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AMNESIA DREAMS

This novel is based on an actual dream I had, and its fate is perhaps a warning: if you have a dream you think would make a great novel, forget it!  In any case, the dream concerned a man in a tuxedo who wakes up with nothing in his head, a case of what the docs call Global Retrograde Amnesia. He can talk, and even read and calculate, but he doesn’t know the identity of anything he hasn’t seen, has no memory of his past life, lacks all information about the world, and as is innocent as a new babe. In fact, he has the personality of a sweet-tempered very young child. The story opens in Bellevue Hospital, in New York, where he is sent as a neurology patient, identified as John Doe. Attending in the neuro ward is Dr Susannah Pearl, a  hyper-ambitious young woman whose career has stalled. She sees in the John Doe the experimental subject of a lifetime, perhaps the key to the mystery of human memory formation.  The amnesiac, however, is not what he seems. He has been the victim of a brutal program of experimentation already by a rogue scientist working in a prison for the criminally insane.  The blank mind of the amnesiac contains someone else, a person not sweet or childlike at all. After Dr Pearl has her subject released from the hospital, people start turning up dead. Apparently, one of the reasons this book was rejected was that Dr Pearl is not likable. This is true, for the driven are rarely likable. But she changes in the book. I thought the development of the John Doe’s mind from a blank is well-handled, so maybe that will make up for the abrasiveness of the other main character.  The plot is a little clunky too, but not nearly so much as in novels that have sold millions, although with more likable characters.