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on September 3, 2011
There *are* things that are missing from Richard Powers' writing. For one, this does seem longish in parts and you feel like he could have trimmed some pages. He does employ beautifully descriptive passages all too judiciously (especially in his descriptions of the cranes) only to slide into seemingly pedestrian, expository prose for extended periods of time.

None of those issues are at all relevant when you look at the things Powers does accomplish that no other writer seems capable of, and the big picture this novel creates. He develops characters and their inter-relationships so intricately that the story's length is not only necessary but entirely redeemed by this quality. He tells a story so richly resonant that few literate novels seem really capable of. He describes the function of our brains in creating the world we live in, in a way that is clinical yet far richer than thematic "explorations of memory" like you might find in Ishiguro or Marquez. I've read many great novelists but Powers truly accomplishes something rare here - he has truly changed the way I understand the way we look at the world.
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on April 11, 2010
This book is much too long for the story it has to tell. There's an awful lot of brain description which felt like the author had to show off all of his knowledge about the intricacies of brain function. Many of it could have been omitted. For me it was not worth the time.
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on June 17, 2009
A dense book with layer upon layer of meaning, metaphor and allegory. This book would be a great one for someone who is studying American Literature and needed to write a paper as there is so much to it.

The brain damaged character can be compared to the US after 911 and how everything in both's perception is altered. For the country and for the individual, there is a new truth, a new understanding of the way things are, new suspicions of old friends and family and new self-perceptions. The past is lost and everyone must find their way forward in the shifted landscape.

There are interesting links to the Wizard of Oz - where Dorothy, or the sister, both want to go back home but the sister can't. The obvious connection is the scarecrow, if he only had a brain. And is the nurse Glinda?? You must read to decide for yourself.

There is so much to this book it is really mind boggling. Be forewarned though, it is not a fast easy read. Richard Powers, however is a great writer and I think will have staying power.
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on December 11, 2008
..wanted to like this book..gave it a chance - nearly made it to the end, skimmed the last 50 pages - waste of valuable reading time ..
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It's hard for me to know who would like this book. It contains a great deal of information about how the brain works, consciousness is created, and the quirks of various mental disorders . . . but someone interested in those subjects would typically read a nonfiction book on the subject instead.

At the same time, those who like novels generally are looking for a story that moves through actions rather faster than the repeated ramblings in the characters' minds on the same subjects. With three narrators, you get to read about three sets of repetitive ramblings.

I must agree that I've never read a book quite like this, and I enjoy learning more about the latest in the neurosciences and how unusual conditions arise. Much of the book, however, reminded me of the paranoid ravings of a schizophrenic I knew once. Realizing the similarity to what a schizophrenic would say and do . . . and what the treatments are, I became skeptical about how accurate this book's fiction is for this particular brain injury.

There's some poetic material tying our common genetic heritages together between the human and animal worlds, but that's clearly secondary to the main messages.

I felt, too, that the book took too long to develop: Seemingly trying to make us suffer along with some of the characters by having to bear up with the problems for a long time.

I certainly agree with those who are impressed by the scope of the book's vision . . . I just don't agree with how well that vision was implemented. There are instances of fine writing in the book, but the overall plan didn't satisfy me as a way to communicate those points.

Unless you feel compelled to read this book because of the disagreements about it, I suggest you skip it.
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This is an immensely powerful book! Simply staggering. At the core of this novel is a search for self. Who are we really? Are you who you think you are or are you who others think you are? The 3 main characters are all struggling to find their true self: Mark, a man who received a traumatic head injury in a car accident, his sister, whom he believes is an impostor and the famous neurologist who takes on the case.

I found the medical information about the brain and the case histories absolutely fascinating. As a fan of shows such as ER and House, this was right up my alley! I found myself relating to all the main characters and becoming fond of them all in different ways. On top of all this there is a riveting mystery story concerning the cause of the car accident. An extremely satisfying read!
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