The Thanatos Syndrome
Walker Percy
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The Thanatos Syndrome

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  1,123 ratings  ·  96 reviews
The 1990s. Euthanasia and quarantines for AIDS have become the norm. But can even this world sanction a substance that "improves" people's behavior and so reduces crime, unemployment and teen pregnancy? A riveting bestseller by the author of The Moviegoer.
Hardcover, 0 pages
Published April 1st 1987 by Farrar Straus Giroux (first published 1987)
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An utterly fascinating read! great story, great characters, air of mystery, sense of humor ... my pleasant surprise of the holidays so far!

The above paragraph is something I wrote 40% of the way through the book, which I've now finished. I suppose there was no way it could have lived up to the high expectations it engendered, but I'm still giving it 3.5-to-4 stars.

Despite my generally tolerant view toward books with "disturbing" content, I have to say I was somewhat rattled by this one. I believ...more
Jennifer Grosser
Not sure why, as an one-time English major with a brother who loved this author's books, it's taken me so long to discover Walker Percy. An amazing read. At one point near the end it got pretty disturbing, but the questions he raises about life and death are important and fascinating. I was also intrigued by one character's harangue which included this:

"These are strange times. There are now two kinds of people. This has never happened before. One are decent, tenderhearted, unbelieving, philanth...more
Stephen Gallup
This is nominally a sequel to Love in the Ruins, in that we have the same main character, Dr. Thomas More, and there are one or two passing references to events in the earlier book. The main connection between the two, however, is that once again More perceives something new and very unusual in the people around him -- and apparently nobody else has the slightest interest.

I've seen reviews that call Percy's books thrillers. I don't think the level of excitement rises to that standard, because th...more
Here Percy is profound: psychologically astute and socially prescient. He knows people--the human condition, our querks, our excuses, our dilemmas. He knows us inside and out. And in _The Thanatos Syndrome_, Percy puts his own medical-school knowledge to work through his main character Tom More, M.D., a floundering psychiatrist, and numerous other medically-inclined characters dealing with (ahem) a syndrome.

Percy is smart--he doesn't need me to tell him so (especially, alas, post mortem). In th...more
Christian Schwoerke
I’ve read most of Percy’s other books—my favorites being Love in the Ruins and The Moviegoer (with a special fondness for his venture into semiotics and philosophy, Message in the Bottle)—but all this took place more than 25 years ago, and my recollections are hazy. The later novels (Second Coming and Lancelot went down easily, as I recall, but left me wanting), so I was not sure what to expect of this last (?) novel, read so many years after my last Percy experience.

The voice and the setting we...more
Bill Mutch
It's paperback whodunit from a quadrant of the universe I'd not ordinarily visit, save for a period of arctic vortex when buried in blankets with a paperback whodunit is just* the ticket.
It's not truly a whodunit because the reader cons very early who has dunnit; the question is merely how and why with associated messy details. What's worthwhile in this is some very fine writing about people...their forms and histories and how they've come to be who they are and do what they do. The narrator...more
Mark L
I'm re-reading my way through Walker Percy, the fiction and non-fiction. One of the great under-appreciated novelists of the past 50 years. He's just so damn good. This novel, like much of Percy's work, ponders (worries at, really), the self in the modern world.
Nathanael Booth
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
David Rush
WOW! I didn't realize Walker Percy was so one dimensional. Just so everybody knows, this book is just an excuse to label anybody pro-choice as someone who approves and, he implies, joyfully endorses killing babys up to and over a year old. And he also lumps aggressive euthanasia of aging and sick people in what the real world calls pro-choice.

A quick aside; this book is written in the style where you feel the main character is really just a puppet for the author to tell you his views. And in thi...more
The sequel to Love in the Ruins. Percy’s writing is here somewhat flatter than the original. However, the novel is interesting in much the same way.

