Cover image for Mind catcher
Mind catcher
Darnton, John.
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Publication Information:
New York : Dutton, 2002.
Physical Description:
387 pages ; 24 cm
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Newsdaycalled John Darnton's Neanderthal"hair-raisingly believable" and The New York Timescalled The Experiment"complex and original [and] wholly engaging . . . a world where fiction pales before the unbelievable truth." Now the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author has done it again, in a story almost beyond imagining. New York City: A thirteen-year-old boy named Tyler lies in a hospital, his brain damaged in a tragic accident. By his bedside, his father stands helplessly, as two very different scientists take charge of the boy's fate. One is a neurosurgeon, whose unorthodox experiments use computers to control a patient's physical responses during surgery. The other is a researcher with experiments of his own, experiments so secret he can breathe them to nobody: his attempts to find the spark of human consciousness...and capture it forever. Together, they will produce a result beyond anything they could have conceived, sending Tyler far beyond the frontiers of medical science into an astonishing netherworld--a place no living person has gone before and from which one desperate person will try to bring him back.... A spellbinding novel of science, technology, and the very stuff that makes us human, Mind Catcheris an unforgettable journey into the possibilities of the mind of man...and his soul.

Author Notes

John Darnton is culture editor for The New York Times. He lives in New York.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Thirteen-year-old Tyler Jessup suffers a life-threatening injury that could, at best, render him severely brain damaged. His youth and his injury make him the perfect candidate for stem cell implantation surgery, a highly experimental process that allows a computer to take over the brain's functions while replacement stem cells are being harvested. Leo Saramaggio is the arrogant brain surgeon who will perform the delicate operations. Cleaver, the doctor/technician behind the computer functions, appears less threatening than Saramaggio but is much more dangerously ambitious. He will do anything to prove his theory that the mind is separate from the brain. Kate Willet, the new neurosurgeon on staff, has misgivings about the experimental procedures and sides with the boy's father, Scott Jessup, when he has second thoughts. Kate and Scott team up when they suspect that something is amiss with the procedures and that Tyler is in profound danger. This is a dazzling, fast-paced novel that taps into issues about mind-body duality, cyberspace, artificial intelligence, and stem cell research. Well-drawn characters, tense emotions, and philosophical debates provide additional depth to this exciting scientific thriller. --Vanessa Bush

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. New York City author appearances. (Aug. 5) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

If computers could register all brain electrical impulses, couldn't they then keep a body alive even if the brain had "died"? Could one then isolate the very essence of the mind, the anima, the soul? When 13-year-old Tyler Jessup suffers profound brain injury, two neurosurgeons see conflicting opportunities. One wants to replace damaged brain cells with regenerated ones, the other wants to use a machine to separate the mind from its physical surroundings. Tyler's father, desperate to rescue his son, ultimately subjects himself to the latter experiment in order to find his son's psyche and bring it back. Darnton, a veteran New York Times editor, skillfully pushes current science just a bit further in his third novel and for the most part makes the what-if plausible. As he did in The Experiment with cloning humans on demand, he makes the science accessible but not intrusive while adding sometimes lurid plot twists. The suspense is largely psychological and emotional though no less frightening in its moral and religious implications. For all public and academic library fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/02.]-Roland C. Person, Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.