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Literature / Neuropath

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You are not what you think you are.

Neuropath (2008) is a near-future Thriller by R. Scott Bakker, better known as the author of Second Apocalypse.

Professor of psychology Thomas Bible's life is turned upside down when the FBI arrives on his doorstep with reports of murders and gruesome experiments. The prime suspect is Tom's old college buddy Neil Cassidy, who has set out to prove a philosophical argument in the most shocking way possible...


Provides examples of:

  • All for Nothing: Just about every bad thing the protagonist didn't want to happen, happened.
  • Animals Lack Attributes: Very explicitly averted when Tom's dog rolls over and exposes his genitals. Agent Gerard finds it hilarious and says it's so big it should get its own website. Then makes up some domain names. ("")
  • Big "NO!": Thomas, right before Mia slams his SUV into the NYPD patrol car.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Without free will, there is no morality. Neil demonstrates.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: Like Blindsight with The Argument instead of aliens. There is no Counterargument.
  • Crapsack World: Judging by news reports, most of the world seems to have gone to hell.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The serial killer known as the Chiropractor rips out his victims' spinal columns. This happens to one character (Neil) while he is paralyzed but still fully conscious.
  • Despair Event Horizon: The protagonist crosses it due to Neil's Mind Rape.
  • Electric Instant Gratification: Used in a truly horrific fashion. The book's villain, who aims to prove that free will is an illusion created to cover up the mass of cognitive processes that take us through the day, abducts a porn star and uses direct nerve stimulation to put her in the throes of pleasure. Then he switches the pathways that register pain and pleasure, and gives her a shard of glass...
  • Emotion Suppression: This happens to Neil, and eventually Thomas and Nora.
  • Fate Worse than Death: A device is implanted in Frankie's head that stimulates the part of his brain that causes fear, meaning that he is in permanent agony which nothing can stop.
  • Fighting from the Inside: Averted. As Neil Cassidy notes, "Everyone expects to be Captain Kirk", but as he controls every thought and emotion, it is an impossibility. Near the end of the story, he even manages to get Thomas Bible to rationalize all the horrors he has inflicted upon him, including condemning his son to a Fate Worse than Death.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Everybody who has come into contact with enough neuroscience suffers this at some point, although Neil takes it to extremes (though he didn't seem very nice beforehand).
  • Mind Rape: The most horrendously extreme Mind Rape happens to Neil's victims, and quite possibly the audience experience this.
    • In this near future, the NSA neurologists routinely Mind Rape suspected terrorists as interrogation.
  • The Mole: Samantha Logan, who is revealed in a truly unsettling scene.
  • Mr. Exposition: Tom, rather irritatingly in places.
  • Primal Fear: Of the "existential dread" variety. You are not what you think you are. You have absolutely no free will and your mind can be manipulated completely.
  • Serial Killer: The Chiropractor, real identity Theodore Gyges, brutally murders several people by ripping their spines out.
  • Shown Their Work: Tom's speeches about neurology and psychology. Mostly justified in-story as they are dealing with a killer who literally mind-controls people, but sometimes Tom suddenly goes off on yet another rant about psychology when that scene could have done without it.
  • Sliding Scale of Free Will vs. Fate: The brain is a physical organism, therefore it is governed by the same laws of nature as everything around us. People's actions are completely predictable and can be manipulated to an extreme degree, as one character does using a futuristic device.
  • The Sociopath:
    • Neil Cassidy destroyed parts of his mind in order to devote himself to the Argument, and thus is fundamentally incapable of feeling compassion for anyone or remorse for the terrible things he's done.
    • Sam is also incapable of feeling love, guilt, or remorse because Neil destroyed parts of her mind as well.
  • Squishy Wizard: Having absolute power over people's minds surely qualifies Neil for this.
  • Stealth Pun: Neuropath. What's a related word to 'neuro-'?'Psycho-'.
  • Tap on the Head: Averted. Tom Bible notes that it's not like in the movies, and that the guard he and Mia knocked out will need medical help quickly.
  • Title Drop: The Mole is a "neuropath."
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The year in which the novel takes place is never stated, but 2010 is mentioned as a year gone by (The novel was published in 2008). Government buildings have fMRI scanners at the entrances, Europe is freezing to death because the Gulf Stream has changed course and Moscow has been reduced to a crumbling wasteland.