Review of The Consciousness Plague by Paul Levinson

Science Fiction Audiobook - The Consciousness Plague by Paul LevinsonThe Consciousness Plague
by Paul Levinson, read by Mark Shanahan
7 CD’s – 9 hours [ABRIDGED]
Publisher: Listen & Live Audio
Published: 2003
ISBN: 1593160380
Themes: / Murder / Memory / Mystery / Cognitive Anthropology /

Detective Phil D’Amato has to solve a series of murders, but he and many others begin losing chunks of their memory. It turns out a functioning memory is quite helpful when trying to solve crimes, but D’Amato manages anyway. Levinson wrote it in first-person, so when D’Amato realizes there is important information he had forgotten, you don’t know it until he knows it. That really worked well for me, giving me that startled, disconcerted feeling one would actually have in that situation.

Early in the book Phil D’Amato declares himself a “lone wolf” and immediately begins butting heads with shortsighted superiors. But if the book promises at the beginning to be cliché, don’t believe it. Detective
D’Amato brings aboard a number of collaborators as he gets the bad guy.

There are a few unbelievable moments. For example, Dr. D’Amato decides to fly to Scotland to speak with a man face to face because he is warned that the man is “really monotone” when talking over the phone. Perhaps I lack the proper empathy, not having previously been subjected to such a monotone telephone conversation that I’d rather cross an ocean just to have a face-to-face conversation, but I found the few moments like this distracting.

On the other hand, what do I know? Levinson won the Mary Shelley Award for Outstanding Fictional Work in 2003 for this novel. The plot is really quite intriguing, and pulled in credible ideas from a number of fields such as Cognitive Anthropology. (I get the feeling he googled some other areas of expertise for enough information to throw them in the mix, but let a non-googler cast the first stone.)

Mark Shanahan does different voices for over a dozen characters. How well does he do? With that many voices it depends on whether you’re a glass-is-half-full or half-empty kind of person. He actually has the perfect voice for a New York forensic detective and even the silliest voice was attached to one of the more endearing characters, so it worked for me.

Posted by Mike