A comatose young boy’s mind is the prize in a tug of war between his father and a group of scientists with serious God complexes.
Since the other characters introduced in the beginning here are a brilliant, arrogant, and innovative neurosurgeon and a psychologist intent on probing the limits of the human mind, it’s a sure thing that the 13-year-old boy going mountain-climbing won’t come to a good end. And indeed he doesn’t when a piece of climbing equipment is dropped from a height and imbedded into his skull. The boy, Tyler, is whisked off to a Manhattan hospital where Saramaggio, the neurosurgeon, has been called in to perform a medical miracle. Tyler’s father, Scott, is given a tough choice. Saramaggio and Cleaver, a psychologist who holds court in a decrepit old asylum on Roosevelt Island, have been secretly working on a procedure by which severely brain-damaged patients are hooked up to a bank of computers that basically record and store the patient’s brain’s vitals while the body undergoes a brief death. The bereaved Scott not surprisingly agrees to the surgery, and the long process begins. But all isn’t so right with Saramaggio and Cleaver’s invention, something that becomes obvious when we see Cleaver meeting up with some cyber creeps, and also performing not-so-voluntary experiments on his more disturbed patients. Scott enlists Kate, one of the new surgeons at Saramaggio’s hospital, to get his apparently brain-dead son out of the devilish apparatus that appears designed only to replicate his son’s personality in digital form. Darnton (The Experiment, 1999, etc.) has a style that veers disconcertingly between affecting drama and camp—Cleaver’s gothic asylum being one daunting example. Initially exciting—a melding of Robin Cook with one of William Gibson’s lesser efforts—the story is eventually wearying.
Solid but uneven: brings to mind too many other, more exceptional, books.