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Mindscan Mass Market Paperback – Dec 27 2005


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Science Fiction; 1 edition (Dec 27 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765349752
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765349750
  • Product Dimensions: 10.6 x 2.5 x 17 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 181 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #303,454 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Booklist

Jake Sullivan watched his father, suffering from a rare condition, collapse and linger in a vegetative state, and he's incredibly paranoid because he inherited that condition. When mindscanning technology becomes available, he has himself scanned, which involves dispatching his biological body to the moon and assuming an android body. In possession of everything the biological Jake Sullivan had on Earth, android Jake finds love with Karen, who has also been mindscanned. Meanwhile, biological Jake discovers there is finally another, brand-new cure for his condition. Moreover, Karen's son sues her, declaring 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 more unstable, until finally, in a fit of paranoia, he takes hostages. Sawyer's treatment of identity issues--of what copying consciousness may mean and how consciousness is defined--finds expression in a good story that is a new meditation on an old sf theme, the meaning of being human. Regina Schroeder
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Sawyer's most ambitious work to date; a brilliant and innovative novel that positively sings with humor, insight, and depth. (SF Site)

Sawyer lucidly explores fascinating philosophical conundrums. (Entertainment Weekly)

A tale involving courtroom drama, powerful human emotion and challenging SF mystery. Sawyer juggles it all with intelligence and far-reaching vision worthy of Isaac Asimov. (Starlog)

With his customary flair for combining hard science with first-rate storytelling, Sawyer imagines a future of all-too-real possibilities. (Library Journal)

This tightly plotted hard-SF novel offers plenty of philosophical speculation on the ethics of bio-technology and the nature of consciousness. (Publishers Weekly)

A delightful read that grips the reader with engaging characters and cosmic ideas. (Winnipeg Free Press)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on Jan. 18 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"Science fiction", once about aliens and high-tech weapons or interstellar travel, is now about real people in plausible situations. The "fiction" is no different than "mainstream" writing and the science is just down the road in time. This book shows why Robert J. Sawyer is today's pre-eminent science fiction writer. Always keeping speculation in tight rein, he nevertheless exhibits a wide-ranging imagination. His stories are always a good read, yet filled with information. He understands the human condition well, displaying that insight with a variety of characters. Even the protagonist-narrator isn't entirely predictable. Others, who seem understandable [but are never a stereotype!], spring surprises. Sawyer builds the episodes of this story with finesse - no small feat given the characters are 400 thousand kilometres apart.

Jake Sullivan, scion of a Toronto brewery fortune, has a problem. The blood vessels in his brain might unexpectedly explode. It happened to his father during a family fight. The result isn't terminal. It leaves the victim in a vegetative state. Jake decides to take advantage of a new technology to bypass the threat. He'll have his mind scanned and his consciousness copied into an almost indestructible artificial body. Immortality, that quest so long engaged in by a fragile humanity, may be imminent. His "shed skin", the original, flawed body, will be shipped to the far side of the Moon to live luxuriously until "natural causes" prevail. The relocation leaves behind a lonely dog, a confused girl friend and a concerned mother.

As might be expected, a new threat emerges. Give a lawyer an opening and yet another courtroom drama enfolds. What says the law on two minds of one person? Which is the "person", the "mind" or the body?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Friederike Knabe TOP 100 REVIEWER on Jan. 17 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Imagine a future where you don't need sleep, where you don't lose any part of your memory, your body doesn't age and you are never prone to any disease. You keep all your mental and intellectual capacities, even your emotional ones. You can still identify your "self". All this is achieved by having your mind "uploaded" into a perfect body of chosen age and live happily ever after. You have become a Mindscan. Not, so fast, though! What about your consciousness, your "soul"? Can it really be copied? And what is going to happen to the original biological self? What about the reactions of family and friends; how do they take this technological wonderwork?

What drives people to take this extreme step? The two protagonists make this choice for different reasons. Karen Bessarian, a highly successful writer in her eighties, doesn't accept the fast approaching end of her life. She has more books to write and life to enjoy, so she chooses a younger body. Jake, the rich forty-something heir to a Canadian brewery, carries his father's genetic marker for a brain defect. The older Sullivan collapsed into a vegetative state after a row between father and son when Jake was 17. Jake had put his life on hold to avoid stress and other triggers for brain damage. Meeting at a sales event for the Mindscan technology, Karen and Jake develop their relationship in different ways - as biological selves and as mind "instantiations" with new perfect bodies.

