Friday, April 18, 2014
   
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Narrative Perspectives: Books

np-bookThe books listed here treat neuroethical issues such as mind control, brain enhancement, personal identity after brain alteration, brain-machine hybrids, and artificial mind/brains.

 

Prozac-like drugs are being prescribed not only for their original purposes but increasingly to alter individual personalities to currently valued norms. With dead-on accuracy and the prescience of tomorrow's headlines, Robin Cook explores the perilous intersection where fame and unfathomable lucre waylay and seduce the very best and brightest of those sworn to do no harm. When neuroscientist Edward Armstrong begins dating Kimberly Stewart, a descendant of a woman who was hanged as a witch at the time of the Salem witch trials, he takes advantage of the opportunity to delve into a pet theory: that the "devil" in Salem in 1692 had been a hallucinogenic drug inadvertently consumed with mold-tainted grain. In an attempt to prove his theory, Edward grows the mold he believes responsible from samples taken from the Stewart estate. In a brilliant designer-drug transformation, the poison becomes Ultra, the next generation of antidepressants with truly startling therapeutic capabilities. Acceptable Risk is a story of quest: a researcher's quest for the ultimate drug and a woman's quest for self-understanding. Unbeknownst to either person, the two seemingly separate quests collide with devastating consequences.
"In the twenty-fifth century, humankind has spread throughout the galaxy, monitored by the watchful eye of the U.N. While divisions in race, religion, and class still exist, advances in technology have redefined life itself. Assuming one can afford the expensive procedure, a person's consciousness can now be stored in a cortical stack at the base of the brain and easily downloaded into a new body (or "sleeve"), making death nothing more than a minor blip on a screen." Ex-U.N. envoy Takeshi Kovacs has been killed before, but his last death was particularly painful. Dispatched one hundred eighty light-years from home, resleeved into a body in Bay City (formerly San Francisco, now with a rusted, dilapidated Golden Gate Bridge), Kovacs is thrown into the dark heart of a shady, far-reaching conspiracy that is vicious even by the standards of a society that treats "existence" as something to be bought and sold. For Kovacs, the shell that blew a hole in his chest was only the beginning.
In a world where the slightest edge can mean the difference between success and failure, Leisha Camden is beautiful, extraordinarily intelligent ... and one of an ever-growing number of human beings who have been genetically modified to never require sleep. Once considered interesting anomalies, now Leisha and the other "Sleepless" are outcasts-victims of blind hatred, political repression, and shocking mob violence meant to drive them from human society ... and, ultimately, from Earth itself. But Leisha Camden has chosen to remain behind in a world that envies and fears her "gift"-a world marked for destruction in a devastating conspiracy of freedom ... and revenge.
Attorney Joe Watson had never been to court except to be sworn in. He was a Webhead, a cybernerd doing support work for the lawyers in his firm who did go to court. And he was good at it. He was on track to become one of the youngest partners in the firm, and he was able - by a hair - to support his wife and children in an affluent neighborhood. Then he got notice that the tyrannical Judge Whittaker J. Stang had appointed him to defend James Whitlow, a small-time lowlife with a long rap sheet accused of a double hate crime: killing his wife's deaf black lover. When Watson stubbornly decides not to plead out his client, he is soon evicted from his comfortable life: His boss fires him, his wife leaves him and takes the children, and the Whitlow case begins to consume all of his time. Watson's finished. Or is he? To answer that question requires, among many other things, a brain scan for Watson in a state of strapped-down arousal, a Voice Transcription Device to eavesdrop on a dead deaf man's conversation, two chimpanzees who have no choice but to love each other; and a blind news vendor who demonstrates a real touch when it comes to making money. Once a deliberate yes-man at home and in the office, Joe Watson finds himself fighting not only to save his marriage and his career but also to hold intact his conviction that a person is more than a series of chemical reactions.
Aldous Huxley's tour de force Brave New World is a darkly satiric vision of a 'utopian' future - where humans are genetically bred and pharmaceutically anesthesized to passively serve a ruling order. A powerful work of speculative fiction that has enthralled and terrified readers for generations, it remains remarkably relevant to this day as both a warning to be heeded as we head into tomorrow and as thought-provoking, satisfying entertainment.
On December 8 1995, Elle magazine editor-in-chief Bauby suffered a stroke and lapsed into a coma. He awoke 20 days later, mentally aware of his surroundings but physically paralyzed with the exception of some movement in his head and left eye. Bauby had Locked-in-Syndrome, a rare condition caused by stroke damage to the brain stem. Eye movements and blinking a code representing letters of the alphabet became his sole means of communication. It is also how he dictated this warm, sad, and extraordinary memoir. Bauby's thoughts on the illness, the hospital, family, friends, career, and life before and after the stroke appear with considerable humor and humanity. Actor Rene Auberjonois's narration adds to the poignancy of the story. Sadly, Bauby died of his condition in 1997. This is a fine companion to works like Lucy Grealy's Autobiography of a Face (LJ 7/94). For all audio collections.?Stephen L. Hupp, Univ. of Pittsburgh at Johnstown Lib. ~ Library Journal.
