Robert J. Sawyer
Hugo and Nebula award winning author Robert J. Sawyer (Factoring Humanity, Illegal Alien, Calculating God, “Neanderthal Parallax” trilogy) is back with a mind-bending stand-alone novel called Mindscan.
The book starts off hot and fast. In 2018, seventeen-year-old Jake Sullivan is arguing with his father when for no apparent reason his father collapses. They rush him to the hospital where they find out he has a congenital lesion of the brain known as an AVM: an arteriovenous malformation. It’s a condition where blood vessels in the brain are very thin and prone to bursting, and his form is known as Katerinsky’s syndrome. Upon hearing this news, Jake is asked to get an MRI to check and see if he has the same condition because Katerinsky’s syndrome is hereditary. Jake has indeed inherited the same problem, and it seems as if he is doomed.
Hop, skip and a jump later its 2045 and Jake wants to take advantage of a new technology called Mindscan from the Immortex corporation. While visiting his father who was in a vegetative state, he explains to his mother that he is going to get the procedure done the next day so he won’t have to worry about the blood vessels in his brain exploding:
“I took in air, let it out slowly and spoke. ‘I’m – I don’t know if you’ve heard of it or not, but there’s this process they’ve got now. It’s been covered on all the news shows…” I trailed off as if I’d given her enough clues to guess what I was talking about. ‘It’s by a company called Immortex. They transfer a person’s consciousness into an artificial body.'
She looked at me silently.
I continued. ‘And, well, I’m going to do it.’
‘You’re going to… transfer your… your consciousness…’
‘Into a… an…artificial body.’
‘My body is no good – you know that. It’s almost certainly going to kill me’ – if I’m lucky, I thought – ‘or I’ll end up like dad. I’m doomed if I stays in this…’ I laid a splayed hand over my chest, sought a word ‘…this shell.’
‘Does it work? She asked. ‘This process – does it really work?’
‘Could they… could Cliff…’
‘No… they copy the mind as it is. They can’t… they can’t undo.’
She took a deep breath trying to calm herself.
‘I’m sorry,’ I said. ‘I wish there was some way, but…’
‘But they can do something for me -- before it’s too late.’
‘So, they move… they move your soul?’
‘No,’ I said, ‘they don’t move your soul. They just copy the patterns that compose your consciousness.’
‘Copy? The what happens to the original?’
‘They – see, your transfer the legal rights of personhood to the copy. And then, after that, the biological you has to retire from society.’
‘It’s called High Eden.’
I wished there was some other way to say it. ‘On the moon.’
‘The far side of the moon, yes.’
She shook her head. ‘When would you do this?’
‘Soon,’ I said. ‘Very soon. I just – I just can’t take it any longer. Being afraid to sneeze or bend over or do nothing at all that I might end up brain damaged or a quadriplegic or dead. It’s tearing me apart.’
She sighed, a long whispery sound. ‘Come and say good-bye before you leave for the moon.’
‘This is good-bye,’ I said.”
This is when the book kicks into over drive. Android Jake finds himself in possession of everything the biological Jake Sullivan had on Earth. Android Jake finds love with Karen, who has also had the Mindscan procedure. Meanwhile, biological Jake discovers there is finally brand-new cure for his condition. Then the story shifts into a courtroom drama with Karen's son suing her, stating that his mother is dead, and android Karen has no right to deprive him of his considerable inheritance. Biological Jake, unable to leave the moon because of the contract he signed, becomes steadily unstable and in a fit of rage he takes hostages.
The courtroom drama is straight out of Perry Mason, but it all works. Though it kind of drags a bit in the middle, the prose is fun and you don’t get hammered over the head with too much hard science fiction. In fact the story is quite accessible to anyone looking for a fun read. Clocking in just shy of three hundred pages, Mindscan is a great, fun, enjoyable book that doesn’t get overly techy but does get a bit silly in the courtroom drama. Over all, an excellent book that’s sure to please most fans of the genre and those giving the genre a chance.