With such compelling and provocative novels as Red Planet Blues, FlashForward, and The WWW Trilogy, Robert J. Sawyer has proven himself to be "a writer of boundless confidence and bold scientific extrapolation" (The New York Times). Now, the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author explores the thin line between good and evil that every human being is capable of crossing....
Experimental psychologist Jim Marchuk has developed a flawless technique for identifying the previously undetected psychopaths lurking everywhere in society. But while being cross-examined about his breakthrough in court, Jim is shocked to discover that he has lost his memories of six months of his life from 20 years previously - a dark time during which he himself committed heinous acts.
Jim is reunited with Kayla Huron, his forgotten girlfriend from his lost period and now a quantum physicist who has made a stunning discovery about the nature of human consciousness. As a rising tide of violence and hate sweeps across the globe, the psychologist and the physicist combine forces in a race against time to see if they can do the impossible - change human nature - before the entire world descends into darkness.
©2016 Robert J. Sawyer (P)2016 Audible, Inc.
"Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author Sawyer's latest work is a fast-moving, mind-stretching exploration of the nature of personality and consciousness; it balances esoteric speculation with action and character." (Publishers Weekly)
The book starts well with a top psychologist acting as an expert witness at a murder trial involving the death penalty only to discover there is a period of his own life he has no memories of. He traces the problem back to scientific experiments he helped with as a student. There is some serious discussion of the basis of morality but the application of quantum physics to the brain failed to convince me and when it went on to tackle World War Three it lost me altogether.
"Discombobulated, but interesting"
The plot of Sawyer's latest near-future SF novel is not exactly built on a sturdy framework (to wit: if it were scaffolding, it would sway in high northerly winds) but there is enough science (quantum states of neuron tubules), characterization (dude loses his memory of doing something BAD) and warnings of overreach by an aggressive American government to give any Canadian pause.
The overall idea, that our consciousness is a result of electrons being entangled in these little pockets inside your neurons, really is fascinating, and the scientists (Hammeroff, Chalmers) are real, live, living human beings who've done some credible and amazing research in this area.
Sawyer uses these ideas to explain the various levels of psychopathy that we see in everyday people, from people who have none at all (you know, folks who don't kick dogs) to egomaniacal narcissists (who probably do kick dogs). Sawyer describes these different types of people well. And the novel isn't bad. It really isn't. It's just... all over the place. It's worth a read... or a listen... but if you're looking for a classic, hero's-journey story arc, this ain't it.
Side note to narrators everywhere (not just Scott Aiello): Do NOT try to mimic Southern accents. You will get it wrong. You got it wrong in this reading, and to be honest, none of you get it right. If you're from the South, you know what I mean. Just don't even try.
Other than that, good book.
Peace and hair grease.
"A scary good read"
Thought provoking and relevant to our times in a way few books ever rise to. This will linger in your thoughts long after you read the last page.
"Philofun in a nutshell"
I actually caught myself considering which friends to recommend this book to. On the one hand, I considered those with an academic interest in neuroscience, psychology and society. But then again, some of the novel's premises are really speculative and not based on science, and I suspect some of my scientifically inclined friends would have difficulties looking beyond those faults. Perhaps this is more for those of us who like to speculate more freely about human nature and society; we, the philosophers and private thinkers.
The book reads very well and is difficult to pause. It would have been easy to consume in one sitting, if the opportunity had materialised.
This is a novel that uses speculative neuroscience and psychology to pose interesting questions about human nature and society. It is one of those books that are difficult to talk about without dropping spoilers.
Of course, if one were to evaluate the scientific "basis" of the novel, it would be found wanting at best. But this is not science, it is entertainment and - I guess philofun would be an apt neologism; having fun with philosophical speculation.
Sawyer is getting better. I have read some earlier novels of his and this is an enhancement without doubt. I would argue Sawyer has particular problems with characterisations; his protagonists tend towards the generic. These tendencies are present in this novel as well, but at the same time Sawyer has succeeded in making the protagonists' personalities part of the plot itself. He is turning his weakness into a strength.
Overall very good story and narration. The ending tends towards the phantasmagorical in my opinion; it is interesting, but not quite as satisfactory as I would have liked. Still, a strong four stars book.
"Interesting concept, poor execution, a bit preachy"
Robert J. Sawyer's Quantum Night has the kernel of an intriguing concept, but suffers from poor execution. The plot revolves around a psychologist, who studies psychopaths, on a quest to uncover memories of events during a 6 month time span 15 years earlier. At the same time, he reconnects with an old girlfriend from that lost time span who just happens to be a physicist connecting quantum spin states of the nervous system to the psychopathic condition, as well as mindless drones, and fully conscious humans. They go on to discover that the quantum state can be altered by anesthetizing someone and then zapping them a bit. This leads to a truly Canadian solution (the whole story transpires in Canada) of fixing the world by simultaneously turning all the world's psychopaths into mindless drones.
The sci-fi elements are a smattering of physics where few details are offered, to quite a bit of psychology extrapolation. There's an extensive amount of psychology theories bandied about as well as philosophical posturing that results in the combination of the Canadian loss of the Stanley cup and American right wing politics leading to WW III that requires the drastic intervention of resetting the whole planet to save the day. At the same time, there's simply too much convenience of events: the same (top secret US defense sponsored) research that is responsible for the memory loss also puts the brother of the physicist into a coma; while the physicist helps clean up the memory loss murder and doesn't remember that. At the same time, the hero is so utilitarian in his approach to life that he presents a casual disregard for human life (he would kill a person to harvest organs if more than one life could be saved), while supposedly an example of a fully conscious human being.
