MINDSCAN by Robert J. Sawyer


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Award-winning Sawyer takes a break from his latest trilogy (Humans, 2003, etc.) with a slow disquisition on consciousness and identity pretending to be an SF novel of ideas.

When his father suffers a brain hemorrhage that leaves him in a permanent vegetative state, Jake Sullivan, heir a Canadian brewery fortune, discovers he has the same rare, hereditary disease. Fear of an early death inspires him, at age 40, to undergo a Mindscan, an expensive but apparently fool-proof technique in which the entire brain is scanned and downloaded into a technologically superior mechanical body that doesn’t breathe, eat, sleep or sweat and is theoretically immortal. The result? Two Jake Sullivans. In the first of many improbabilities, the flesh-and-blood Jake must make room for his replacement by renouncing all ties to his earthly existence and living out the rest of his days in a deluxe retirement village on the dark side of the moon, from whence he cannot return. En route to his new digs, Jake meets the 85-year-old, thrice-married Karen Bessarian, enormously wealthy best-selling author of a Harry Potter–like fantasy series. Karen makes a younger Mindscan version of herself to preserve her royalties and, perhaps, continue the series. A friendship develops between the mortals on the moon and the immortals: the new and improved Jake and Karen discover their bodies can have sex without fear of disease or pregnancy. Then Sawyer complicates the plot by having the mortal Jake being cured for his illness, but still a prisoner on the moon. The mortal Karen dies, setting off a tedious, histrionic courtroom battle over whether or not the immortal Karen is a person. On top of this, the immortal Jake starts hearing voices that turn out to be thoughts from other Jakes: Could the Mindscan scientists have made unauthorized copies of his brain and be using them for nasty purposes?

Lots of prattle about science, philosophical issues and the ironies of contemporary pop culture. For die-hard fans only.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-765-31107-0
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Tor
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2005


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