Stranger Things

Even as the seemingly interminable wait for season three drags on, ‘Stranger Things’ fans can rest assured that they aren’t being left completely high and dry. For this, we can thank a growing number of tie-in publishers. In addition to a recently concluded comic book miniseries from Dark Horse (which chronicles Will’s time in the Upside Down during the first season), Penguin Random House is making their own contribution to the ‘Stranger Things’ universe in the form of its first official tie-in novel.

That novel, titled ‘Suspicious Minds’, comes courtesy of YA author Gwenda Bond, and like the aforementioned Dark Horse series, it also fills in some of the gaps in the show’s backstory. Unlike the comic, it does so in the form of a full blown prequel story, specifically one dealing with Eleven’s backstory. Or more accurately, with that of her mother, Terry Ives.

It’s a story that has been dealt with in broad strokes in the series. As a college student, Ives participated in Dr. Brenner’s experiments, which themselves were part of the CIA’s MKUltra project. In the course of these experiments, Ives was (among other things) placed in sensory deprivation chambers and dosed with psychedelic drugs. Though she didn’t realize it at the time, Ives was pregnant when she took part in these tests. Brenner would later kidnap her daughter (Jane, the future Eleven), disguising the abduction as a miscarriage. As for Terry, an attempt to rescue her daughter ended with Brenner and his flunkies literally frying her brain, leaving her in a vegetative state.

The full novel is available now from all good booksellers and probably a few lousy ones, too. But if you’re the type to ask questions before just handing Amazon your money (And who could blame you? Books are great, but they’re also expensive!), we do have a few excerpts from the novel. In addition to the full first chapter, which was made available last fall, we also have a later excerpt. Released via Digital Spy, the new extract picks up just as Terry has completed her first round of MKUltra tests with Dr. Brenner.

Dr. Martin Brenner wished he could see inside the minds of the subjects. No messy conversation to extract what they might or might not have seen, how effective the hypnotic techniques had been. No unreliable witnesses of their own experience.

No lies unless he told them.

The young woman in front of him, Theresa Ives, had piqued his curiosity. Rare enough these days, especially in adult subjects. The way she’d sensed an opportunity and shown up suggested potential – hers would not be an easy mind to crack. The challenge would make their findings more meaningful. She didn’t seem afraid of him. He approved of that quality… at least when it wasn’t in a young charge who didn’t know how to take no for an answer.

“Better?” he asked as she sipped the water his aide had pro­vided.

She nodded and handed the glass back, smoothing soaked hair away from a cheek shiny with moisture. Tears and sweat both. Extremely susceptible to the drug cocktail, by all appearances.

“On a scale of one to ten, how strongly do you feel you’re still experiencing the effects of the medicine?”

Her eyes were clear for the answer she gave. “Eight.”

“Can you tell me what you saw?” he asked, keeping his voice kind.

A hesitation. But a brief one. “My parents’ funeral. In the church before it.”

“Yes, good. Do you remember anything else significant? How do you feel emotionally?”

She adjusted the hospital gown to more fully cover her legs. “I feel…” she hesitated. “Lighter somehow. Does that make sense?”

Brenner nodded. He’d taken a great pain from her, locked it away. She’d feel much lighter. The first stage to creating a mind susceptible to greater manipulations. And he’d have a tool to use for leverage in the future if he needed it. The key was to make sure she wasn’t aware of the change until then.

“And you don’t know why?”

“No.” She eyed him nervously. “Can I ask you something?”

He nodded again. “Of course.”

“What’s the purpose of this? Is it as important as I think? What do you want me to say?”

Before he could formulate a response to her three questions, she surprised him by shaking her head and giving a dry husk of a laugh. “Never mind, I’m sure that would violate the experiment rules. Like us talking on the way over here.”

“What do you mean?”

“He told us not to talk about the experiment.”

He looked at his aide, who studied the floor. That hadn’t been any direction of his. As long as the man took careful note of what was said, the participants could say anything and everything that popped into their minds.

“You should talk about whatever you want on the drive,” he said.

The aide nodded acknowledgment but didn’t look at him.

“Did you experience anything else of note in your trance state?” Dr. Brenner asked.

Terry heaved a breath. “All kinds of crazy shit. I’m so tired. I’ve never done that before.”

Ah, that explains some of the strong response.

“But when you answered your questionnaire…?” He waited.

This time, she had the grace to look guilty. “I said I had dropped acid several times. I thought you might want that.”

Potential. She was bursting with it.