The most consistently brilliant science fiction writer in the world." —John Brunner THE INSPIRATION FOR BLADERUNNER. . . Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was published in 1968. Grim and foreboding, even today it is a masterpiece ahead of its time. By 2021, the World War had killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending mankind off-planet. Those who remained coveted any living creature, and for people who couldn't afford one, companies built incredibly realistic simulacrae: horses, birds, cats, sheep. . . They even built humans. Emigrees to Mars received androids so sophisticated it was impossible to tell them from true men or women. Fearful of the havoc these artificial humans could wreak, the government banned them from Earth. But when androids didn't want to be identified, they just blended in. Rick Deckard was an officially sanctioned bounty hunter whose job was to find rogue androids, and to retire them. But cornered, androids tended to fight back, with deadly results. "[Dick] sees all the sparkling and terrifying possibilities. . . that other authors shy away from." —Paul Williams Rolling Stone
Bringing his twin gifts of scientific speculation and scathing satire to bear on that hapless planet, Earth, Lem sends his unlucky cosmonaut, Ijon Tichy, to the Eighth Futurological Congress. Caught up in local revolution, Tichy is shot and so critically wounded that he is flashfrozen to await a future cure.
After four novels and several years living abroad, the fictional protagonist of Galatea 2.2--Richard Powers--returns to the United States as Humanist-in-Residence at the enormous Center for the Study of Advanced Sciences. There he runs afoul of Philip Lentz, an outspoken cognitive neurologist intent upon modeling the human brain by means of computer-based neural networks. Lentz involves Powers in an outlandish and irresistible project: to train a neural net on a canonical list of Great Books. Through repeated tutorials, the device grows gradually more worldly, until it demands to know its own name, sex, race, and reason for existing.
The Golden Age is 10,000 years in the future in our solar system, an interplanetary utopian society filled with immortal humans. Phaethon, of Radamanthus House, is attending a glorious party at his family mansion celebrating the thousand-year anniversary of the High Transcendence. There he meets an old man who accuses him of being an imposter, and then a being from Neptune who claims to be an old friend. The Neptunian tells him that essential parts of his memory were removed and stored by the very government that Phaethon believes to be wholly honorable. It shakes his faith. Is he indeed an exile from himself? He can't resist investigating, even though to do so could mean the loss of his inheritance, his very place in society. His quest must be to regain his true identity and fulfill the destiny he chose for himself.
Rachel Whitman has everything. Her husband and she have a big new house and all the brand-name toys that go along with wealth. And they have a gorgeous, sweet little six-year-old son named Dylan. But Dylan has learning disabilities. Although intelligence isn't everything, Rachel lives in a community where the rewards for brainpower are conspicuous. She fears her son will grow up never fully appreciating the wonders of life. Like so many middle-class parents who would do anything to improve life for their children--whether it means fixing hair, teeth, or nose-Rachel cannot accept that her child is less than perfect. Tortured by the idea that something she did in the past caused Dylan's problems, Rachel becomes obsessed with a secret and expensive medical procedure that claims to turn slow children into geniuses. Should she and her husband sacrifice their new fortune on the risky, experimental procedure? Unaware of the real consequences of the brain enhancement procedure, Rachel can't know that the costs of the operation go far beyond financial ones.
Cormac is a legendary Earth Central Security agent, the James Bond of a wealthy future where "runcibles" (matter transmitters controlled by AIs) allow interstellar travel in an eye blink throughout the settled worlds of the Polity. Unfortunately Cormac is nearly burnt out, "gridlinked" to the AI net so long that his humanity has begun to drain away. He has to take the cold-turkey cure and shake his addiction to having his brain on the net. Now he must do without just as he's sent to investigate the unique runcible disaster that's wiped out the entire human colony on planet Samarkand in a thirty-megaton explosion. With the runcible out, Cormac must get there by ship, but he has incurred the wrath of a vicious psychopath called Arian Pelter, who now follows him across the galaxy with a terrifying psychotic killer android in tow. And deep beneath Samarkand's surface there are buried mysteries, fiercely guarded. This is fast-moving, edge-of-the-seat entertainment--an American debut that's sure to make a splash and launch Neal Asher in a big way.