Once the "uploads" have passed their first examinations they are let loose on their family and community with varying results. Tongue in cheek, Sawyer cannot resist some small political stabs contrasting US society at the time [as projected from present conditions] with an increasingly broadminded and left-leaning Canadian one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on Aug. 25 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This science-fiction novel is about people who have their consciousness copied and transferred into artificial brains, and then artificial bodies to complete the package, which makes them essentially immortal. There are then two copies of the person: the flesh and blood version, and the artificial one, but both with the same thoughts and consciousness. The story brings up lots of interesting issues: what is consciousness, what makes someone human, when is life defined… the author tackles interesting questions and provides succinct answers to some; however, the story suffers from the heavy issues: this is a quick read, like all of Sawyer's stories; it's compelling, making you want to see how it will conclude, but it's TOO quick. Sawyer tries to give the characters depth, but his attempt falls short due to scientific mumbo-jumbo or cliches. As I've mentioned in other reviews of his books, his writing gets annoying with pop culture references and advertisements for Toyota or whatever company he APPEARS to be deliberately promoting. I think he needs a better editor.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ken Breadner on Jan. 4 2006
Format: Hardcover
This could have been one of the all-time best science fiction novels. You want ideas? It's got them, in spades. You want touching moments? It's got at least three of them that make you pull out of the story and go 'awwww'. You want courtroom drama? This has perhaps the best courtroom scene I've ever read (certainly the most thought-provoking).
And yet...
Well, two flaws leap out at you before you're more than halfway through. The first is Sawyer's vicious anti-Americanism. Look, I'm Canadian and I think Dubya's a dolt just as much as the next Johnny Canuck, but geez, Rob! Way over the top!
The second (related? who knows?) flaw is Sawyer's even more visceral anti-religionist stance. It's his right to have it, I suppose, but it gets in the way of his plotting, since he can't craft a 'believeable believer' to save his life. He comes off as smug in his sure-fire knowledge that whatever science can't explain now, it will be able to in the future. Again, I'm just as anti-fundy-costal as the next guy, but there doesn't even seem to be room in Rob's world for spirituality...and that alienated me as a reader.
The final flaw is a forced, contrived, hokey, gimmicky ending. You'll know what I mean when you get to it. The climax was great...I was turning pages like wildfire...and then I just hit a wall as he covered a whole 'nother novel in the space of two pages and ended the book. Ka-BLAM!
A good read--the name Robert J. Sawyer assures that much--but it could have been so much better.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 56 reviews
29 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Copying consciousness courts confusion April 17 2005
By Stephen A. Haines - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book shows why Robert Sawyer is today's pre-eminent science fiction writer. Always keeping speculation in tight rein, he nevertheless exhibits a wide-ranging imagination. His stories are always a good read, yet filled with information. He understands the human condition, displaying that insight with a variety of characters. Even the protagonist-narrator isn't entirely predictable. Others, who seem understandable [but never a stereotype!], spring surprises. He builds the episodes of this story with finesse - no small feat given the characters are 400 thousand kilometres apart.

Jake Sullivan, scion of a Toronto brewery fortune, has a problem. The blood vessels in his brain might unexpectedly explode. It happened to his father during a family fight. The result isn't terminal. It leaves the victim in a vegetative state. Jake decides to take advantage of a new technology to bypass the threat. He'll have his mind scanned and his consciouness copied into an almost indestructible artificial body. Immortality, that quest so long followed by fragile humanity, may be imminent. His "shed skin", the original, flawed body, will be shipped to the far side of the Moon to live luxuriously until "natural causes" prevail. The relocation abandons a lonely dog, a confused girlfriend and a concerned mother.

As might be expected, a threat looms. Give a lawyer an opening and another courtroom drama enfolds. What says the law on two minds of one person? Sawyer has done courtroom scenes before in "Illegal Alien". He surpasses himself with this one as the concepts of consciousness are thoroughly explored by the contending sides. Sawyer is at his best in having characters explain philosophical or scientific stances. Thankfully, in this examination of determining who we are, Sawyer manages to shift the issue of the "soul" out of the hands of the clergy. His defender of that concept would seem inappropriate, but the character expresses the idea fervently.

The resolution of these issues is, amazingly, left for the reader. Sawyer has always avoided absolutes. He has his passions - the Toronto Blue Jays and enjoying Fate's gift of being Canadian, among others. While those are important and worthy of admiration and satisfaction, the issue of humanity in general looms significantly in his work. He is outstanding in dealing with controversies in a balanced narrative. And the story line itself will keep you reading to the end. A true "page-turner". [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
A fascinating piece of speculative Sci-Fi April 11 2005
By Jeffrey J. Lyons - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Robert J. Sawyer's "Mindscan" tackles the human dream of immortality with a twist. Think for a moment what you would do if you could upload your mind, your very being, into a durable, android-like body. In Sawyer's futuristic world, the Immortex Company allows the wealthy to do that. However, your human body is shipped to the dark side of the moon to live out your natural life in luxury. When you die, your uploaded self can live on for an eternity back on earth.

Immortex doesn't bother with informing the uploaded copy that the real one has died. But due to a bizarre coincidence, the death of prominent writer Karen Bessarian (who uploaded her mind due to old age)is reported to her flesh and blood son, who didn't particular care for her uploaded form. He forces the matter into Probate Court for the reading of the will. The uploaded Karen says, "No way, I'm still alive" and the matter becomes what amounts to the trial of the 21st Century.

In the meantime Jake Sullivan uploads his mind because he had a rare, incurable disease. Wouldn't you know it? They find a cure and he demands to go back to Earth and continue his life but Immortex puts the kibosh on that idea.

