Set in the mid-18th century, at the dawn of the Enlightenment, and roving through England, Europe and Russia, this story presents James Dyer, a man whose absence of compassion is physical - he can't feel pain.
As a surgeon, James Dyer excels, and his inability to feel--whether physical pain himself or empathy for others--seems only to enhance his skill with a knife. James slices and dices and cures without a scintilla of compassion while his reputation grows, until at last he arrives in Russia and the mystery of his unusual quality is resolved. Miller navigates his complicated story and exotic locales with unswerving confidence, bolstered no doubt by thorough research. James Dyer is not a character who invites love, but his adventures make for intelligent, deeply pleasurable reading. --Alex Freeman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Miller sets the book in the eighteenth century and begins with a graphic autopsy of the main character. Here he recreates the philosophical and scientific attitudes of the period, attitudes which are alien to our own, and which he will explore as a subtext throughout the book. He summarizes the life of the main character--which he spends the rest of the book recounting--in the first chapter, eliminating any climactic excitement he might have created. His main character is a man with the inability to feel pain, someone with whom the reader cannot possibly identify, and his adventures are weirdly melodramatic, so unusual the reader's interest lies primarily in their curiosity.
Yet the book "works," and very often thrills. Somehow he does manage to make the reader care about James Dyer and his fate, and he does create excitement in a plot which skips from small town England to the court of Russia. Miller's masterful and controlled use of description is a primary factor in his ability to further the action of this unusual story and bring the characters and the period alive. This reader was awestruck by Miller's creative daring--and by his success. Mary Whipple
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