An unsettling premise and wildly escalating threats jump-start Korman’s newest series.
Jackson Opus is uneasy about his ability to, sometimes, make people do exactly what he tells them to—until he’s invited to join a training program at the mysterious Sentia Institute, where he learns that he’s an uncommonly gifted member of a rare but not unknown breed of natural-born “mind-benders.” Initially dazzled by the glittering promises of world-changing powers offered by Sentia’s founder, Elias Mako, Jax soon gets the feeling that Mako has a hidden agenda. That feeling becomes a certainty after Jax meets the Sandman’s Guild, an underclass of benders struggling with the ability’s addictive lure, and records a video for, supposedly, experimental purposes that hypnotizes anyone who sees it. Despite such tongue-in-cheek highlights as a guild meeting modeled on an AA support group and a “Sorcerer’s Apprentice”–style scene in the wake of a string of badly worded hypnotic commands, the story takes a suspenseful turn. Jax discovers that his own parents have been implanted with a deadly posthypnotic command to keep him in line and that Mako has “bent” the leading U.S. presidential candidate.
There’s action aplenty, and belly laughs too—though the implication that benders have played significant roles in history and are among us now may leave readers feeling queasy. (Suspense fantasy. 10-13)