Having finished Neuropath this morning on the tube, and thoroughly enjoying it, I thought I’d give a brief review of the book. This will probably be the first of several blogs to do with the ideas raised in Neuropath because it contains some very interesting ideas in a curious mixture of fact, “future” fact and fiction.
R. Scott Bakker is best known for his Prince of Nothing series. A nigh on perfect trilogy from the last decade which, if you’re a fan of fantasy, you really owe yourself to check out. His fiction work is very distinctive with R. Scott Bakker creating a convincing set of religions and belief systems which help to govern character actions. Ever since the early days of fantasy with Lord of the Rings there has been a big absence of religion from fantasy. It’s a shame because in the real world this is a huge motivator of many people’s actions. In blog posts R. Scott Bakker has described how he wants to use base genres to reach out to people with challenging ideas. I think with the Prince of Nothing series it’s very subtly done, the nihlism of the Dûnyain, the idea that our actions are shaped by biological actions (“The Darkness That Comes Before”), etc.
In Neuropath these same ideas are presented again. Although more sledge hammer, less subtle. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though since it gives R. Bakker greater room to argue more convincingly. “The Argument”, the idea that all our actions are shaped by biological process so there is no free will, even if we might experience it as such dominates much of the novel. This is still done so within a fictional framework however, this time a speculative future-world thriller. “The Argument” dominates much of the novel, but Bakker isn’t using it as an excuse to get on a soap box. It’s used to serve multiple narrative purposes so whilst some may find it makes up too much of the book it is not being wasted.
Unlike most thrillers I never felt things were steadily rushing towards a climax, although there was a satisfying twist at the end which I only partially saw coming. Part of this was probably to do with never feeling like I was on for the ride with the characters. Perhaps too much time is spent with the characters cerebrally engaging rather than giving us enough emotional time to get to know them. It might also be that Thomas Bible is too much of a vehicle for the ideas of the R. Scott Bakker rather than a believable character we can invest in.
Yet I still enjoyed it! The development of the plot was interesting, the imaginitive uses of future neuro science was engrossing and it’s still yet another book I’d recommend from the R. Scott Bakker bibliography. Future posts may well concern his blind brain hypothesis and the brain freeze I got on the tube when I realised I couldn’t see where my vision ended!