By: Avinash Naduvath
Publication Date: April 18, 2022
Reviewed By: Tripti Kandari
Review Date: June 7, 2022
Avinash Naduvath’s Mindbender, a psychological mystery that 'literally' transcends the typicality of a conventional world, takes the reader on a mind-boggling journey – through an anomalous world – along the meticulous path to a murder mystery – into the depths of the inner psyche of a traumatized person.
A scream serves as a source of awakening for a trio, waking them up in a condition of blackout to their current lives. The trio from different age groups quickly uncovers a world filled with abnormalities. Eight-year-old Pogo meets Joshua, who claims to be his cousin, yet Pogo has no recall of him. Joshua, an observant adult in his early twenties, awakens perplexed in a bed far from his current base, an asylum, with no recollection of anyone bringing him here (or where was this "here"?) Sarah, now wrinkly and fifty-four years old, couldn't remember the last two decades of her life. The anomalies continue to mount for the trio: a place where only five buildings exist (two of them where they wake up, a diner, a supermarket, and a hotel), a highway that goes nowhere (and with no traffic!), to just name a few.
To top it all off, touching specific objects evokes specific memories associated with the object. The trio soon comes across the equally strange and suspicious (and nosy) supermarket supervisor Klaus and diner owner Tonks. We learn the source and location of the scream - a dead body of a girl is found in the hotel ‘The Bender.’ To add to the suspense and action, Joshua and Sarah accept the offer of a free hotel stay in The Benders as beta-testers, intending to explore the hotel in search of any clues to the scream and trying to find the mysteries underlying all the anomalies.
Tonks and Klaus, meanwhile, pull off their impersonations. Could they really be police officers investigating the girl's murder, as they claim, or is it just another lie (given that there is no police station in the area, in addition to other necessities)? Or does the source of the scream itself hold the most important piece to the ultimate puzzle of the murder mystery as well as a broader puzzle about this odd and suspecting 'construct' of the world?
The plot proceeds along with the help of the characters' perspectives. The author has made a big effort to keep readers in a constant state of anticipation. A guess on the next action doesn’t seem possible, and everything comes out (just) when it should. Choosing lucid dreaming as the starting point for the story, the narrative offers a novel and holistic approach to it, incorporating traumatic experiences and bullying at its core.
Each of the six perspectives that flow throughout the story is like a deep dive inside each narrator's head. The traumatic pasts of each, which influence their perspectives on and responses to current events, reveal a lot about human nature and personalities. The narration style shows the strangeness and enigma of an abnormal universe in an evocative style that effectively conveys a sense of one's entrance into a dreaming realm.
Quill says: Mindbender boggles the mind with a novel approach to a psychological thriller and leads the imagination to expand its perception of lucid dreaming with its stimulating plot line.