Love in the Ruins and The Thanatos Syndrome contain Percy’s most political fiction. In the Thanatos Syndrome, the protagonist Dr. Thomas More returns to Louisiana from white-collar prison for selling prescription meds to truck drivers. He notices that people in town have been acting strange. Dr. More re-starts his practice in psychiatry.

When he tre...more
Jul 25, 2010 Bernie rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like to play with wasps
The lessons of this story were great. Making humans "better" usually makes them less human. Humans are fallen creatures subject to many sins and failings. Sometimes, it's one of the more fallen who becomes the hero. Chemicals can be a poor substitute for actually working through our problems. The nice, activist do-gooders may mean well, but because they don't usually think beyond a primary level, are often the cause of much that goes wrong with our society. If we don't understand our history, we...more
Capsule Review: Don't Read Walker Percy. Ever.

Longer Review: If somebody recommends this book (or any other of his books) to you, rest assured that that he will one day soon try to convince you that the Eagles really are rock n' roll. Afterwards, he will probably inflict some of his "poetry" on you. You know the kind of stuff I mean: four-line stanzas in ABAB that will inevitably rhyme the words "pain" with "insane," "soul" with "hole," "heart" with "apart," and "feel" with "unreal." Luckily, th...more
This is a difficult book to rate. The prose, action, and pacing is outstanding. What I don't understand is why books by Catholic authors (like Flannery O'Connor) need to have such disturbing topics dealt with as if they were normal. Maybe that's the point they're trying to make, that evil exists in the world, in individuals, in organizations, and that's not the exception but rather the rule, and that it's up to the "right"eousness of the individual to deal with (I wanted to say fight, but that's...more
From SAILS record: When psychiatrist Tom More returns home to Feliciana, Louisiana, after doing time at a minimal security prison, he is dismayed by the bizarre behavior he encounters the "curious flatness of tone," the loss of sexual inhibition, of complex speech, even of context in conversation. More is further dismayed to discover that fellow psychiatrist Bob Comeaux is masterminding an unauthorized scheme to eradicate social ills by manipulating cortical functions through surreptitious doses...more
Jamie Grefe
I've spent time with select essays by Walker Percy and benefited from them very much, still do, as a matter of fact, so I felt it about time to read one of his novels. The story is tightly woven and intricate. He also does a superb job of gliding us into the ending, which, was brilliant in my opinion. My only minor criticism is that it was hard for me, despite his depth of knowledge and lived experience of the area, to fully realize and imagine the Louisiana of the story. I know that's a small c...more
Susan Emmet
Rediscovered Walker Percy on a rainy day at the library. Glad I did.
Dr. Tom More, a semi-disgraced Freudian psychiatrist, finds himself at the center of a conspiracy to fix social problems by "enhancing" the local water source with Na-24, an isotope (I think) that inhibits language, increases sexuality, reduces humans to near-primate status, and all in the name of saving society. Beware of those, religious or political, who want to save us from ourselves.
Much to ponder about coercion between and...more
Scarlett Sims
This is the second Walker Percy I've read, and I think I liked it better than the first one I read (The Second Coming)(although I don't remember the rating I gave that one). It's a very quick read and very plot-driven, although still manages to hit on quite a few philosophical/ethical issues. I will warn the reader, toward the end the story gets very very dark and there is a bit of disturbing imagery. However, Percy manages to capture both the depravity and redemption that humans experience quit...more
Matthew Klobucher
Walker Percy has deftly combined the satisfying nostalgia of a Southern Novel with the excitement and tension of a medical-disease caper. Written from the wryly amusing and common-sense perspective of Dr. Tom More, a disgraced psychiatrist with a history both of medical breakthroughs and of alcoholism and drug use, the story sets itself firmly in the superstitious and historically rooted society of southern Louisiana. As he resumes his practice, Dr. More discovers some disturbing symptoms. Follo...more
One of my ideal type of book with psych/mystery combination. It is 1984ish but so much more. At times I almost started to agree with the evil ones or at least begin to see their side of things. I love the way the author describes the way people think and act. Percy had a lot happen in his life so had much to draw from. I am already on to read another of his books.
