April 2005


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Review: Mindscan

Review of Mindscan by Robert J. sawyer

My girlfriend complains about not knowing what I’m thinking most of the time, but still has the ability to find me damn good stuff to read.

Mindscan is built on a classic Sci-Fi premise: what happens when the machines decide they want citizenship? In this case, he puts a slight spin on it – the brains of willing individuals have been copied into these androids, and the human counterparts have gone to the moon to live out the rest of their (mostly short) lifespans, removing themselves from public life so their android selves can continue on with their lives.

The problem arises when one android’s son sues his mother for his inheritance after he learns of the biological bodies’ death. Which is the real person – the android copy, whom the biological willingly signed power of attorney to, or the biological who went off to the moon to die? They both have the exact same memories up to the point of upload, the same mannerisms, the same feelings and ideals. Where exactly does personhood begin and end?

The book is set in a mix of Canada and the States in 2045. The USA has slid to the far right of the political scale, and Pat Buchanan is a recently deceased President. (Shudder!) Canada becomes the land of the free, which works out ok, since global warming has left the Southern U.S. mostly unlivable. (Detroit actually has a decent climate now.) The law having slid so far to the right is the cause of the major problems the characters encounter.

The author’s style strikes me as a mix of many old favorites – Asimov and Heinlein come mostly to mind, with maybe a touch of Spider Robinson. The book moves along at a steady pace throughout, and I never managed to completely guess where he was headed next.

The main character is a bit hard to truly bond with. He’s got inherited money, and is constantly asking people to explain historical references to him because he spent his youth screwing off. On the for side of that, though, he has a very good understanding of physics because of the time he spent in college with nothing better to do than take classes. A very strange mix.

In conclusion, you have a very entertaining read, with some insights and good social comentary. Highly recommended!

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