Bicameral Mind-Inspired Fiction

Novels inspired by Julian Jaynes’s bicameral mind theory.

The Rage of Achilles

The Rage of Achilles
Terence Hawkins (Casperian Books, 2009).
In his first book, The Rage of Achilles, Terence Hawkins imagines an Iliad that really happened. Informed by the brutal realities of Bronze Age warfare and Julian Jaynes’ theory of the bicameral mind — now a basis for HBO’s Westworld — the novel depicts real men and women struggling in the end of a decade-long war, their gods dwindling into hallucinations and half-heard commands as the modern consciousness is suddenly and painfully born. Emily Hauser, author of For the Most Beautiful, said: “Terence Hawkins’ The Rage of Achilles … is Greek myth red in tooth and claw. Visceral and to-the-point, it grabs you and doesn’t let go.” Tom Perrotta, author of Little Children and The Leftovers, called it “a rare thing — a genuinely fresh take on a classic text.”

Out of the Water

Out of the Water
James Lewis Huss (CreateSpace, 2014).
Out of the Water is a satirical epic in blank verse, the epic of the prophet-king Moses. The story remains true to the tales of of the Hebrew tribe as told in the Old Testament. Except in this epic Moses does not obey the word of God. Instead he follows his bicameral voice, his own mind projected as a hallucination heard from a fiery bush or a grumbling volcano. And just like the Old Testament, Out of the Water is a narrative of war and murder, of faith and devotion, of conquest and failure, a narrative of the legendary journey of the Hebrew people as they wandered the desert in search of the land their god promised to their epic hero, he who from the waters came—Moses.

The Consciousness Plague

The Consciousness Plague
Paul Levinson (JoSara Media, 2013).
Memory itself is the suspect in The Consciousness Plague – more particularly, loss of memory, in slivers of time deducted from a growing number of individuals, which plays havoc with everything from the investigation of serial stranglings to candlelight dinners. D’Amato, NYPD forensic detective, investigates a spate of unusual cases and finds evidence of a bacteria-like organism that has lived in our brains since our origin as a species and may be responsible for our very consciousness. A new antibiotic crosses the blood-brain barrier and inadvertently kills this essential bug. Phil himself falls victim to this memory hole, and must struggle to get the proper authorities to pay attention before everyone loses so much memory that they forget that they forgot in the first place.

Mindscan

Mindscan
Robert J. Sawyer (Tor Science Fiction, 2006).
Hugo Award-winning author Robert J. Sawyer is back with Mindscan, a pulse-pounding, mind-expanding standalone novel, rich with his signature philosophical and ethical speculations, all grounded in cutting-edge science.
Jake Sullivan has cheated death: he’s discarded his doomed biological body and copied his consciousness into an android form. The new Jake soon finds love, something that eluded him when he was encased in flesh: he falls for the android version of Karen, a woman rediscovering all the joys of life now that she’s no longer constrained by a worn-out body either.

WWW: Wake

WWW: Wake
Robert J. Sawyer (Gollancz, 2009).
Caitlin Decter is young, pretty, feisty, a genius at math, and blind. When she receives an implant to restore her sight, instead of seeing reality she perceives the landscape of the World Wide Web-where she makes contact with a mysterious consciousness existing only in cyberspace.

Snow Crash

Snow Crash
Neal Stephenson (Bantam Spectra, 1992).
From the opening line of his breakthrough cyberpunk novel Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson plunges the reader into a not-too-distant future. It is a world where the Mafia controls pizza delivery, the United States exists as a patchwork of corporate-franchise city-states, and the Internet — incarnate as the Metaverse — looks something like last year’s hype would lead you to believe it should. Enter Hiro Protagonist — hacker, samurai swordsman, and pizza-delivery driver. When his best friend fries his brain on a new designer drug called Snow Crash and his beautiful, brainy ex-girlfriend asks for his help, what’s a guy with a name like that to do? He rushes to the rescue. A breakneck-paced 21st-century novel, Snow Crash interweaves everything from Sumerian myth to visions of a postmodern civilization on the brink of collapse. Faster than the speed of television and a whole lot more fun, Snow Crash is the portrayal of a future that is bizarre enough to be plausible.

The Big U

The Big U
Neal Stephenson (Harper Perennial, 2001).
The New York Times Book Review called Neal Stephenson’s most recent novel “electrifying” and “hilarious” — but if you want to know Stephenson was doing twenty years before he wrote the epic Cryptonomicon, it’s back-to-school time. Back to The Big U, that is, a hilarious send-up of American college life starring after years our of print, The Big U is required reading for anyone interested in the early work of this singular writer.

Zodiac

Zodiac
Neal Stephenson (Grove Press, 1995/2007).
Believe it or not, some readers find Zodiac even more fun than Neal Stephenson’s defining 1990s cyberpunk novel, Snow Crash. Zodiac is set in Boston, and hero Sangamon Taylor (S. T.) ironically describes his hilarious exploitsin the first person. S. T. is a modern superhero, a self-proclaimed Toxic Spiderman. With stealth, spunk, and the backing of GEE (a non-profit environmental group) as his weapons, S. T. chases down the bad guys with James Bond-like Zen. Cruising Boston Harbor with lab tests and scuba gear, S. T. rides in with the ecosystem cavalry on his 40-horsepower Zodiac raft. His job of tracking down poisonous runoff and embarrassing the powerful corporations who caused them becomes more sticky than usual; run-ins with a gang of satanic rock fans, a deranged geneticist, and a mysterious PCB contamination that may or may not be man-made — plus a falling-out with his competent (“I adore stress”) girlfriend — all complicate his mission. Stephenson/S. T.’s irreverent, facetious, esprit-filled voice make this near-future tale a joy to read.

Distraction

Distraction
Bruce Sterling (Spectra, 1999).
It’s the year 2044, and America has gone to hell. A disenfranchised U.S. Air Force base has turned to highway robbery in order to pay the bills. Vast chunks of the population live nomadic lives fueled by cheap transportation and even cheaper computer power. Warfare has shifted from the battlefield to the global networks, and China holds the information edge over all comers. Global warming is raising sea level, which in turn is drowning coastal cities. And the U.S. government has become nearly meaningless. This is the world that Oscar Valparaiso would have been born into, if he’d actually been born instead of being grown in vitro by black market baby dealers. Oscar’s bizarre genetic history (even he’s not sure how much of him is actually human) hasn’t prevented him from running one of the most successful senatorial races in history, getting his man elected by a whopping majority. But Oscar has put himself out of a job, since he’d only be a liability to his boss in Washington due to his problematic background. Instead, Oscar finds himself shuffled off to the Collaboratory, a Big Science pork barrel project that’s run half by corruption and half by scientific breakthroughs. At first it seems to be a lose-lose proposition for Oscar, but soon he has his “krewe” whipped into shape and ready to take control of events. Now if only he can straighten out his love life and solve a worldwide crisis that no one else knows exists.

Between the Rivers

Between the Rivers
Harry Turtledove (Tor Books, 1998).
In a complex fantasy world on the very edge of human history, Engibil, the easy-going god of the city of Gibil, is threatened by the gods of other cities who do not allow their human subjects to be as creative and autonomous.