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An Audience for Einstein by Mark Wakely

An Audience for Einstein

by Mark Wakely

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Professor Percival Marlowe, a Nobel Prize winning astrophysicist, is dying, much to his regret. But he is not without hope: years before, Doctor Carl Dorning, a neurosurgeon, had talked Marlowe into financing his research into preserving the brain in another body. In the waning days of Marlowe’s life, Dorning sees the necessity for finding a “donor” for Marlowe's brain and seizes upon Miguel Sanchez, a young homeless boy who doesn’t quite understand what he is signing up to do.

The transfer of brain matter, performed just before Marlowe expires, is successful, and soon Marlowe is conscious again inside Miguel’s body. But the consciousness of Miguel is not quite gone. Nor is Marlowe happy about stealing away Miguel’s life.

Furthermore, in a Dickensian turn, Marlowe [named to evoke A Christmas Carol, one wonders?] gets to see (hidden in the body of Miguel) just what others thought of him while he was alive as Marlowe. It is not a pleasant picture.

Marlowe and Dorning argue about the ethics of the experiment, and about what constitutes value in life. Dorning contends that a homeless person would contribute nothing at all, while Marlowe could have great scientific achievements. But Marlowe has learned from what has been in essence a tour into his past life:

"You’re wrong, Dorning. A person who accomplishes nothing of material significance in their life, but who is kind to others and threats them fairly, who is loved and respected for just being a decent human being, is the most successful person I can think of. That’s far more important than all the scientific discoveries ever made.”

The ethical impasse gets resolved in a surprising way, perhaps again with a wink and a nod to Dickens.

Evaluation: This is what I would call “old-fashioned” science fiction, which focuses on characterization rather than technology. It’s not an earth-shaking book, but with all of its ethical questions actually would make quite a good discussion book for a bookclub. ( )
  nbmars | Dec 26, 2010 |
Reviewed by Mechele R. Dillard for TeensReadToo.com

Young Percival Marlowe was a typical science geek; elderly Professor Marlowe is a Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist who needs more time to complete all of the brilliant projects he has yet to share with the world. Unable to find a way to retrieve his own youth, Marlowe backs the project of neurosurgeon Carl Dorning, hoping but never truly believing that Dorning's revolutionary technique of transplanting memories will prove successful by the time Marlowe's rapidly-approaching death arrives.

Dorning knows that he only has one shot at transplanting Marlowe's essence, and realizes that the Professor doesn't have much time. When he meets a young homeless boy, Miguel Sanchez, all of the pieces begin to fall into place. But, when Marlowe finally realizes that this procedure may actually happen, he begins to question the moral implications of Dorning's potential success: "You've wrestled with the procedures and won, but not with the long term consequences, Dorning. Don't you see? If you're successful, you might have found a unique way to create a new class of slaves" (p. 42).

Mark Wakely's first novel tackles some big issues, forcing the reader to weigh the value of the life of a genius of science against that of an illiterate street urchin. Is the potential value of continuing a life already proven invaluable to mankind worth the sacrifice of one homeless boy who doesn't even know his own age? Or is the unique spirit Miguel brings to humanity more important than all of the equations and theories a second life for Professor Marlowe could offer?

2006 EPPIE Award

2003 Authorlink New Author Award for Science Fiction

2002/03 Fountainhead Productions National Writing Contest Winner

2003 Writemovies.com International Writing Competition, Finalist ( )
  GeniusJen | Oct 9, 2009 |
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