R. Scott Bakker wrote an excellent psychological thriller. With Neuropath the author demonstrates that he has what it takes to write for the mainstream readership. I was a bit concerned beforehand, for Bakker's writing style was considered off-putting by some fantasy aficionados. And yet, he navigates through these new waters with ease and aplomb, and you could never tell that he is first and foremost a fantasy novelist.
Having said that, the true question should be this: Is the mainstream public ready for Neuropath? Honestly, I fear that it's far from being the case. Speculative fiction readers are, as a rule, much more open-minded and relish challenging reading experiences. Which, in the end, is not necessarily the case with mainstream readers. Hence, this one could create quite a commotion. One which, hopefully, Bakker can cash in on.
Neuropath will challenge you in ways that will leave you thinking long and hard after you put the book down. Its principal premise is that there is no such thing as human free will, that consciousness as we know it is illusory. As a result, Neuropath raises a constant stream of troubling interrogations, which in and of itself is even more perturbing than the thriller itself. All the more disturbing is the scientific tone used by the author to support his claims, that "believe what you want if it makes you feel better and helps you sleep at night, but science brakes for no one"tone. As Bakker explains, science doesn't give a damn about what human beings want to be true.
Fear not, for R. Scott Bakker's latest work reads like a veritable thriller, meaning that you'll have a hard time stopping yourself from reading this page-turning novel. The author does a terrific job "dumbing down" the underlying scientific concepts of neurology and psychology so that readers can follow what is taking place. Still, I'm persuaded that a reread would allow me to pick up even more information.
Tom Bible's life takes an abrupt turn for the worse when his old college roommate from Princeton shows up at his doorstep. To his dismay, he discovers that Neil, who was supposedly teaching neurology in California, was in truth secretly working for the NSA, cracking the minds of terrorists. The next morning, as he reaches his office at Columbia University, Tom is informed by FBI agents that Neil has cracked and gone AWOL. Moreover, Neil is now using his skills on innocent civilians to control their brains. Before he knows it, Tom is caught in a terrifying downward spiral as Neil kidnaps and mutilates people with a connection to him. He manipulates their brains, leaving them altered in ways that will shock some people. The FBI needs Tom to help them understand what Neil is trying to accomplish. Slowly, Tom will realize that it's all related to what they used to refer to as the Argument. Distraught, it suddenly dawns upon Tom Bible that Neil might have been right all along. . .
Bakker's characterization is the aspect that carries this novel. Through psychologist Tom Bible, the reader gradually begins to understand what is going on. The supporting cast is comprised of interesting men and women, ranging from the gay neighbor Mia to FBI agent Sam Logan. The author decidedly upped his game since The Prince of Nothing, which bodes well for The Aspect-Emperor. Amidst all the craziness, Bakker shows a deft humane touch with the way he portrays the Bible family. Based on his previous works, I didn't know he had it in him, but a number of scenes are really touching.
Those who like their psychopaths crazy and unpredictable will undoubtedly appreciate Neil Cassidy. Indeed, that man makes Hannibal Lecter look about as frightening as Sponge Bob. That guy is a scary freak, no doubt about it.
Neuropath will challenge your perceptions, your sense of self, and the way you look at the world around you. It draws incredibly distressing conclusions that raise uneasy questions to ponder. Fascinating, stimulating, throught-provoking, tormenting, and downright worrying at times -- Neuropath is all that and more.
Depending on how the publishers will push this book, it could potentially create a controversy. Religious groups will probably revile Neuropath (then again, they bitch about Harry Potter, so what the heck?), and its conclusions will likely come under attack by disparate groups and individuals. It could well be one of the most talked about novels of 2008.
Regardless of the fact that it's a great thriller, Neuropath is not for everyone. Be that as it may, Neuropath is nevertheless one of the books to read this year.
You can safely pre-order Neuropath. Love it or hate it, this is a work that will leave no one -- and I mean no one! -- indifferent. The US edition won't be published till the Fall 2008, so you might want to get the Canadian edition. . .
The final verdict: 9/10