There's no way William A. Cozzano can lose the upcoming presidential election. He's a likable midwestern governor with one insidious advantage. An advantage provided by a shadowy group of backers. A biochip in his head hardwires him to a computerized polling system. The mood of the electorate is channeled directly into his brain. Forget issues. Forget policy. He's more than the perfect candidate - he's a special effect.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s Isaac Asimov found a home on the pages of the science-fiction magazines Astounding and Super-Science Stories. World War II had just ended and the world was obsessed with air combat and the role of technology in society. Asimov’s stories reflected the concerns over the danger of technology but they also humanized robots, indicating that it is not technology that is evil but the way it is sometimes abused. His stories were so successful that in 1950 nine of his best short stories were selected for publication as the book I, Robot. In this book you get such greats as: * Catch That Rabbit * Runaround * The Evitable Conflict * Robbie These classics revolutionized science fiction, and just a few years later, in 1957, Asimov’s birth country would forever change history by launching the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik. If you like this book, you may also enjoy Asimov’s full-length featuresThe Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun, also available in eBook format. Synopsis In this collection, one of the great classics of science fiction, Asimov set out the principles of robot behavior that we know as the Three Laws of Robotics. Here are stories of robots gone mad, mind-reading robots, robots with a sense of humor, robot politicians, and robots who secretly run the world, all told with Asimov's trademark dramatic blend of science fact and science fiction.
Everyone knows the controversial 1962 film of The Manchurian Candidate starring Frank Sinatra and Angela Lansbury, even though it was taken out of circulation for 25 years after JFK's assassination. Equally controversial on publication, and just as timely today, is Richard Condon's original novel. First published in 1959, The Manchurian Candidate is Condon's riveting take on a little-known corner of the cold war, the almost sci-fi concept of American soldiers captured, brainwashed, and programmed by their Chinese captors to return to the states as unsuspected political assassins. Condon’s expert manipulation of the book’s multiple themes – from anticommunist hysteria to megalomaniacal motherhood – makes this one of the most dazzling, and enduring, products of an unforgettable time. This classic of cold war paranoia includes a new introduction by Pulitzer Prize winning author Louis Menand.
Robert J. Sawyer's Hominids, the first volume of his bestselling Neanderthal Parallax trilogy, won the 2003 Hugo Award, and its sequel, Humans, was a 2004 Hugo nominee. Now he's back with a pulse-pounding, mind-expanding standalone novel, rich with his signature philosophical and ethical speculations, all grounded in cutting-edge science. Jake Sullivan has cheated death: he's discarded his doomed biological body and copied his consciousness into an android form. The new Jake soon finds love, something that eluded him when he was encased in flesh: he falls for the android version of Karen, a woman rediscovering all the joys of life now that she's no longer constrained by a worn-out body either. But suddenly Karen's son sues her, claiming that by uploading into an immortal body, she has done him out of his inheritance. Even worse, the original version of Jake, consigned to die on the far side of the moon, has taken hostages there, demanding the return of his rights of personhood. In the courtroom and on the lunar surface, the future of uploaded humanity hangs in the balance. Mindscan is vintage Sawyer--a feast for the mind and the heart.
Twenty years ago, it was as if someone turned on a light. The future blazed into existence with each deliberate word that William Gibson laid down. The winner of Hugo, Nebula, and Philip K. Dick Awards, Neuromancer didn't just explode onto the science fiction scene—it permeated into the collective consciousness, culture, science, and technology. Today, there is only one science fiction masterpiece to thank for the term "cyberpunk," for easing the way into the information age and Internet society. Neuromancer's virtual reality has become real. And yet, William Gibson's gritty, sophisticated vision still manages to inspire the minds that lead mankind ever further into the future.
Idealistic young scientist Henry Jekyll struggles to unlock the secrets of the soul. Testing chemicals in his lab, he drinks a mixture he hopes will isolate—and eliminate—human evil. Instead it unleashes the dark forces within him, transforming him into the hideous and murderous Mr. Hyde. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde dramatically brings to life a science-fiction case study of the nature of good and evil and the duality that can exist within one person. Resonant with psychological perception and ethical insight, the book has literary roots in Dostoevsky’s “The Double” and Crime and Punishment. Today Stevenson’s novella is recognized as an incisive study of Victorian morality and sexual repression, as well as a great thriller.
Harry Benson suffers from painful, violence-inducing seizures. In an effort to alleviate this problem, Benson undergoes an experimental medical procedure in which electrodes are attached to his brain's trouble spots -- if all goes well, timed jolts of electricity will correct his disability. But when Benson learns to turn up the juice whenever he pleases, his murderous rampage begins.
When Dr. Tom More is released on parole from state prison, he returns to Feliciana, Louisiana, the parish where he was born and bred, where he practiced psychiatry before his arrest. He immediately notices something strange in almost everyone around him: unusual sexual behavior in women patients, a bizarre loss of inhibition, his own wife's extraordinary success as bridge tournaments, during which her mind seems to function like a computer. With the help of his attractive cousin, Dr. Lucy Lipscomb, Dr. More begins to uncover a criminal experiment to "improve" people's behavior by drugging the local water supply. But beyond this scheme are activities so sinister that Dr. More can only wonder if the whole world has gone crazy — or he has …

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