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The Mind Game [Mass Market Paperback]

Hector MacDonald
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 25 2002
Cutting-edge science and the logic of game theory combine to form an utterly original, spellbinding novel of suspense.

"First rule of game theory: do whatever produces the optimal final outcome for you."
"I didn't know we were playing a game."
"But of course we are. . . ."

An expert in animal behavior with a brilliant analytical mind, charismatic Oxford professor James Fieldhead needs a willing subject to test a groundbreaking device that may offer the key to understanding human emotions. Encouraged by Cara, his seductive new girlfriend, Ben Ashurst agrees to participate in the study, honored to be part of the first crucial stage of life-changing research. With a luxury resort on a pristine beach in Kenya as the site of the experiment, and Cara along for the ride, it seems a perfect way to spend the winter holiday. Yet beneath the surface of a sunny paradise awaits something cold and ruthless.

As the experiment veers from abstract theory into terrifying reality, Ben finds there is no one he can confide in. Impetuous Cara is intimate one night, then distant the next, forcing Ben to wonder where her true allegiances lie.

Snared in a masterfully crafted labyrinth of cunning, in which each step can lead closer to a solution or deeper into chaos, Ben scrambles to learn why he was chosen for this project. Fieldhead's obsession with game theory suggests a possible course of action. But every time Ben thinks he has discovered the winning move, he finds another level of deception, another betrayal of his trust.

Moving from the sheltered colleges of Oxford to the magnificent landscape of Kenya, The Mind Game is full of intriguing characters and stunning plot twists. Just when you think you have mastered The Mind Game, you might just be mistaken . . . .


From the Hardcover edition.

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From Amazon

When you think of game theory, do you think of chalk-dusty economists droning endlessly about the permutations of optimal outcomes and short-term payoffs? Perhaps not. But even if you do, Hector MacDonald's first novel will make this esoteric field exotic, dangerous, and downright sexy.

Ben Ashurst is a student at Oxford. He leads a fairly placid life, befriending shy girls, playing "keep up with the Joneses" with his crowd of wealthy (and nasty) friends, and trying to impress his tutor, the brilliant and controversial behavioral scientist James Fieldhead. A single day, however, is enough to turn his calm existence upside down. When he meets the beautiful and enigmatic Cara, and when Fieldhead requests Ben's participation in a ground-breaking research experiment, Ben will find himself thrust into a life where every measure of normality is rent asunder.

Fieldhead, working in conjunction with a nameless but powerful corporation, has developed a way to measure emotions by tracking the brain's physiological responses to stimuli. At his request, Ben submits to having a tiny sensor attached to his skull, and, filled with a guinea pig's pride, is sent off to Kenya with Cara for three weeks of recreation and stimulation. But vacation turns to terror when a case of mistaken identity lands Ben in a Kenyan jail, where the stimulation is anything but positive. Struggling to keep his mental balance, Ben begins wondering whether someone is manipulating the experiment and to what purpose. His search for answers will lead him into the highest corporate boardrooms and into the depths of treachery and betrayal.

The novel fairly quivers with energy: reading it is like holding a manic Chihuahua. MacDonald has places to go and things to do and plots to uncover and emotions to stir. And in fact his narrative is generally capable of sustaining this energy. If, on occasion, his grand drama seems to be a tempest in a teapot, well, that's a small (and temporary) price to pay for a highly entertaining read. --Kelly Flynn --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

