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Thursday, June 12, 2008

"Neuropath" by Scott Bakker

Scott Bakker @ Wikipedia
Official Prince of Nothing Website
Order “NeuropathHERE (Canada) + HERE (UK)
Read An Excerpt
HERE
Read Reviews of “Neuropath” via Neth Space, OF Blog of the Fallen + Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist
Read Interviews with Scott Bakker HERE + HERE

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Scott Bakker is a student of literature, history, philosophy and ancient languages and is a member of the American Philosophical Association (APA) and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). Scott’s bibliography includes The Prince of Nothing trilogy, “Neuropath” and the forthcoming Aspect-Emperor sequence.

PLOT SUMMARY: Life for Professor Thomas Bible is not what it once was. He’s been divorced two years from a woman he still cares about and doesn’t get to spend nearly enough time with his kids, Ripley and Frankie. But things could always be worse as Tom discovers firsthand when his best friend, Neil Cassidy, comes back into his life. The problem is not that Neal was actually an employee of the NSA in their neuromanipulation department cracking the minds of suspected terrorists, but that Neil himself has cracked and gone AWOL, employing his unique skills on the minds of civilians based on The Argument that people are biomechanical and that everything we do is an illusion. Through a terrifying sequence of events, Neil demonstrates the shocking validity of The Argument, but the full horror of this revelation is only revealed when Neal nears his ultimate goal…

CLASSIFICATION: What if Michael Crichton, Thomas Harris, Chuck Palahniuk, and David Cronenberg one day decided to write a novel together about a new breed of serial killer? What would such a collaboration yield? Well it may look a little something like Scott Bakker’sNeuropath”, which blends psychological/techno thrills with police procedural, horror, and a sprinkle of near-future science fiction for a uniquely smart, provocative and unsettling reading experience…

FORMAT/INFO: Page count is 320 pages divided over seventeen chapters. Narration is in the third person via Professor Thomas Bible, except for one brief moment through the eyes of FBI agent Samantha Logan and occasional first-person interludes of a nameless individual. Also includes an Author’s Note and Author’s Afterword, the latter of which discusses what is fact and what is fiction in the novel. “Neuropath” is self-contained.

May 29, 2008 marks the UK Hardcover & Paperback publication of “Neuropath” via
Gollancz. June 5, 2008 marks the Canadian Trade Paperback publication of “Neuropath” via Penguin Canada.

ANALYSIS: If you will, imagine that love, fear, anger, free will, right or wrong, purpose, faith, out-of-body experiences, orgasms, basically anything that we do, think, or feel is merely an illusion generated by our brains. Now imagine that such things can be controlled, turned on or off by the simple flick of a switch. Scary, no? Well that’s the main concept behind “Neuropath”, and while it may seem a little far-fetched, the scenario is made convincing by two key reasons:

One, Scott backs up his theories (The Argument, semantic apocalypse, Blind Brain Hypothesis, etc.) with compelling scientific and philosophical evidence and arguments. So even if you’re not an expert on cognitive psychology or neurology and can’t see how accurate these fields are depicted or where the line between fact & fiction is drawn at, you just trust that the author knows what he’s talking about. Kind of like reading a novel by Michael Crichton or Tom Clancy :) The only problem I had, and is an issue I can see other readers having, is that there’s a little too much philosophizing going on which really slows down the novel at times. As far as controversy, there are some challenging issues in “Neuropath” that really makes you think, but I don’t believe the novel will provoke audiences like a Chuck Palahniuk book. For one thing, “Neuropath” is surprisingly weak in the ‘shock factor’ area. I mean there are a few horrific scenes in the novel, but instead of giving us an up-close look, it’s left more to the reader’s imagination. So compared to the
Saw franchise, other ‘torture porn’, and even recent books like Scott Sigler’sInfected” or Warren Ellis’Crooked Little Vein”, “Neuropath” is actually pretty tame, although it depends on what frightens you more—explicit gore & violence or your own imagination…

Secondly, it’s because “Neuropath” takes place in the future. How far in the future I can’t say because dates are never given, but it’s far enough that people can wear shirts that playback looping videos, MSNBC’s anchor is all CGI, and 'Expression Biometrics' make sure that retail employees always wear a smile; and near enough that terrorism and national security are still touchy issues. In other words, it’s a future that could very well be our own one day, and because we can relate to this time period, we can also believe in neuromanipulation as a plausible concept, both in theory and in practice.

As far as the plotting, characterization and prose, I would give Scott Bakker a high grade in all three areas. Starting with the plot, aside from the philosophical overindulgences, the story moves along at a brisk pace, avoids most thriller clichés by using clever misdirection and original twists—we know who the killer is and his motive from the beginning of the novel, the investigation is held from the public because of classified information, etc—and the finale is definitely not your standard Hollywood ending :) Characters meanwhile, have a lot of personality and depth, act accordingly—I loved Tom’s 'theory-speak' and the way he always analyses everything which is behavior I would expect from a professor of cognitive psychology—and the various relationships in the story are given time to develop which really increases the impact of certain events that occur later on in the novel. Lastly, writing a thriller—be it techno, psychological, crime or horror—is a lot different from writing an epic fantasy series, so I was really impressed by the way Scott handled himself in “Neuropath”. Indeed, if Scott were to strictly write contemporary thrillers from this point forward, I believe he would be extremely successful :)

CONCLUSION: I’ve always been fascinated by serial killers in film and literature, so “Neuropath” was a book that immediately caught my attention. That and I’ve always wanted to read one of Scott Bakker’s novels, especially after all the praise he’s received for his
Prince of Nothing trilogy. And even though the book came with a lot of hype and expectation, “Neuropath” doesn’t disappoint. It’s a smart novel, thought-provoking, inventive, entertaining, and frightening in a way that is unique. In fact, “Neuropath” probably rivals anything that I’ve read or seen which can compare to Scott’s book, and I think it would make an even better movie. Like The Silence of the Lambs, Se7en and Saw, “Neuropath” is a new benchmark in serial killer/psychological storytelling and has the potential to revolutionize the genre…

4 comments:

Patrick said...

Good review, Robert!

Glad you enjoyed it!;-)

Robert said...

Thanks Pat! If this book is any indication, then I'm going to enjoy the Prince of Nothing trilogy very much :D

Kimberly Swan said...

Neuromanipulation...pretty scary stuff, and of course something to make you wonder...what if. Loved the review. :)

MentatJack said...

Looks like it might be time to fire up my amazon.co.uk account. I'm not sure if this is one I can wait till a US release for.

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