Book Review: The Mind Thing by Fredric Brown

The Mind Thing cover

The Mind ThingThe Mind Thing by Fredric Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book blurb says, “He was incapable of love or mercy…or hate. And he certainly never felt the lack. He was almost pure thought.”

And it was not even a he but an it, an extraterrestrial body snatcher.

Frederic Brown is a meticulous writer and his stories are always good reads. The Mind Thing is no exception. My only complaint is that it’s written in the 1960’s when a great deal of science fiction is intensely grim. There’s almost a deadpan inevitability to the disastrous endings, like nothing seen before or since.

The Mind Thing is a brilliant example. The pure alien-ness of the monster is terrifying. It has no morals which we’d recognize. It does have a moral compass, it just doesn’t apply to humans.

This is a short work with a straight-though storyline. You know quickly that there’ll be a confrontation between two characters. Despite the inevitability, you’ll watch the action with fascination as if an approaching train wreck. The pacing is brilliant, which is not surprising as Brown is also a mystery writer.

For the life of me I couldn’t figure out how the good guy would defeat the bad. And I won’t spoil it for you, either.

It’s always interesting to read books from other eras, especially those written before your birth. As a culture it’s easy to forget how morals have changed. For example, premarital sex and teen pregnancy are handled very practically in this story and not, as you’d imagine, with a debilitating social stigma.

Additionally, watching a small community handle a series of murders without the use of phones in every household serves as a good reminder of how things used to be. Breaks in stereotyping with elderly Miss Talley, who is a science fiction reader and an out-of-the box thinker, are surprising and delightful. And older Doc Staunton is a brainy but unlikely action hero.

My copy of The Mind Thing is 149 pages and it’s a fast read. So read the book, you won’t be disappointed. And check out the feeling of the book while you’re at it — how Brown masterfully brings you into the mind of a thing that is absolutely inhuman, or is that inhumane? I’d say, both.

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