by D. G. Compton
Review by Glenn Frantz

I've read two novels by British writer D. G. Compton: Synthajoy (1968) and The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe (1974; also published as The Unsleeping Eye). Both novels deal with ethical problems raised by the use of technology to eavesdrop on human emotions. Both emphasize the human rather than the scientific side of the story, and they experiment with the subjective viewpoint of the narrator in a way reminiscent of Philip K. Dick. However, Compton's writing style is more refined than Dick's, which also makes it harder to overlook the implausibility of the technical innovations posited in each novel.

In Synthajoy, a scientist invents a method of recording and playing back (as a direct stimulus) human brainwaves. He markets recordings of aesthetic, mystical, and sexual experiences, and and attempts to synthesize new and more powerful pleasure signals. Tapes of emotions such as guilt and contrition are also used to "rehabilitate" criminals.

When the scientist is murdered, his wife is convicted of the deed and sentenced to the "treatment" her husband invented. The entire story is narrated by the wife, from her confinement in a mental hospital/prison. The writing is dazzling, suggesting cinematic tricks such as voice-overs and cross-fades, resulting in a sort of Kafkaesque mystery novel.

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