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Mindscan Mass Market Paperback – Dec 27 2005

3.4 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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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: 3.4 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #211,084 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


Twenty-Seven Years Later: August 2045
There were perhaps a hundred people in the ballroom of Toronto’s Fairmont Royal York Hotel, and at least half of them had only a short time left to live.
Of course, being rich, those who were near death had mostly availed themselves of the best cosmetic treatments: face-lifts, physiognomic rebuilds, even a few facial transplants. I found it unsettling to see twenty-year-old visages attached to stooped bodies, but at least the transplants looked better than the ghastly tautness of one face-lift too many.
Still, I reminded myself, these were indeed cosmetic treatments. The faux-youthful faces were attached to old, decaying bodies—bodies thoroughly worn out. Of the elderly who were present, most were standing, a few were in motorized wheelchairs, some had walkers, and one had his legs encased in powered armatures while another wore a full-body exoskeleton.
Being old isn’t what it used to be, I thought, shaking my head. Not that I was old myself: I was just forty-four. Sadly, though, I’d used up my fifteen minutes of fame right at the beginning, without even being aware of it. I’d been the first baby born in Toronto on I January 2001—the first child of the new millennium. A much bigger fuss had been made over the girl who had popped out just after midnight on 1 January 2000, a year that had no significance save for ending in three zeros. But that was okay: the last thing I wanted to be was a year older, because a year from now, I might very well be dead. The old joke ran through my mind again:
“I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news,” said the doctor. “You don’t have long to live.”
The young man swallowed. “How much time have I got left?”
The doctor shook his head sadly. “Ten.”
“Ten what? Ten years? Ten months? Ten—?”
“Nine … Eight …”
I shook my head to dispel the thought and looked around some more. The Fairmont Royal York was a grand hotel, dating from the first glory days of rail travel, and it was enjoying a revival now that magnetic-levitation trains were flying along the old tracks. The hotel was across the street from Union Station, just north of Toronto’s lakeshore—and a good twenty-five kilometers east of where my parents’ house still stood. Chandeliers hung from the ballroom ceiling, and original oil paintings adorned the flock-papered walls. Tuxedoed servers were milling about offering glasses of wine. I went to the open bar and ordered a tomato juice heavily spiked with Worcestershire; I wanted a clear head this evening.
When I stepped away from the bar with my drink, I found myself standing next to an honest-to-goodness old lady: wrinkled face, white hair. Amid the surrounding denial and fakery, she was quite refreshing.
The woman smiled at me, although it was a lopsided smile—she’d clearly suffered a stroke at some point. “Here alone?” she asked. Her pleasant voice was attenuated into a Southern drawl, and it was also tinged by the quaver often found in the elderly.
I nodded.
“Me, too,” she said. She was wearing a dark jacket over a lighter blouse, and matching dark slacks. “My son refused to bring me.” Most of the other old folks had companions with them: middle-aged children, or lawyers, or paid caregivers. I glanced down, noted that she was wearing a wedding band. She apparently followed my gaze. “I’m a widow,” she said.
“So,” she said, “are you checking out the process for a loved one?”
I felt my face quirk. “You might say that.”
She looked at me with an odd expression; I sensed that she’d seen through my comment, but, although curious, was too polite to press further. After a moment, she said, “My name’s Karen.” She held out her hand.
“Jake,” I said, taking it. The skin on her hand was loose and liver-spotted, and her knuckles were swollen. I squeezed very gently.
“Where are you from, Jake?”
“Here. Toronto. You?”
I nodded. Many of tonight’s potential customers were probably Americans. Immortex had found a much more congenial legal climate for its services in increasingly liberal Canada than in ever-more-conservative America. When I’d been a kid, college students used to come over to Ontario from Michigan and New York because the drinking age was lower here and the strippers could go further. Now, people from those two states crossed the border for legal pot, legal hookers, legal abortions, same-sex marriages, physician-assisted suicide, and other things the religious right frowned upon.
“It’s funny,” said Karen, glancing at the aged crowd. “When I was ten, I once said to my grandmother, ‘Who the heck wants to be ninety?’ And she looked me right in the eye and said, ‘Anyone who is eighty-nine.’” Karen shook her head. “How right she was.”