Sawyer writes great Science Fiction and presents it in such a way that it sounds almost plausible. His characters are real and believable. His plots move along smoothly and are easy to read. The trial scene is gripping. It's no wonder that he has won Hugo's and Aurora's and has been nominated for Nebulas. "Mindscan," which is actually an embellished version of his Analog short story "Shed Skin," fits right into the award-winning category. Highly recommended.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
What if ... ? June 3 2005
By Jonathan A. Turner - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Robert J. Sawyer returns to his most typical format: a novel that digs into the human consequences of a plausible technological innovation. And very good it is! _Mindscan_ is SF in the classic mode of Asimov, Heinlein, early Niven, and those guys--a thorough and involving speculation, a good story, and a novel that will get you to ask some interesting questions. The setup has been used before (Greg Egan, for instance, is a recent practitioner), but Sawyer gives us a much better look at how real people might really feel than any other example I've seen.

The best part of _Mindscan_ is its fair-minded and articulate presentation of both sides of the issue. (This almost counts as a Sawyer trademark; other authors should take note.) This is a great technique in a what-if novel. It brings you, the reader, into the story, and makes you wonder: What do I believe? Would it really work that way? Is that a valid argument? And, most fundamentally, what would *I* do?

If _Mindscan_ has a weakness--or, at least, a lack of strength--it's in the resolution. It's not that it's badly done; a lesser writer, for instance, would introduce a technological fix that makes everything come out happy, and Sawyer doesn't do that. However, the ending neither (a) resolves the questions raised in the book, nor (b) demonstrates that they're fundamentally unresolvable. Instead, the characters are allowed to postpone dealing with them. They avoid the issues, instead of either deciding them or coming into conflict over them. After such a strong set-up, I'd have liked a more thought-provoking climax.

There *is* a little bit of a surprise ending. However, it concerns a subplot which is a minor contributor to the rest of the book. It would have been stronger if the subplot were either strengthened and integrated with the main story, or excised entirely. It's certainly not the case that the book is too long! (Sawyer has tried to do a little too much with his books before now. His _Frameshift_, for instance, is a very fine novel, but it has about one idea too many wedged into it.)

All the same, that still leaves _Mindscan_ as very good science fiction. Sawyer won some awards for his recent "Neanderthal" trilogy. I don't think that's his best work; the contrast between the (good) Neanderthals and (bad) us is too black-and-white. _Mindscan_, on the other hand, really does merit some awards, particularly compared to most of what shows up on the ballots. This is the stuff that gets 13-year-olds reading SF in the first place, but written with a fully adult sensibility. We need more of it.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
fascinating premise, but could've been a shorter book Dec 16 2005
By DataDame - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I got this book because I was completely intrigued by the concept.

The primary character (both of him!) is sympathetic and believable. His leading lady is written almost as well, although her character seems a a little bit more formulaic. The story line develops quickly through the first half of the book, and raises some compelling and thought-provoking issues in the telling, without beating them into the ground.

Both of the protagonists' stories (the biological and the Mindscan) are told in first person, but the writing and editing are so well done that the reader has no trouble whatsoever keeping up with who's telling his story at any given time.

Then there comes a development that leads to a civil trial to determine whether a "Mindscan" is a person, is conscious, is alive, in the legal senses of the words. In my opinion, at that point the forward motion of the story suddenly comes to a crawl. While there are unquestionably really intriguing issues on both sides of the question, the author devotes too much time to the court arguments which are presented in so voluminously that they come off as thinly veiled self-congratulation on his exhaustive research.

Nonetheless, I do recommend this book. I thoroughly enjoyed the mind-stretching aspects of it when they were integrated into the story. When the courtoom parts started to drag on, I just skimmed, and found that I didn't miss a thing.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Strong storyline ... Average Characters Oct. 11 2008
By Keith - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
The strengths of Sawyer's novels have been the combination of strong, science fiction storylines coupled with complex characters.

Unfortunately, MINDSCAN, fails on the latter point.

The premise has been discussed at length, so there's no need to cover ground that other reviewers have described.

But, if you're interested in consciousness and the philosophical debate about the existence of a soul, then you should find this novel quite enjoyable.

The characters, on the other hand, were not very enjoyable.
Despite Sawyer's own words admonishing writers who intrude upon the narrative with soapbox issues, I couldn't help but feel that the characters of Jacob and Karen reflected Sawyer's own feelings with respect to liberal politics and intellectual property.

There's certainly nothing wrong with a protagonist with liberal political views; nor is there anything wrong with one who's a strong advocate of artists' rights.

The problem with this novel is that there is no balance. The protagonist has no sympathetic counterpart (e.g., a well-meaning, politically conservative or moderate character).

All that being said, this novel is very educational.
That, combined with the "page-turning" trial scene, make this novel well worth the read.

And be sure to spend some time with Sawyer's appendix, which describes his research sources for consciousness studies.

I'll give the book 3.5 out of 5 stars and "round up."

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