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The book starts well with a top psychologist acting as an expert witness at a murder trial involving the death penalty only to discover there is a period of his own life he has no memories of. He traces the problem back to scientific experiments he helped with as a student. There is some serious discussion of the basis of morality but the application of quantum physics to the brain failed to convince me and when it went on to tackle World War Three it lost me altogether.
The plot of Sawyer's latest near-future SF novel is not exactly built on a sturdy framework (to wit: if it were scaffolding, it would sway in high northerly winds) but there is enough science (quantum states of neuron tubules), characterization (dude loses his memory of doing something BAD) and warnings of overreach by an aggressive American government to give any Canadian pause.
The overall idea, that our consciousness is a result of electrons being entangled in these little pockets inside your neurons, really is fascinating, and the scientists (Hammeroff, Chalmers) are real, live, living human beings who've done some credible and amazing research in this area.
Sawyer uses these ideas to explain the various levels of psychopathy that we see in everyday people, from people who have none at all (you know, folks who don't kick dogs) to egomaniacal narcissists (who probably do kick dogs). Sawyer describes these different types of people well. And the novel isn't bad. It really isn't. It's just... all over the place. It's worth a read... or a listen... but if you're looking for a classic, hero's-journey story arc, this ain't it.
Side note to narrators everywhere (not just Scott Aiello): Do NOT try to mimic Southern accents. You will get it wrong. You got it wrong in this reading, and to be honest, none of you get it right. If you're from the South, you know what I mean. Just don't even try.
Other than that, good book.
Peace and hair grease.
13 of 13 people found this review helpful
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
I actually caught myself considering which friends to recommend this book to. On the one hand, I considered those with an academic interest in neuroscience, psychology and society. But then again, some of the novel's premises are really speculative and not based on science, and I suspect some of my scientifically inclined friends would have difficulties looking beyond those faults. Perhaps this is more for those of us who like to speculate more freely about human nature and society; we, the philosophers and private thinkers.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
The book reads very well and is difficult to pause. It would have been easy to consume in one sitting, if the opportunity had materialised.
Any additional comments?
This is a novel that uses speculative neuroscience and psychology to pose interesting questions about human nature and society. It is one of those books that are difficult to talk about without dropping spoilers.
Of course, if one were to evaluate the scientific "basis" of the novel, it would be found wanting at best. But this is not science, it is entertainment and - I guess philofun would be an apt neologism; having fun with philosophical speculation.
Sawyer is getting better. I have read some earlier novels of his and this is an enhancement without doubt. I would argue Sawyer has particular problems with characterisations; his protagonists tend towards the generic. These tendencies are present in this novel as well, but at the same time Sawyer has succeeded in making the protagonists' personalities part of the plot itself. He is turning his weakness into a strength.
Overall very good story and narration. The ending tends towards the phantasmagorical in my opinion; it is interesting, but not quite as satisfactory as I would have liked. Still, a strong four stars book.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful