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Transorbital by Nathan Singer


by Nathan Singer

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I don’t actually know if Walter Freeman II said, as Inigo Montoya did in The Princess Bride,“I’m going to do him left-handed.”, but that evangelist for the transorbital lobotomy did “get bored doing things right-handed so he would switch off in mid-operation and start doing things left-handed.”

The neurologist Walter Freeman in Singer’s novel never says it, but this lightly fictionalized version,like the real Dr. Freeman, travelled the country in a Lobotimobile sometimes doing hundreds of lobotomies a week in the 1950s. Freeman’s innovation was fast and efficient – at least in destroying the targeted brain tissues if not in achieving the desired effects. “Freeman would peel back each eyelid, insert his ice pick and with a hammer tap through the brain, wiggle it about, sever the frontal lobes, withdraw it," as a PBS documentary described it.

Eventually Freeman could do the old “pop and scramble” with an orbitoclast in each hand to double his processing time. No anesthesia. No antiseptic.

It’s pretty heady stuff for the “lad”, the narrator of Singer’s novel and Dr. Freeman’s assistant, and he gives himself no other name. He’s 20 years old but already has been working in the soul destroying mental hospitals of the time. Alcohol isn’t taking the edge off as much as needed.

But, at least for awhile, Freeman is his hero. Saving lives, taming monsters, restoring hope and peace to the families of the afflicted.

But, after watching Freeman lobotomize a 12 year-old, he’s had enough. The two part ways. Thirteen years later, in 1968, Freeman has fallen into disrepute. The lad, again working as an orderly in a mental hospital, meets Dr. Williams, a fan of Freeman.

Williams has a disturbing theory. Doctors associated with Freeman are being murdered. Williams and the kid visit Freeman's old cases and hear of a Dr. Hollow, perhaps real, perhaps a hallucination, who may have something to do with the deaths -- if the are, in fact, murders.

Singer tells his story efficiently, voices the characters distinctly, especially the interchanges between Freeman and the kid who has his own problems like an addiction to Freeman’s chemical competitor Thorazine.

However, for me, the story started to wobble at the climax with 1960s-type society-is-crazy-and-needs-to-be-destroyed, damn-categories-and-boundaries-and-nuance nihilism. Singer recovered my sympathies with the end though I suspect I just chose to ignore the intended irony.

Still, it’s a gripping read, a non-supernatural horror story that latches itself on to the history of the real Dr. Freeman. ( )
  RandyStafford | Jun 11, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The first part of this book captivated me, which is the reason I have given it three and a half stars. The exploration of Walter Freeman through the eyes of his assistant is a brilliant concept, however as the book progressed it did not hold my attention as much as it had in the beginning. While most books become more and more captivating, addicting even, as it progresses, while Transorbital was good, it did not. It was well written, and overall a good book, but not excellent. In fact, while I had hoped it would be more entertaining than true stories of Walter Freeman's escapades, I found myself more interested with googling actual Walter Freeman stories than this book. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I hoped that I would be interested more in this book than I actually was.

Thus, while I didn't not enjoy reading it, I don't know whether I would recommend this book to my friends. ( )
  KathrynDella | Jan 16, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Interesting topic to write on. Easy to read but not for the faint hearted. I chose this off of the blurb in early reviews and whilst it wasn't a disappointment it just didn't grab me. At no point did I stop and think 'I can't pit this down. Must. Keep. Reading'. So whilst I did eventually finish it, it isn't a book I would recommend to friends. ( )
  Amandazg | Aug 11, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Engaging book. Easy to read writing style, very enjoyable. I learned a lot about the title subject and there was a lot of attention to period details and character development. Intense subject matter and a well spun yarn. ( )
  Benboo | Jul 15, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I really enjoyed this book. It had a very compelling, unique story that drew me in right away and it didn't let up, and then it surprised me at the end. So satisfying! ( )
  melissajerome | Jul 15, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 069237261X, Paperback)


“Nathan Singer is what a writer is meant to be: daring, unique, original, and insightful. Transorbital proves it in spades.” - Reed Farrel Coleman, New York Times Bestselling author of Robert B. Parker's The Devil Wins

“Nathan Singer’s Transorbital pulses with a relentless momentum. In Transorbital, Singer propels a strange, unsettling world reminiscent of William Burroughs’s best work with the fierce urgency of a Michael Crichton science thriller. With Transorbital, Nathan Singer has once again proven himself the master of the literary pulp thriller.” - Steve Weddle, author of Country Hardball

"I love everything about this book. I love the cult of the Transorbitals and the circus freakiness of it all. Like an ice pick to the frontal lobe of conventional fiction, Transorbital is what happens when the brilliant mind of Nathan Singer is unleashed on one of medicine's most embarrassing periods.” - Bryon Quertermous, author of Murder Boy

With his trusty ice pick in hand and his loyal – though erratic – sidekick riding shotgun, superstar lobotomist Dr. Walter Freeman drives his Lobotomobile coast to coast across post-war America, determined to save the country from its own troubled mind.

With messianic fervor, an evangelist’s sense of righteousness, and a jazzman’s gift for improvisation (and showmanship), Doc Freeman is quickly gaining converts, and notoriety. All is going just swell, until a number of Freeman’s former protégés start turning up dead, and only Freeman’s assistant, The Kid, is able to recognize that something sinister is afoot. Will The Kid be able to keep his demons at bay and get to the bottom of things before the bodies really start piling up?

Creepy, grimy, and darkly humorous, TRANSORBITAL is an off-kilter twist on the old pulp whodunit.

(retrieved from Amazon Wed, 01 Jul 2015 15:55:41 -0400)

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