Saturday, March 17, 2007

"Dead Head"

Neurosurgeon-turned-novelist Allen Wyler applied the "page 69 test" to his new book, Dead Head, and reported the following:
Okay, here’s the setup for my blitzkrieg thriller: The leader of a terrorist cell suffers a horrendous crush injury to his lower body and lies dying in Georgetown Medical Center. Russell Lawton is a neurosurgeon specializing in brain/computer interfaces – converting brain activity (thoughts) into signals that computers can use to operate robotic arms. The terrorists kidnap Russell’s daughter as a way of forcing Russell to help them. But what they want him to do is way over the top: detach their leader’s head and implant it with an interface to allow him to speak. Russell quickly realizes they are planning a Twin Towers magnitude attack on the United States. To save his daughter and his own life and thwart the attack he must play along while finding a way to stop them. Most of the story takes place in the basement of Building 10 on the NIH campus.

Page 69 is not really one of the most gripping in the story, so I’ll leave interested readers to check it out for themselves.

This past weekend I was amused to walk into a bookstore and see Dead Head filed under Science Fiction. Although admittedly far out, the science is already here. Use the Google Patent Search site to call up patent 4,666,425 and you’ll see that on May 19, 1987 the US government awarded inventor Chet Fleming (from The Dis Corporation) a patent for, “A device for maintaining metabolic activity in a mammalian head which has been severed from its body at its neck…”. Fleming coined the term, discorporation, for the process of keeping alive a living head detached from it’s body.

Then, as long as you’re jacked in to the internet, check out Cyberkinetics Neurotechology systems. They have FDA approval to implant the brains of quadriplegics with technology similar to what is described in Dead Head so that they may manipulate robotic arms. Also, check out Neural Signals, a company devoted to translating brain activity into speech for patients who can no longer talk.

What was once science fiction is now reality.
Read an excerpt from Dead Head and visit Allen Wyler's official website.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Series.

--Marshal Zeringue