Warning: This article and book includes references to depression and trauma that may be upsetting to some readers.
By Marisa Hildebrandt
Five stars for the series, four and-a-half for this last book!
DoOon Mode (4th and final in a series)is my latest read, allowing me to finish the series I started about 15 years ago. Due to my medication, I have difficulty concentrating long enough to read. So, while this is not a new book (or series), it is certainly a good one if you’re into science fiction and/or fantasy.
This series (consisting of Virtual Mode, Fractal Mode, Chaos Mode, and DoOon Mode) is amazing. It begins with a young girl (think early teens) with severe depression and follows her adventures through a “Virtual Mode,” which is a way of crossing parallel universes, and her eventual arrival at a place where she can be happy. Along the way she meets some truly intriguing characters and forms bonds with them, despite their differences. Imagine a telepathic horse, or a creature from our past, who comes from a universe where the extinction process went very differently. This is a retelling of the classic trope of “young girl finding happiness and true love” given a completely different spin. Instead of a school or work or vacation backdrop, you have several adventures on the mathematics-based universe of the Virtual Mode and all the trials that come with it.
The Mode series was my first Piers Anthony series, and by far my favorite. The characters have real depth and personality, and the situations – while inherently fantastical – are completely believable. While very entertaining, if not riveting, this book is also deep and somewhat intellectual, involving literary puns, mathematical and physics concepts, and mental issues of identity and illness, all of which is explained within; nothing in it requires foreknowledge. This is not just a physical journey, but also an emotional and mental one, involving strong relationships and mature themes. When I say ‘mature themes’, I’m not just talking about sex, but the type of things I think we can all relate to: depression, anxiety, uncertainty about the course of one’s life, and even the definition of proper ethical behavior.
To spoil only the very beginning of the series (the first couple chapters, sorry), Darius comes from a world where he must physically draw happiness out of his wife and uses his special power to multiply it and send it out to all the people gathered around him. This is how people regain joy on his world. In his search for a perfect partner, he stumbles upon Colene, who seems to be a vessel of dolor. She is plagued with severe depression, which we learn the reasons for and how she deals with it in future books.
Not to spoil anything, but at the start of this final book, Colene has been given a situation with no seeming escape without a loss of life: hers, Darius’, or that of the neighboring universes. Suffice to say, there is a solution that is both realistic and completely took me by surprise. I won’t tell you how it ends, but up until the last 5 pages, it is very satisfying. My only qualm is that there could be a slightly better denouement; the very end feels a bit rushed. Otherwise, this book would be 5 stars instead of 4 ½.
Marisa (rhymes with Theresa) is a research lab manager at the University of Michigan. In her free time, she can be found studying languages, traveling, playing Dungeons & Dragons, judging and attending model horse shows, and spending time with her amazing and supportive boyfriend.