Mindscan - Robert J. Sawyer

A book that I both loved and hated at the same time, "Mindscan" nonetheless makes for a very interesting read in terms of the questions it proposes, but where it truly falls flap is the characters and the actual delivery of the plot, making it a good read and only that.

It's rare for me to read a book and debate it at the same time, especially if there's an actual argument going on in the book. However that's exactly what I was doing as the court case was put forth against Karen by her son, Tyler. But in this case I was on the losing side and though I (sort of) understand what the argument of Karen and Jake were, I couldn't agree with them at all.


I hated Karen's character. There was no sympathy or understanding for her logic, which I felt was driven by greedy motives, ironic considering that that's what she ended up accusing her son of when he decided to sue her. Even the way the author attempted to make her seem like a calm, collected, and pleasant character that was rather like your typical reasonable human being, this only made me grit my teeth. Her reasoning about why she chose upload as a Mindscan and her discussions about an author's rights and her desire to keep on writing solidified by impression of her as a very shallow person who wanted to escape old age and keep her own work under her wing to keep making more money. Perhaps this was done on purpose, or this is only my viewing of her character, but either way this is what I took out of it and every time she appeared in the book I viewed her as an example of a problematic person.


Jake came across as naive and somewhat stupid, to be honest. It's understandable that him and Karen were born a large chunk of time apart (1960 for her vs 2001 for him), and that they grew up in different centuries, in that case, with a different mindset and different influences, but still, when Tyler mentioned what history topics he covered with his students and Jake's thoughts said he didn't know what WWII was, I lost it. It's different if one doesn't know what a Nebula or Hugo is, the way he also says when he looks at Karen's bookcases of awards. Heck I myself didn't know until several years ago, but for something as important and truly groundbreaking as WWII to be neglected? I find that too far fetched, even for a future generation. Jake's character was dumbed down much more than he should've been, and the way the original Jake on the moon behaved made it much harder for an even playing field, I think, considering that very few people would be rooting for someone who took hostages. Yet that was me, because the duo of Mindscan Jake and Mindscan Karen was infuriating in their closed mindedness, despite them telling, or TRYING to tell, the reader otherwise.


The jargon and lengthy scientific descriptions got a bit too complex to follow at times yet for that I blame myself as I'm not an expert and perhaps didn't devote as much focus and patience to those sections as I could've. That's why I think this book will be much more appreciated with several rereads, as well as much more understood.

I will though complain, finally, about the plotline, the court case which grew somewhat boring and repetitive quickly and didn't have the same spark as the summary led me to believe. But the most memorable criticism I had was for the ending, the logic (again) of Jake and Karen to settle on Mars with other Mindscans and start their own race with their own rules because they lost even when the court case when to the Supreme Court, I remembered the model UN I attended in the spring and how the topic of the settlement of Mars came up. The delegate of Russia voiced his opinion by saying that humans have the right to move on once they, to put it into nicer terms, pollute whatever habitat they live in right now. In the case of the Mindscans though this was more of a belief that they were entitled and period, a logic which doesn't fly in our current society and aggravates me to see in the future, in what I viewed to be a rather degenerating society. It, again, showed what I viewed as shallow arrogance of people who used the term of "personal rights" in a way that meant they were entitled and could do what they wanted.


The book wasn't what I expected, definitely not as intense as I thought it would be, and the pacing was off I felt, too much time devoted to the first half rather than the second, and issues like Jake's discussion about testing on copies of the conscience being briefly glazed over in around 5 pages. I think it could've been better, definitely, but I still enjoyed the topic that was brought up as well as the way in which this argument was spun, with the whole concept of two copies and sending the original to the moon, etc. It's my own "fault" for not agreeing with many of the ideas the author put forth, and maybe with a few more rereads and some time my opinion will change, but as of right now my verdict is that this book had promise and a good premise that was swallowed up and overshadowed by arrogant characters and a plot line that could've been given more patience and tweaking.