Picks and Pans Review: Mind Catcher

updated 09/02/2002 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/02/2002 01:00AM

By John Darnton
Beach book of the week

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Does the mind exist after the body dies? Are there rational explanations for intuition and paranormal events? Is the soul really more than a feeling? These questions are at the core of Darnton's thoroughly engrossing medical-science novel.

When Scott Jessup's son Tyler suffers a brain injury while hiking, the brilliant but arrogant brain surgeon Dr. Saramaggio takes the case. But a diabolical colleague, the aptly named Dr. Cleaver, has darker plans for Tyler.

Combining stem-cell research with computers that take over bodily functions, Cleaver tries to find out whether, as one character puts it, "the mind has a capacity to range beyond the physical vessel that seemingly contains it." Bizarre experiments to trap the mind's energy even lead to communication with spirits on the Net. "You've got mail" never sounded scarier.

Brain surgery actually is brain surgery, which leads to complex medical passages, but Darnton skillfully navigates those while keeping the suspense at full throttle. The science and cyber-philosophy, at first farfetched, become all too chillingly believable in the author's expert hands. (Dutton, $25.95)

Bottom Line: Mind blower

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