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Hmm. My Kindle edition of this book was just fine, without any editing issues. (Maybe Amazon fixed it?) Not only that, but I rather enjoyed this story about a relentless quest for immortality and its legal and ethical implications. This really does seem like a great book for middle schoolers and early high schoolers thanks to its timely topics, as well as those of us who still enjoy young adult books. The dialogue did seem a bit "off" in a few places (the reason why I can't give it five stars) but that's a minor quibble. And as others have noted, there are several scenes that are absolutely riveting and really pull you in. Doctor Dorning seemed possessed the way Captain Ahab was in his quest for the Great White Whale, and Professor Marlowe goes through a personal transformation that's far more than just physical. The pawn in the middle of this story is the homeless boy Miguel, who's horribly naive about life on the streets and yet has something important to teach the old professor, who up to the end of his first life thought he had all the answers. And what Marlowe does at the end finally elevates him to the greatness he assumed he had but didn't his first time around. This is a thoughtful book with both a heart and a soul.
I had high hopes for this book, but unfortunately, was extremely disappointed. Two things really lept out at me. First, one of the major characters is a child, however, like many authors, Mr. Wakely has trouble writing a child. His child is really more of a short adult, rather than a child. He talks like an adult, and mostly reacts like an adult. Kids are hard to write, but this isn't one. Secondly, the "mind transplant", or whatever it's called, doesn't behave in a believable manner on the child. Instead of merging in and gradually taking over the child, it's pretty much binary. The kid goes back and forth between being the old professor in a short body, or being the kid. No blurring of the personalities, no merging of memories, nothing that would really make this an interesting tale of one mind taking over, simply a binary exchange of the two.
We are reading this novel now for class, and our teacher said this is actually a science fiction retelling of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Professor Marlowe is Scrooge, and Miguel is Tiny Tim. Even the dialogue mimics Dickens dialogue even though its old fashioned. Based on what some reviewers here have said about the dialogue, that might not have been such a good idea so I would say my rating is actually four and a half stars instead of five. The novel also addresses modern scientific issues like stem cell research and other end of life medical issues, which is the real reason why we're reading it. So far I think its a really good book, and we will be doing some additional research for our book reports. My report will be about late term abortion, which our teacher said is a real hot button issue right now. This has been an enjoyable book.
The only reason I'm bothering to review this book is so others like me won't be fooled by the 5 star rating into thinking this is some masterpiece of literature. It's a pretty cool story, but only deserves to be maybe 50 pages, not 170. There is just endless tedious dialogue that bored me so badly that I skimmed over the last 40 pages in about 15 minutes just to find out the ending. The characters don't seem real at all; their dialogue is incredibly "on the nose". Most of the scenes had either no suspenseful buildup or no interesting climax. The core idea and the ending were okay, which is why I give 2 stars instead of 1.
I read this book based on what I now consider to be some overly generous reviews, particularly those that compared it favorably to Flowers for Algernon. I was disappointed. The idea is great; the writing is not. The dialogue was like nails on a chalkboard after awhile -- it was awkward, stilted and unrealistic. Miguel's dialogue was particularly off the mark for a homeless boy with Spanish speaking parents. Beyond the writing, the story itself did not live up to the 4- and 5-star reviews. Rather than gradually acquiring Percival's memories, Miguel would essentially morph into Percival from time to time (a la The Shaggy Dog). The author would have benefitted from either expanding the novel, with more time devoted to the personal and social ramifications of the experiment, or condensing it to a short story. I'm giving the book 2 stars based on the interesting premise and two ultimately likeable characters, Percival and Miguel. (Dorning is one-dimensional.) I would also recommend better proofreading for Wakely's next effort!
My students were very enthusiastic about this novel. We had lively discussions about the issues the book raises, and the book assignments they turned in were thoughtful and among the best they've done. Sometimes the discussions took unexpected (but interesting) turns, and my main job was gently guiding them back to what we were originally discussing.
It was a pleasure to share this novel with my class. There's a free, very helpful literature unit available too. Google the book's title and "literature unit" and you'll find it. Lots of good questions for your students to ponder.