The Thanatos Syndrome

  • by Walker Percy
  • Narrated by David Hilder
  • 14 hrs and 23 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

When Dr. Tom More (of Love in the Ruins) is released on parole from state prison, he returns to Feliciana, Louisiana, the parish where he was born and bred, and where he practiced psychiatry before his arrest. Upon arriving, he notices something strange in almost everyone around him: unusual sexual behavior in women patients, a bizarre loss of inhibition, a lack of complexity in speech - even his own wife’s extraordinary success at bridge tournaments, during which her mind seems to function like a computer.
With the ingenious help of his attractive cousin, Dr. Lucy Lipscomb, More begins to uncover a criminal experiment to "improve" people’s behavior by drugging the local water supply. But beyond this scheme are activities so sinister that even Tom More wouldn’t believe them if he hadn’t witnessed them with his own eyes.

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What the Critics Say

"Spins along at a brisk thriller pace, laced with escapes and chase scenes and risky, ingenious detective work." (Gail Godwin, New York Times Book Review)
"What a pleasure it is to read a real novel…The Thanatos Syndrome has the ambition and purposefulness to take on the world, to wrestle with its shortcomings, and to celebrate its glories." (Washington Post Book World)
"He is a dazzlingly gifted novelist…Percy stages a lively medical mystery…that no serious reader will want to miss." (USA Today)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

In the end one must chose--given the chance.

"It is not for me to say whether one should try to be happy -- although it always struck me as an odd pursuit, like trying to be blue-eyed--"
--Walker Percy, The Thanatos Syndrome.

Probably 3.5 stars. Not my favorite Walker Percy, and definitely not the one to start with. It starts with dark humor and absurdism and twists into a creepy weird horror show and slowly wades the reader back out.

I get what Percy was doing here. I really do. I get the metaphor, but ye gads, it wasn't exactly a joyride. There were parts I absolutely adored. So, if you have never read Percy, kick this one down your list. If, however, you have already read The Moviegoer, Love in the Ruins, The Second Coming, sure, yeah, knock your self out. Just look out. It is like eating a 7 Pot Primo pepper. Sucker is going to burn, kick, and sting.

Ultimately, Percy gives away his big point with a flashback from the crazy priest sitting in the watchtower. The mad priest and Dr. Tom More discuss modernism, psychology, and the rise of the Nazi bureaucracy in the early 20th century. The point I think Walker is trying to convey in most of his books is the Modern World, with its technologies, drugs, philosophies, etc., has kind of left us unprotected. Some of those things that seem, from a utilitarian view, to improve our lives will probably end up deadening our existence. The one institution that might be able to warn us, protect us, provide some level of comfort and security after we have been stripped bare by Modernism -- the Church -- is starved, weakened and almost unable to give us the basic rituals and nourishment we need to combat the technocrats, bureaucracies, and wicked forces that latch onto Modernism (I don't think Percy is arguing that Modernism itself is evil, simply that it efficiently plows the ground for evil seeds). Anyway, this is Percy's BIG THEME and he just hits it really hard, over and over, in this book.


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- Darwin8u

Somewhat dated plot

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Not in this form. The reader has obviously never set foot in Louisiana or he would have been able to pronounce Ponchartrain (as in the lake), Tunica and (for God's sake ) New Orleans. His faux southern accent set my teeth on edge and ruined this Walker Percy novel.


What other book might you compare The Thanatos Syndrome to and why?

This book reminded me of several books I have read which focus on environmental tampering by persons wanting to "better" humanity.


Would you be willing to try another one of David Hilder’s performances?

Never, never, never! Note to Mr. Hilder- only in bad movies or on television do people say
"Nawlins" for New Orleans. People from Louisiana doe not say this-ever!!!!


Was The Thanatos Syndrome worth the listening time?

I love Wlaker Percy but will go back to reading rather than listening to his books. Actually this book would have been very good with a reader like Will Patton or Dick Hill.


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- Jan

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-18-2012
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.