I smiled wanly.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” called a male voice, just then. “Would you all please take seats?”
Doubtless no one here was hard of hearing; implants easily rectified that sign of aging, too. There were rows of folding chairs at the back of the ballroom, facing a podium. “Shall we?” said Karen. Something about her was charming—the Southern accent, maybe (Detroit certainly wasn’t where she’d grown up)—and there were, of course, the connotations that went with being in a ballroom. I found myself offering my arm, and Karen took it. We walked over slowly—I let her set the pace—and found a pair of seats near the back at one side, an A. Y. Jackson landscape hanging under glass on the wall next to us.
“Thank you,” said the same man who’d spoken before. He was standing at the dark wooden podium. There was no light directly on him; just a little illumination spilling up from a reading lamp attached to the lectern. A gangling Asian of perhaps thirty-five, his black hair was combed straight back above a forehead that would have done Professor Moriarty proud. A surprisingly large, old-fashioned microphone covered his mouth. “My name is John Sugiyama,” he said, “and I’m a vice-president at Immortex. Thank you all for coming tonight. I hope you’ve enjoyed the hospitality so far.”
He looked out at the crowd. Karen, I noticed, was one of those who murmured appreciatively, which seemed to be what Sugiyama wanted. “Good, good,” he said. “In everything we do, we strive for absolute customer satisfaction. After all, as we like to say, ‘Once an Immortex client, always an Immortex client.’”
He smiled broadly, and again waited for appreciative chuckles before going on. “Now, I’m sure you’ve all got questions, so let’s get started. I know what we’re selling costs a lot of money—”
Somebody near me muttered, “Damn right,” but if Sugiyama heard, he gave no sign. He continued: “But we won’t ask you for a cent until you’re satisfied that what we’re offering is right for you.” He let his gaze wander over the crowd, smiling reassuringly and making lots of eye contact. He looked directly at Karen but skipped over me; presumably he felt I couldn’t possibly be a potential customer, and so wasn’t worth wasting his charm on.
“Most of you,” Sugiyama said, “have had MRIs. Our patented and exclusive Mindscan process is nothing more daunting than that, although our resolution is much finer. It gives us a complete, perfect map of the structure of your brain: every neuron, every dendrite, every synaptic cleft, every interconnection. It also notes neurotransmitter levels at each synapse. There is no part of what makes you you that we fail to record.”
That much was certainly true. Back in 1990, a philanthropist named Hugh Loebner promised to award a solid gold medal—not just gold-plated like those cheap Olympic ones—plus $100,000 in cash to the first team to build a machine that passed the Turing Test, that old chestnut that said a computer should be declared truly intelligent if its responses to questions were indistinguishable from those of a human being. Loebner had expected it would be only a few years before he’d have to cough up—but that’s not how things turned out. It wasn’t until three years ago that the prize had been awarded.
I’d watched the whole thing on TV: a panel of five inquisitors—a priest, a philosopher, a cognitive scientist, a woman who ran a small business, and a stand-up comic—were presented with two entities behind black curtains. The questioners were allowed to ask both entities anything at all: moral posers, general-knowledge trivia, even things about romance and child-rearing; in addition, the comic did his best to crack the entities up, and to quiz them about why certain jokes were or weren’t funny. Not only that, but the two entities engaged in a dialogue between themselves, asking each other questions while the little jury looked on. At the end, the jurors voted, and they unanimously agreed they could not tell which curtain hid the real human being and which hid the machine.
After the commercial break, the curtains were raised. On the left was a fiftyish, balding, bearded black man named Sampson Wainwright. And on the right was a very simple, boxy robot. The group collected their hundred ...
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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.

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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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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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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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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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