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Mind Catcher Mass Market Paperback – October 7, 2003

3.2 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A mind is a terrible thing to waste, but neither pioneering neurosurgeon Leo Saramaggio nor Warren Cleaver, a brilliant researcher seeking to unravel the mystery of the soul and recreate it in a microchip, has any intention of letting that happen to Tyler, a 13-year-old boy whose brain is all but destroyed in a freak accident that leaves him closer to death than life. John Darnton, the author of two previous scientific thrillers (Neanderthal, The Experiment), offers a provocative glimpse of what lies beyond the frontiers of both medicine and artificial intelligence in this clearly well-researched and tightly plotted thriller that's bound to provoke comparisons to Robin Cook and Michael Crichton. Unlike them, Darnton is able to tell a gripping story without dumbing down the science or shortchanging the characters, even those who aren't central to the plot, like Tyler's father, Scott, or Kate Willett, a neurosurgery resident who suspects that her superiors have gone way beyond the boundaries of ethical practice in their treatment of Scott's injured son. This is a fast-paced, suspenseful thriller that demonstrates Darnton's increasing command of the genre and holds out the possibility that in his next book, he'll surpass it. --Jane Adams --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

At Manhattan's renowned St. Catherine's Hospital, brilliant neurosurgeon Leopoldo Saramaggio does pioneering research on healing the damaged brain by linking it to computers that can take over its functions temporarily. Unbeknownst to the imperious Saramaggio, colleague Dr. Warren Cleaver, a fame-hungry mad scientist in the Hollywood tradition, carries out illegal experiments with mentally ill patients at run-down Pinegrove Hospital on Roosevelt Island. Cleaver's experiments take Saramaggio's work to dangerous extremes. Thirteen-year-old Tyler Jessup is rushed to St. Catherine's after a piece of rock-climbing equipment gets lodged in his head. His distraught father, Scott, a famous photographer and single parent, agrees to let Saramaggio try his new technique on Tyler, convinced that it's his son's only chance. Second thoughts quickly follow and, assisted by beautiful Dr. Kate Willet, new on the staff at St. Catherine's, Scott battles to get his initial consent reversed. The story sags as Scott and Kate grow closer, a development dictated more by literary convention than logic or character chemistry, but it quickens again when Tyler's bodily functions fail and evil Cleaver whisks him away for his Frankenstein experiments. Darnton, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and the author of Neanderthal and The Experiment, writes elegantly, but maroons the novel in no-man's-land: too short on action and suspense to fully succeed as a thriller, it lacks the character depth to convince as serious fiction.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Onyx; Reprint edition (October 7, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451411056
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451411051
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 1.2 x 6.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,214,710 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Tyler Jessup, thirteen years old, is on an outing in the mountains when he is struck down in a freak accident--a heavy piece of climbing equipment buried deep in his brain. Fortunately the best neurosurgeon in the country is available and agrees to take the case; unknown to Tyler's desperate father, Dr. Saramaggio is also involved in some--shall we say--questionable research.
The book starts with this premise, tells us a lot about the brain and about the frontiers of research, the possibility of rebuilding the brain with neural stem cells, but then veers off into metaphysics. Can the mind be somehow separated from the brain, extracted by a computer, exist somewhere outside of space and time? And would the world's greatest neurosurgeon do anything--anything--no matter how unethical, to pursue his unorthodox research and the glory that might go with it?
This should be a great book, and at moments it is. It almost works. Unfortunately the writing is uneven, the characters inconsistent, and the events are foreshadowed to such a degree that they lose a lot of their punch by the time they actually happen. At times the narrative drags. There are too many literary cliches--the "mad scientist" mentioned by other reviewers, the grieving father drinking himself into oblivion, the decaying "asylum" from another century with no evidence of modern hospital practice. The unlikely romance...
Then the contrived ending left me with more questions than answers. Well, it was a good book and you will probably enjoy it, but it could have been better. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber
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Format: Hardcover
While the premise for this book is an interesting one- that is, exploring the mind-body dilemma- this is about all the book has going for it. The book is riddled with boring narrative and inconsistent characters, however it betters somewhat in the second half of the book. Many of the conversations in the early part of the book seem contrived to inform the reader about a certain topic- conversations that aren't believable. The angst supposedly felt by the father with the accident of his son wasn't portrayed in a way I felt that was real, however this also seemed to get better with the second half. The first half of the book drags, was inconsistent, annoying, and didn't inspire much interest. I basically never quit reading a book, but I seriously thought about it with this one. If you don't feel like reading through 200+ pages of BORING, pass on this one. I must admit the second half of the book was much more entertaining. I, however, see this book as nothing more than a glorified ghost story. The multiple references to a person seeing the ghost or "anima" of their significant other at the person's point of death was extremely frustrating; the stories put forth by the author felt entirely contrived for the purpose of furthering the book.

Scientifically, the book was quite sound- Darnton did his research. I have a background in psychology and neuroscience, so I have some basis. Minus the reimplantation of neurons grown from stem cells, this book is fairly reasonable in its use of science. Obviously, a child of the age of 13 would not be able to use these neurons (even if implantation were possible)as the child would have already passed many critical periods in his development. The TSR (transcranial sender-receiver) machine is just a bit ridiculous, but I understand why it was needed. Some interesting concepts are contained in this book, but are sometimes muddled. Overall, this book has a lot of room for improvement.
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Format: Hardcover
Mind Catcher is a great read! It is a driving story. A boy suffers a massive head injury. His father goes to all lengths to have him cared for properly and with dignity. An arrogant superstar brain surgeon and his kooky computer-wiz colleague want to carry out revolutionary procedures to restore his brain and his life. The surgeon wants to keep the boy alive connected to a computer and then extract brain cells to be cultivated in a lab and reimplanted into his brain. The computer-wiz plans to extract the boy's mind, his "anima", out of his brain and have it float around in cyberspace. The story raises and teases you with age-old questions about the concept of a soul, its relation to the body and the brain, and its eternal presence. The thriller plot develops in ways one does not expect. The characters are engaging. The style is clear and direct. It is a book you cannot put down.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm halfway through the book but I am so disappointed with the character of Scott that I wanted to come here and see what other people thought of the book.
Scott does not know everything that we, the reader knows, and yet he wants to stop the experimental procedure that may save his son's life. He has no idea what recovery his son may or may not make but the possibility is there that he may become a functioning human being again. This, however, is not good enough for Scott. He admits he is afraid of not recognizing his son, "the person he once was is gone". Well, that's a little self-serving. We, the reader, know that Sarmaggio is out for personal gain but Scott is just assuming this, he has nothing to base this on. He knows nothing about Cleaver's experiments. I keep thinking "what exactly does Scott know at this point" and what I come up with is that he knows his son suffered a horrible accident and that his brain is damaged. He also knows that many areas of the brain are functioning normally and he knows that there is an experimental procedure that may restore even more function to his son's brain. And yet, he resents the machines that are keeping his son alive. I just don't see his point of view. I can only understand his point of view when I look at it from the reader's viewpoint....but that is NOT Scott's viewpoint. He is not privy to all the information that the reader is. I keep thinking, if this were my son and I was offered this opportunity, I'd take it. Yes, that's my opinion and I would be more open to Scott's opinion if there were some reasoning for it. There's not. Scott is afraid his son may not recover enough to care for himself and yes, that is a possibility but there's also the possibility that he may make a recovery.
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