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The Thanatos Syndrome Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 372 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux (T); 1st edition (May 17, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374273545
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374273545
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,002,388 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Psychiatrist Tom More of Love in the Ruins reappears in one of the most accessible of Percy's novels. The author has not abandoned his serious inquiry into the nature of good and evil, but he has integrated his philosophizing into a fast-paced narrative with the suspense of a thriller. When Moreon parole from federal prison where he did time for selling drugsreturns to his Louisiana hometown, he immediately notices bizarre personality changes in many people, including his wife Ellen. All exhibit suppressed cortical function, manifested in strange speech patterns and sexual behavior. With the help of his cousin, epidemiologist Lucy Lipscomb, More discovers the source of this syndrome: the town's drinking water has been laced with heavy sodium from the area's nuclear facility. Leading citizens of the community are involved, all in the name of benevolent eugenics and social concern. Parallels to the workof Nazi doctors are made obvious to More by a disgraced parish priest. Tension grows as the conspirators threaten to send More back to jail if he exposes them. As usual, Percy's ear for languageespecially the layers of meaning in even the most casual conversationis superb. This book is as timely as its concerns with child abuse and ultraconservative zealotry, and as classic as its exploration of the eternal verities. 75,000 first printing; BOMC dual main selection.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

When psychiatrist Tom More returns home to Feliciana, Louisiana, after doing time at a minimal security prison, he is dismayed by the bizarre behavior he encountersthe "curious flatness of tone," the loss of sexual inhibition, of complex speech, even of context in conversation. More is further dismayed to discover that fellow psychiatrist Bob Comeaux is masterminding an unauthorized scheme to eradicate social ills by manipulating cortical functions through surreptitious doses of heavy sodium. And the suspense is only beginning, for More wants to investigate signs of sexual abuse at his children's school. The loss of human response smacks of a grade-B horror filmMore himself speaks of "bodysnatchers"and the moral implications of social engineering, though given the most contemporary interpretation here, have already been considered. But in crisp, masterful prose Percy delivers a relentlessly compelling tale. BOMC dual main selection. Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Walker Percy (1916-1990) was one of the most prominent American writers of the twentieth century. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, he was the oldest of three brothers in an established Southern family that contained both a Civil War hero and a U.S. senator. Acclaimed for his poetic style and moving depictions of the alienation of modern American culture, Percy was the bestselling author of six fiction titles--including the classic novel The Moviegoer (1961), winner of the National Book Award--and fifteen works of nonfiction. In 2005, Time magazine named The Moviegoer one of the best English-language books published since 1923.

Customer Reviews

The pace of this book does occasionally seem a bit slow, but it was well worth the time put in.
Paul D. Baxter
His minor characters are not jolting or decorative, though many are eccentric, and his love of the Louisiana landscape permeates the outdoor settings.
It is the patch that has most to do with creativity, verbal skills, and what makes us who we are.
Jim Forest

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 45 people found the following review helpful By loce_the_wizard VINE VOICE on May 17, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Ignore The Thanatos Syndrome at your own peril. The last novel of the late Walker Percy, this often harrowing, sometimes humorous (darkly, at least) tale should set off alarms bells as you read through this thriller. The notion of Walker Percy penning a thriller is, of itself, something odd, and a point that apparently raises the ire of many academics and even many dyed-in-the-wool Percy readers.

And this book is different from say, The Moviegoer, in which the inward musings and vexations of the protagonist are fairly insulated from the outside world and its views, opinions, influences. Moreover, Dr. More does not act as the prototypical loner characteristic of some of Percy's other protagonists. Percy's decision to write this novel as more of a fast-paced thriller, the central story occurs over just three days, must have been his attempt to shoot a flare that would draw attention to the dehumanization that started coalescing with more fervor some 15 years ago. (Now civility may be a lost cause: people consider it proper to conduct public arguments with unseen opponents by blathering all manner of nonsense into their cell phones.)

And so the flawed hero, the same disheveled, womanizing, fallen Catholic psychiatrist Thomas More, practically stumbles upon a scheme to control human behavior by adding radioisotopes to the water supply. After all, the perpetuators of the scheme remind him, look what fluoride has done for oral health. What if we can eliminate depression, crime, disease, and enhance learning, cognition, and memory at the same time? Relying on his beloved bourbon to keep him grounded, Dr. More, fresh out of prison for supplying truckers with uppers, finds his wife and children swept up in the scheme.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By ZapnZoom on November 25, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Thanatos Syndrome relies upon a flimsy detective story to examine the greatest issues facing Americans (perhaps all of Western culture) as we enter the 21st century. Not that the genre device fails, but that it seems so inconsequential next to the ideas which hang upon it, like the rod that supports the wardrobe of existence, itself.
Although this novel was written in the late 20th century, it feels as if it could be today or tomorrow. We are introduced to themes that are totally familiar, yet somehow bizarre: sex detached from love (and/or procreation), emphasis on results at play/work/and school, social engineering, amorality, mercy-killing, faith in the rightness of science/technology/and progress, abandonment of of our humanity. All this, and yet readable, engaging, absorbing and memorable.
If you are interested in an entertainment that makes you think and ponder the great issues of existence, while keeping you turning the pages, I highly recommend this book.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 7, 2001
Format: Paperback
Walker Percy, M.D. struck his final blow at utopian social engineers with "The Thanatos Syndrome". He skillfully draws the connection between the population control groups of today and the cultured Germans of the Weimar Republic and their joint enthusiasm for eugenics and abortion solutions. With that theme playing itself out in the background, he pursues the exciting plot that asks the question: If you could put something in the water that would destroy freewill, but provide perfect order to society, should you? Launch yourself into this rare combination of thriller and deep cultural examination for a great read!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Brent Wittmeier on July 2, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The Thanatos Syndrome was Percy's last novel before his death, and in many ways it is his final triumph.
It is one of Percy's great gifts to use absurdity and humour to introduce the gravest of concerns. Not surprisingly, therefore, Percy uses the comic genre of a detective novel. Thanatos breezes through a series of interviews with aberrant and suspicious characters, sleuthing, romance and false leads, en route to the creation of a casefile of premeditated wrongdoing. But like Dostoevsky (who also made use of the detective novel), Percy's intent is not primarily on spinning a good whodunnit, but on motivation and human character. The picture is shocking and even funny (particularly in the denouement), but it is certainly not pretty.
Readers looking for a joyous romp through the bayous or else the pacified work of a Catholic apologist need not bother with this book. Not only is this novel disturbingly explicit at times, it contains a Grand Inquisitorial holocaust memoir. While connections to late 20th century America and the Weimar elite run the risk of exaggeration, Percy's AWOL anchorite priest, Father Smith, certainly gives much to think about. Does tenderness really lead to the gas chambers?
Thanatos is actually a sequel to another dystopian drama, Love in the Ruins (1971). Connections to the earlier book, however, are broad and thematic. The protagonist is still Dr. Tom More, the randy bad catholic, fence-sitting introvert, and disturbed, marginalized expert on cortical functions and heavy sodium. Little mention is made, however, of More's lapsometer, of futuristic technology, the Ecuadorian conflict, or the racial and partisan conflict characteristic of Percy's earlier book. It is less a novel about 'the end of the world' than it is about the decay of civilization.
A disarming, smart book.
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