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Darnton, John, "Mind Catcher" Hardback Book

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When a twelve-year-old boy, the only child of a widowed father, suffers a severe head injury in a rock-climbing fall, the only hope to save him is a highly experimental operation in which his own brain stem cells are harvested, cultured and grown, and then re-implanted. But when the operation goes awry, the father must fight the surgeon and the hospital board to release his son to a peaceful death, rather than continue with the procedure that seems to have more to do with power and potential fame than with saving a life. A fascinating premise and well-developed characters make Darnton's third novel another winner.
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

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.


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