I liked this book. I did. It reminded me of Robertson Davies: You have to read with a twinkle in your eye.
That said, I had trouble in parts knowing what (or why something) was going on. In some ways it did feel like reading Flannery O'Connor (another review mentioned that) - like the author is holding up a veil and you only get to see a glimpse, maybe a clear one, but there's other stuff going on and you're too dumb or illiterate to catch it all. Still, thought provoking, as well as vocabulary...more
Mel Raschke
Interesting. Sodium is being put into the water to control prisoners. Eventually it is put into the local town's water. People start doing some strange behavior.
Joe Walls
I've never seen dialogue like this. It's so smart--so full of subtext--and funny at the same time. Dr. More, the protagonist, tells the story, adding ample details and freely giving his guesses about people and their intentions. But in his interactions with other characters, he keeps his mouth shut. He takes abuse from them. When people talk nonsense or start (intentionally) revealing information about their inner selves, he responds with a reserved, "I see." I kept turning page after page, stum...more
Jacob Stubbs
This book was quite funny, had an interesting premise, and offered what one should look for in a Walker Percy novel. The novel discusses whether it is okay to repress "the self" in order to fix societies ills. Instead of going the "Brave New World" or "A ClockWork Orange" route, Mr. Percy uses a more humourous story to discuss this. It was excellent. Great to wake up and read with Charlie Parker and black coffee. The Priest's proof for the existence of God is hilariously thought provoking (see P...more
Ok - good premise not very well executed - at times I felt like it was trying to achieve more humor than it did.
Engaging, disturbing, deep and subtle -- well, what would you expect of WP?
Seriously, 14 chapters in the EPILOGUE???
It was good, but not THAT good.
Nicky Penttila
I envy Percy's way with character -- and his willingness to give as many details to the minor characters as to his major actors. Once you start out with that depth of character and setting, you have to carry it through; so much time and care! Not the tightest plot for a thriller, but the pacing and tension is superb. And even though it was written in the 1980s, the use of technology didn't seem severely out of date. I'll be keeping this one to dive into whenever I need models for character-sketc...more
Percy's last novel is his weakest in my opinion. Funny because it was the first of his books that I read, and I loved it the first time. It got me hooked on him as an author. But it hasn't aged well. There's little of the agonizing searching here that makes The Moviegoer a gem. There's the deep, dark sexual secret, but it was scarier and seemed more personal in Lancelot. In the end, the points it most urgently makes are overt reflections of Catholic dogma, and they just aren't relevent to me.
This was an interesting book, though I am sure I did not fully grasp all of the philosophical attributes. What I did love is how well Percy describes Southeast Louisiana in perfect detail...I could imagine people I knew as I read it. There are some offensive parts in the book, and I was a little shocked by that. Though in the context of the narrative, they are appropriately placed. All in all, it was an interesting and thought-provoking read. I'd love to discuss it with someone, if any of my fri...more
This is probably more of a 3 1/2, but maybe a 3.6, so let's round up.

This book was on my uncle's bookshelf in the room I tended to sleep in at my Grandparents' house, so I guess it's good I finally read it. I'm not sure if it's just much more straightforward than the other of his I've read (The Last Gentleman) or if I am just more perceptive now than I was at 18 (let's hope no less than the latter is true).
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Bayous & Psychotics 2 6 May 14, 2011 12:59PM  
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Walker Percy (1916–1990) was one of the most prominent American writers of the twentieth century. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, he was the oldest of three brothers in an established Southern family that contained both a Civil War hero and a US senator. Acclaimed for his poetic style and moving depictions of the alienation of modern American culture, Percy was the bestselling author of six fiction t...more
More about Walker Percy...
The Moviegoer Love in the Ruins Lancelot The Last Gentleman The Second Coming

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