First-time novelist Macdonald delivers twists and turns with the ease of an old pro in this brainy, exotic suspense thriller. Oxford undergraduate Ben Ashurst is smart but impressionable, and this reputation earns him the opportunity to be a guinea pig in a study his biology professor is directing, funded by a multinational drug company. If Ben and his beautiful new girlfriend, Cara, agree to have tiny experimental emotion-sensors sewed to the back of their heads, they'll be sent on a free beach-resort vacation in Kenya, designed to stimulate their emotions and thoroughly test the sensors. For the first few days, the vacation is all Ben had hoped for. But then a case of food-poisoning, suspicions about Cara, incarceration in the local jail and a possible drug-trafficking frameup make Ben wonder what is going on. It becomes clear that he has not been let in on the full nature of the experiment, and he begins to question who is actually behind it. Tangled in a web of deception, Ben watches as his life falls apart around him, but refuses to go down quietly. Right up to the very end, we are kept guessing: how high are the stakes of the experiment? And who among Ben's friends is involved? Macdonald, a 27-year-old Oxford graduate born in Nairobi, Kenya, convincingly depicts Ben's cliquish, upper-crust partying at Oxford and hedonistic African adventuring. The novel's maze-like plot may take a few turns too many, but straightforward prose and a well-developed protagonist buoy this promising first effort. (Mar.) Forecast: A touch of intellectual macabre, ? la Secret History, gives this thriller a sexy twist. With foreign rights already sold in 14 countries, film rights sold to Heyday Film and a five-city author tour in the offing, the book is poised to score.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Thriller about Brain Manipulations June 7 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Ben Ashurst was living a peaceful life as a student at Oxford University until he meet a famous investigator who offered him to participate in a research - as a volunteer human guinea pig - bases in emotions and reactions but what he never expected was that his trip to Kenya ended in a nightmare and back in England an almost persecution mania because of situations given to study his reactions and feelings without his knowledge and consent. These limit situations make him angry and curious and start investigating until the find out the real purpose and the brains behind the project. This is a very psychological thriller in which the reader have to pay attention to every dialogue to follow the sequences of the experiment and Ben's emotional responses to the manipulation and the second thoughts of the researchers.
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5.0 out of 5 stars what if emotions could be quantified and qualified? Sept. 20 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Totally unique, psychological thriller, built around the question "What if emotions could be quantified and qualified?
The subject of this "emotions research" is placed in increasingly nerve-wracking situations, in which every thought and feeling is monitored for science's sake--or so he thinks. unfortunately, the protagonist is unsure if his predicaments are orchestrated or real and he begins to question his relationship with himself and others.
The settings altermate between, Oxford University, the coast of Africa, Silicon Valley, and the dark recesses of the mind. With more twists and turns than an Irish byway, "The Mind Game" explores the human capacity to understand fear, deceit and the search for truth amidst very complex relationships.
Excellent read!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Pleasure! Aug. 16 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I must admit I usually don't have the patience to read books, but this one was so gripping and captivating, I even read it during work :-) Even if I predicted some of the twists, it was a pure pleasure. plus an interesting thinking of emotions control, something which never occurred to me. I wish the end had been a bit more romantic, not so cold. Even if a little love confession (another one) from Ben to Cara. Well, I guess the fact the book ended with 6 times the sentence "I love Cara" is a close enough... I really liked that Cara character, even though from some point I did not believe a word she said.
Thanks to the author for the great pleasure of reading the book. Well done!
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By Auliya
Format:Hardcover
I expected an intelligent thriller. If you read the author's credentials, you'd expect to encounter some real meat embedded in the story. I was tantalized as the characters discussed game theory, but in no more depth than a sidebar in "Scientific American." Without content to sustain me, I waited for the implausible and utterly predictable plot -- complete with 'twists' -- to keep me engaged. I was disappointed. More than anything, this book wants to be a mainstream action/thriller movie. It reads like a script turned into a manuscript. Its dialogue, plot points, and characterizations are each so carefully introduced and easy to grasp that the whole thing had a "made for television" feel. As a book, I found it clumsy at best. Awkward. Was the author afraid of being too "bright" for his audience? Was he afraid that with such a large cast of characters we needed extraordinary hand-holding to "get" him? I don't know. But I wouldn't recommend this book for anyone who's looking for something polished or challenging. Maybe it will be a movie one day. I'd definitely see it matinee.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Deception that dazzles! Dec 18 2001
Format:Hardcover
For mystery lovers, thrill-seekers, conspiracy theorists, and of course, game theory wunderkind, The Mind Game provides tantalizing and hypnotic reading. This is the kind of page-turner that begs to be added to college literature class lists everywhere--and that demands a second reading even before the first is through.
The hero, an Oxford student under the tutelage of a genius professor of game theory (and psychology and medicine and neurobiology, etc)is subject and object of a strange experiment. Through the travesty of a love affair, a life-threatening chase, horrific treachery and a landscape of trendy class-conscious Oxbridgians with more time and money than sense, the experience is compelling.
Don't be misled by the confusion of this review. While the scope of the story is immense, the timing, rythm and syntax are so smoothe that it reads like Harold Robbins -- fast, easy and fluid. But I was a bit vertigal at the end anyway! Own this -- buy one for your friends (the ones you respect).
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2.0 out of 5 stars I Don't Buy His Dream May 19 2001
By Tristan
Format:Hardcover
The first half of the book was very boring and uninteresting. It got to the point that I found myself asking "Is there any point in reading this book?" But then, suddenly, the momentum of the book shifted. It took a left turn into something more interesting. However, don't be too glad, because by the last quarter of the book, it lost all the momentum and dove into something boring again. On a surface, the idea behind the theme of the book seems fascinating, but if you have just a little knowledge about psychology, biology, or any branches of sciences for that matter, you would know that the theme of the book is really dreamy and illogical. At the end, in his Acknowledgment section, the author seems to reference and prove that he did do some research, but obviously, his research was pretty bad. He seemed to take knowledge here and there out of its context and mix it up, making his idea believable. Take the way an "experiment" was run, for instance, (without revealing too much detail for those who decides to read this book anyway) there are some major points that the author got it wrong. First, it should be called a case study, not an experiment. It involves only one participant. Second, there are endless numbers of confounding factors that could influence the study. The character who was the "experimenter" was written up to be a zoologist who, in real life, should know better than that. Third, according to the story line of how the data from the "experiment" will be used, no scientist in the right mind would go through all the research project with only one participant. Each human is unique. If the generalization shall be made, more participants is a must. Even though I could go on and on about how bad the book is, I do realize that this is a fiction after all. So the author has his right to dream whatever he could imagine. But, I personally don't buy his dream.
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars I Don't Buy His Dream
The first half of the book was very boring and uninteresting. It got to the point that I found myself asking "Is there any point in reading this book? Read more
Published on May 19 2001 by Tristan
5.0 out of 5 stars a great debut
This is a great debut novel by young British author Hector Macdonald who impresses immediately with his great and very involving style. Read more
Published on May 8 2001 by Tina Morris
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting new writer
The Mind Game is a psychological thriller that exercises the readers powers of deduction within the framework of Game Theory. Read more
Published on April 24 2001 by K Wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent novel
The mind game is an excellent first novel by Hector Macdonald. A young undergraduate student is convinced by his charismatic professor at Oxford to be part of a study into... Read more
Published on April 16 2001 by "nialw"
5.0 out of 5 stars Smart and Speedy
A new door for fans of intrigue has been deftly and intelligently opened. Game theory (as exemplified by the well-known Prisoners Dilemma) as a backdrop for a novel is unique and... Read more
Published on March 20 2001 by David M. Scott
2.0 out of 5 stars Truman goes to Africa: You've seen the movie, read the book!
Old Etonian Macdonald recirculates "The Truman Show" with less technology and more chat: notching it down on the scale, adding a bit of third world ambiance and... Read more
Published on March 1 2001
4.0 out of 5 stars Exciting medical thriller
Oxford researcher and instructor James Fieldhead leads a team on a field experiment centering on better understanding of human emotions. Read more
Published on March 1 2001 by Harriet Klausner
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