The narration is well done with a good range of voices and gender distinction.
"Liberal Good, Me Liberal, Others EEEvil"
Sawyer reveals the science supporting the academic liberal consensus which is as Sawyer concludes: All conservatives are various flavors of zombie psychopaths incapable of ANY ethical... much less critical... thought. What's happened Robert? Your subtle veneer as a story teller's become a polemical rant?
This book is insultingly awful even if you agree with Sawyer's ideology (which to a degree I do). This the 5th Sawyer I've listened to, and each of the previous has earned 4 stars. What happened? This piece of propaganda involves people experiencing epiphanies following brain jostling. They become enlightened to discover their bicameral minds abruptly joined and glowing with conscience. A conscience denied to anyone who's unable to connect to progressive truths that form a moral law that's intuitively obvious to only the enlightened.
To all of you who (reflexively) hurl insults at Fox News, Talk Radio or The Wall Street Journal. To those of you certain that the sounds emanating from those sources are the grunts of sub-human cretins - well Sawyer will endlessly (or at least it seems that way) support your, um, reflexes (as opposed to critical thought). Obviously the science is nonsense, but so is a kernel of science underlying every good SciFi text. For example, to get into lots of tales we all accept warp speed right? Of course right.
Heck, this book is a chance for Sawyer to screech, "Liberal Good, Me Liberal, Others EEEvil." If that’s your belief, just chant that mantra, save yourself time and a credit, and pass up this book that only a zombie can enjoy. I'm returning this and striking Robert J. Sawyer from my list of future reads because I don’t believe ideas with which I disagree are “naturally” immoral.
Sawyer no longer writes, he rants. Pity.
"From 5 Stars to ZERO"
I like Robert. J. Sawyer's work, the WWW trilogy and other work of his was done very well, and the story was enjoyable... But I have been less enjoying his work lately... I thought that this book might be good, and when I got it and started listening to it I thought "Great start, this book is going to be awesome"... But by the end of the book I just wanted to delete it and never think about it ever again...
The plot was stupid, I thought the story is going in a certain path, but all the sudden it changed to something completely different.... I'm going to explain things here, so if you want to still go ahead and buy it, then don't read the following:
In this world, a psychologist figured out that there a 3 type of humans, let's call them the dummy ones (robots), the evil ones and the smart good guys. Then at the end of the story, the guy wanted to change the whole population of earth so robots become smart, emil become dummies, and smart become evil...
Honestly this is a stupid story, and I wish I didn't waste my credit .,.. I'm sorry Mr. Sawyer, am not attacking you , I love some of your other work... It just this one wasn't awful... And the sad bit is, that I liked the characters, I really did... But the plot was awful
I you liked Sawyer's other work, then please, don't waste your time listening to this one. Go and read the WWW trilogy, much better work.
"Selfrightous and Preachy"
Usually I can get past the moral lecture from this author because I have listened to several of his books. But in this book which I was looking forward to he was over the top. The story itself had some good interesting points but really demonizing the US is unfair.
The ending was fair and had somewhat of a predictable twist.
Scott Aiello was the saving grace for this book.
"Obnoxiously self righteous. "
This is a story that I imagine professors of freshman philosophy suffer through from their students. It is a fairly childish take on philosophy, science, politics, and human nature. The writing wasn't terrible, so I imagine there is hope for the author and the narration was good, but overall the story is unsatisfying and lacks insight.
"Started Out Credible"
Interesting psychological sci fi that started out credible, degenerated to meh and finished with, 'yeah, right'. Still an entertaining listen and I don't regret buying it.
"I was very disappointed"
I have previously read two Sawyer books both of which I very much enjoyed. This book, however, has serious flaws.
First and foremost, it promotes the utilitarian ethics of Peter Singer which proposes that life unworthy should not be allowed to exist. In short, just what Heinrich Himmler believed although Singer and Himmler have somewhat different criteria in determining which life is unworthy. The important similarity is that both Singer and Himmler have taken a good objective look at themselves and have decided that they are of that superior human material that is able to identify subhumans and order their extermination.
Second, our hero is a true believer who abandons his new born son because he is Downs syndrome and abandons his wife because she didn't want to give aforesaid son the chop. Murderers, however, that's another thing. He suffers pangs of conscience that he cannot spare him the death penalty. He has taken his own measure, of course, and determined that he is of that one seventh of species homo sapiens who are truly human and have the duty to decide the fates of the unfortunate six seventh.
Third, the plot is ridiculous. Our hero is forced to act when the American president invades Canada because Canada allows abortion on demand and because the Canucks wouldn't let us build an oil pipeline. I expect this to happen right after Michael Moore becomes the prima ballerina with the Bolshoi Ballet.So if you want to read a book explaining how to make Hitler's favorite apfel strudel then be my guest but if you are offended by self-appointed superior humans ruling the ignorant masses, let this one go by.
I have bought two other Sawyer books that were on my reading list but now I'm not sure I'll read them. I prefer a little less Mein Kampf in my leisure reading.
P.S. For another take on Singer's philosophy, see Dean Koontz' One Door Away From Heaven.
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