reaching her.
I suppose Nalini Singh's creation of a world a thousand or so years into the future could be viewed as allegorical. The present world is composed of people with very different ideologies attempting to live alongside each other and in this series, society has become even more polarised certainly with regard to the human and Psy populations. The changeling element is just a somewhat off-the-wall extra.
Although humans need no explanation and continue much as today, the Psy are a group of people who have decided to withdraw from the sheer overwhelming emotion of humanity which it regards as being destructive. As a consequence these people adopt what is known as Silence in which they use their minds to control themselves and their world. In a way, these people have become computers. They reject any emotion and use only logic, uploading and sharing their thoughts onto the Psy-net. Within the Psy population some have developed specialised abilities such as telekinesis, and some even have the power to kill with a single thought. Even though the Psy have developed along a different path, they still interact with humans and also with the Changelings, a twin-natured people who can transmute into their animal form at will.
This particular episode of the series is really quite uneven with some parts. Although I find the world that Nalini Singh has created pretty intriguing, the relationship between Max and Sophie is unbelievably slushy and the author often resorts to some fairly purple prose. The Psy world is well realised and if I was to draw an analogy between it and the present day, I'd say it was similar in structure to the Amish, who try to live as separately as possible from the rest of the world but will interact with it when absolutely necessary. The Psy consider themselves far superior to both changelings and humans but because of their total reliance upon the Psy-net and each other, they are far more vulnerable than they would like to think, especially at the time these books are set because the Psy world is beginning to crumble.
In all honesty, I found myself much less interested in the romantic shenanigans between the main protagonists and more involved with the bigger picture of the Psy world, its politics and the way it works as well as how they interrelate with the changeling and human societies. There are some gaping holes in this world that Nalini Singh has created, however. For a kick off, most of the Psy seem to function in a very emotional way despite supposedly being motivated solely by logic having suppressed all their human emotion. Then there's the matter of the Psy-net itself. Not only does it exist but it has within it a sentience, known as the Net Mind which operates in an almost mystical and godlike way and there is also its alter ego, the Dark Mind supposedly made up of all the discarded emotions of the Psy. The Dark Mind is verging on insanity.
In many ways, I feel the author has gone into too much detail about the Psy world and now it's totally subsuming the plots because every action of the Psy requires explanation and the author is getting herself tangled up in too much detail.
The love story between Max and Sophie isn't earth shattering anyway. Sophie has to wear gloves because whenever she comes into contact with bare skin she's overwhelmed by past emotion from whomever she touches. Of course, this doesn't prevent her embarking on a fling with Max who for some inexplicable reason has strong mind shields which he can use to prevent Sophie suffering any overload. As a Justice-Psy, Sophie's job is to probe into the minds of criminals and extract information to convict them and this exposure to the horrors of the criminal mind means that the life of a J is limited and eventually they have a sort of mental breakdown which requires them to have their minds wiped or reconditioned as the Psy euphemistically call it.
A further complication in Max and Sophie's story is the fact that Sophie's mind is inextricably linked with the Psy-net because she is anchored into it and has now become part of its structure. If she left the Net she would die. This is really what kept me reading because I was curious to discover just how the author was going to bring this story to its conclusion. It would certainly take all her ingenuity to find a believable solution.
I really enjoy stories set in an alternative reality but sadly this one didn't blow me away. It was an OK story but the overarching story which is unfolding over the entire series is far more interesting than the love story of the supposedly main protagonists, neither of whom had strong enough characters to engage me.
Personally, I think the series has lost its way somewhat. I feel it's probably time for Nalini Singh to decide what direction she's going to take with this series. Does she continue to write it as a paranormal romance or does she take the route that J R Ward has done with her Black Dagger series and make it more of an urban fantasy. As far as I'm concerned, I'd be happy to see less of the romantic and a deeper concentration on the world building because currently its complexity is overshadowing the love story anyway. There are another couple of books in this series after this one but I'm not sure I'll be bothering with them.