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The Terminal Man by Michael Crichton

The Terminal Man (1972)

by Michael Crichton

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (26)  Italian (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Spanish (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (30)
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Harry Benson, a man in his 30s, suffers from psychomotor epilepsy. He often has seizures followed by blackouts, and then wakes up hours later with no knowledge of what he has done. During some of his seizures he severely beat two people. He is a prime candidate for an operation to implant electrodes and minicomputer in his brain to control the seizures. Surgeons Ellis and Morris are to perform the surgery, which is unprecedented for the time.

The ramifications of the procedure are questioned by psychiatrist Janet Ross, and by an emeritus professor named Manon at the lecture about the surgery. Manon raises concerns that Benson is psychotic (pointing to Benson's adamant belief that there is no difference between man and machine) and the crimes he commits during the blackouts won't be curtailed. Ellis admits that what they are doing isn't a cure but just a way to stimulate the brain when the computer senses a seizure coming on. It would prevent a seizure but not cure his personality disorder. Despite the concerns voiced, the team decides to go ahead with the operation.

The operation implants forty electrodes in Benson's brain, controlled by a small computer that is powered by a plutonium power pack in his shoulder. Benson must wear a dog tag that says to call the University Hospital if he is injured, as his atomic power pack might emit radiation. While he is recovering, a woman named Angela Black gives Morris a wig for Benson, whose head was shaved prior to the operation.

Morris goes back to his normal work, where he interviews a man who volunteers to have electrodes put into his mind to stimulate pleasure. Morris refuses him, but realizes that people like Benson could potentially become addicts. He recalls a Norwegian man, who was allowed to stimulate himself as much as he wanted, and did so much that it actually gave him brain damage.

McPherson, head of the Neuropsychiatric department, interviews Benson, who is still convinced machines are taking over the world. McPherson realizes Manon and Ross were right and orders nurses to administer thorazine to Benson.

After resting for a day, Benson goes through "interfacing". The forty electrodes in his brain are activated by computer technician Gerhard, one by one, to see which ones would stop a seizure. Each produces different results. One of the electrodes stimulates a sexual pleasure. Ross asks Gerhard to monitor Benson.

Gerhard shows his findings to Ross, who realizes that the seizures are getting more frequent. She explains that Benson is learning to initiate seizures involuntarily because the result of these seizures is a shock of pleasure, which leads to him having more frequent seizures. Ross checks on Benson, and discovers that, due to a clerical error, Benson has not been receiving his thorazine. She then finds out that Benson has escaped from the hospital.

Ross goes to Benson's house, but finds two girls instead who say he has a gun and blueprints for the basement of University Hospital (where the computer mainframe is). Ellis searches at a strip club where Benson, who is fascinated with all things sexual, spends a lot of time. He doesn't find him. Morris goes to his job, and meets Benson's boss who said that Benson feared the University Hospital because of its ultra-modern computer system.

Ross is contacted by Anders, a policeman who found Benson's dogtag at the murder scene of Angela Black. After answering questions at the police station, Ross goes home. Benson arrives at her house, and has a seizure, which causes him to attack Ross. Ross manages to turn on her microwave, which disrupts the atomic pacemaker in his shoulder. He runs away. Ross goes back to the hospital and goes to sleep.

When Angela Black is brought back to the hospital for autopsy, pathologists find a book of matches that have the name of an airport. Morris goes to this airport, and a bartender says he saw Benson an hour ago leaving with Joe, who took him to the hangar. Morris goes to this hangar and finds Joe severely beaten. He is in turn beaten by Benson, who flees.

Ross, back at the hospital, is awakened by Gerhard. She has a call from Benson. When Anders traces the call he realizes that Benson is inside the hospital. Gerhard's computers begin to malfunction, as if somebody was messing with the mainframe. Anders and Ross go down into the basement in search of Benson. Anders locates Benson and has a brief firefight, injuring and disarming Benson before becoming lost in the maze of corridors. Benson goes back to the computer room to finish shutting down the computer mainframe and finds Ross. Ross picks up his gun, and after an intense (and tearful) internal struggle finally shoots and kills Benson.

  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
Really good story, and as he usually does well he melds science with a good story. ( )
  biggs1399 | Jan 19, 2016 |
I didn't really care for this one. It meandered a bit plot-wise, and many of the characters were difficult to separate and put faces to. The climactic points were well-crafted, but overall nothing to grab you. I don't care for the way he writes his female characters in some of his books (including this one). He comes across as somewhat misogynistic. ( )
  AliceAnna | Oct 23, 2014 |
Ook verschenen als : De gelukzalige moordenaar
  Marjoles | May 6, 2014 |
There are reviews divided between saying that it is dated, and conversely, that it is ever presently meaningful. However, what I think most reviewers have missed is the storyline of how Harry Benson's fear of the loss of self is misunderstood by everyone around him, including Janet Ross who believes herself to be on his side and against his surgery. This is referenced in a final recollection of hers, of an earlier patient who had eventually committed suicide. The strongest theme in this novel for me was the debate of loss of self. The concerns of the other players in the book is how to reconstruct a good life for Benson, which in his mind is no life at all. ( )
  pansygarden | Feb 24, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Michael Crichtonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Capriolo, EttoreTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Giralt, PilarTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gudynas, PeterCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Matignon, M.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rommes-Coppée, C.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Soares, Gilson B.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilson, GeorgeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Eerste man gekoppeld aan een computer....en die man is een krankzinnige moordenaar
To Kurt Villadsen
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Readers who find the subject matter of this book shocking or frightening should not delude themselves by also thinking it is something quite new.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060092572, Mass Market Paperback)

Harry has a problem. Ever since getting in a car accident, he's suffered from "thought seizures," violent fits in which he attacks other people. He used to be an artificial intelligence researcher, which may explain why he targets anyone who either works on machines or who acts like a machine--mechanics, gas-station attendants, prostitutes, exotic dancers. But there's hope: he can become part machine himself, undergoing "Stage 3," an experimental procedure implanting 40 electrodes deep in the pleasure centers of his brain. The surgery is successful, and blissful pulses of electricity short-circuit Harry's seizures. That is, until Harry figures out how to overload himself with the satisfying jolts and escapes on a murderous rampage. One of Crichton's earliest, playing ably on '70s fears of computers and mind control. --Paul Hughes

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:14 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

The classic thriller and "New York Times" bestseller is reissued with a new look. Prone to violent seizures, Harry Benson undergoes an experimental procedure that implants electrodes in his brain, sending soothing pulses to the brain's pleasure canyon. However, Harry learns how to control the pulses and increase their frequency. Harry then escapes--a homicidal maniac loose in the city--and nothing will stop his murderous rampage. Reissue.… (more)

» see all 7 descriptions

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