by Gordon Korman
When readers last visited with 12-year-old Jackson Opus, the kid had major problems and they all stemmed from the evil Dr. Elias Mako who was determined to manipulate Jax, a powerful hypnotist, into doing his mesmeric bidding. Thankfully, Book 2 of The Hypnotists, The Memory Maze, ended with Mako being sent to jail, and Jax and his parents being whisked away by the military for their protection. But, while the Opuses are currently safely ensconced at Fort Calhoun and Jax assists the very serious Colonel Brassmeyer in developing hypnotism as a weapon system as part of HoWarD, the Hypnotic Warfare Research Department, life isn’t as rosy as it might be expected to be.
Jax’s Mom and Dad are bored and miserable, not even able to go bird-watching without getting arrested for leaving without their identification. Not surprizing that Dad has become addicted to the FreeForAll website with its myriad of games and activites, not the least of which is tending to his virtual grass in Lawn Master! Jax isn’t faring much better, having to deal with the humourless Colonel Brassmeyer, the HoWaRD psychiatrist Captain Pedroia, and the other hypnotists including the nasty Wilson DeVries, former thug for Mako, and eight-year-old orphan and powerful though unskilled hypnotist Stanley X.
In addition to their various activities including bending (hypnotizing) soldiers and each other–which is when Jax realizes how powerful Stanley is–and trying to teach hypnotism to ordinary people, Jax has been recruited to participate in Operation Aurora. Using remote hypnotism, Jax mesmerizes all 753 volunteer inhabitants at an artificial test community called Delta Prime to stop all activity at a set time. The collateral damage is frightening to Jax, though Brassmeyer’s miliary sense of duty keeps him from being bothered by it. Not surprising that when Jax suspects that someone is using remote hypnotism via the FreeForAll website and using the newly-adopted Stanley, the teen hypnotist springs into action, regardless of the army’s intentions for him.
If you’ve read the earlier two books in The Hypnotists series, you’ll know that Gordon Korman keeps readers on the edge of their seats, anticipating the next manipulation by an evil one, or joining in on chase or escape from entrapment or worrying about whom to trust. Jax’s life is an action-packed adventure he hopes he’ll live through. And Jax is such a decent kid. He’s concerned about how miserable his parents are at the cost of his safety. He’s appalled by Brassmeyer’s relentless experimentation with hypnotism to develop it as a powerful weapon, regardless of the consequences. And he seems to want to watch out for everyone at HoWaRD, recognizing their vulnerabilities, even the vicious Wilson.
But Gordon Korman is the master of tongue-in-cheek and keeps the reader smiling with his quips and barbs at everything from the military and online games, to bus drivers, and traffic in the Lincoln Tunnel.
…he noticed Ashton Opus was still playing Lawn Master. It was almost four hours now!In Lawn Master, you could plant, water, fertilize, weed, cut, top-dress, spray, and aerate your virtual lawn. Dad had just spent the last four hours literally watching grass grow. It wasn’t even real grass! (pg. 97-8)
But amidst all the skirmishes and problem-solving, Gordon Korman has Jax finding a way, even manipulating it, for himself to lead a “normal” life, and that “happy” ending in The Dragonfly Effect–even though it is important to recognize that, as Jax does, that “It was impossible to command someone to be happy” (pg. 22)–is worth the price, all costs included.