Soule Creates A Narrative that, Although Interesting, Lacks Soul
“What she had here might not be an error. Not a lab accident. Not a tragic mistake.
It might be an invention.”
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published December 3rd 2019 by Harper Perennial
Charles Soule brings his signature knowledge—and wariness–of technology to his sophomore novel set in a realistic future about a brilliant female scientist who creates a technology that allows for the transfer of human consciousness between bodies, and the transformations this process wreaks upon the world.
Inside a barn in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a scientist searching for an Alzheimer’s cure throws a switch—and finds herself mysteriously transported into her husband’s body. What begins as a botched experiment will change her life—and the world—forever…
Over two decades later, all across the planet, “flash” technology allows individuals the ability to transfer their consciousness into other bodies for specified periods, paid, registered and legal. Society has been utterly transformed by the process, from travel to warfare to entertainment; “Be anyone with Anyone” the tagline of the company offering this ultimate out-of-body experience. But beyond the reach of the law and government regulators is a sordid black market called the darkshare, where desperate “vessels” anonymously rent out their bodies, no questions asked for any purpose – sex, drugs, crime… or worse.
Anyone masterfully interweaves the present-day story of the discovery and development of the flash with the gritty tale of one woman’s crusade to put an end to the darkness it has brought to the world twenty-five years after its creation. Like Blade Runner crossed with Get Out, Charles Soule’s thought-provoking work of speculative fiction takes us to a world where identity, morality, and technology collide.
I truly enjoyed The Oracle Year, Charles Soule debut novel that dealt with tech and the future. That is why I was so stoked to get my hands on a copy of Anyone. It was one of my most anticipated reads for 2019. Sadly, I did not connect with Anyone.
Anyone is told through multiple and interconnecting narratives. The first narrative takes place in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the lab of Neuroscientist Dr. Gabriella White. White is about to break through to a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. But, instead of finding a cure to Alzheimer’s, she discovers something else, something more powerful and changing for the human race as a species. Anna discovers something that she aptly names The Flash, an ability to remove oneself from your body and transport you to another body. She discovers this by transporting herself into the unsuspecting body of her husband, Paul.
Gabby took a step toward it, but the effort of lifting her foot was so different, so strange, the thud of its impact landing on the floor so new, the way she was used to walking not the way this odd body walked… that she stumbled. She took a second quick step to correct, and her heel slipped in the puddle she had just created.
The other timeline and narrative takes place 25 years into the future. We are introduced to the character Annami. Annami is a woman desperate and willing to trade her body away to earn money. She dark shares. This means she allows her body to be taken over by anonymous people to do anything they want. The price is high, but so are the repercussions for Annami. We start with her character waking from a bloodbath and someone trying to kill her, and she has no idea why.
For most of the novel, the reader has no idea why these two narratives play back and forth. For me, that was one of the significant weaknesses of the story. I did not care about either protagonist in any meaningful way. The characters I thought were more interesting, Paul and Soro, where refrigerated. I had no idea why Soule even introduced these characters if they were going to be treated as used tissue and thrown away. Another detractor, this is a personal thing, I disliked both Anna and Annami. Both of them had this tense desperation about them that was offputting — desperation in the face of intelligent decisions.
She was a cognitive scientist. She had spent her entire professional career thinking about the way people’s behaviors were steered by their conscious and unconscious minds. But even after only ten minutes inside another physical self, it was obvious to her that a great deal of human experience had nothing to do with the brain. It was the body. Each parcel of flesh and its particular configuration of plusses and minuses created a unique reality.
In other words, it wasn’t just the software—it was the hardware, too.
The story itself was cool. Soule does well in writing intense sci-fi/mystery plots. Much like Oracle year, the tech twists in this story were remarkable. It had a very Cryptonomican/Altered Carbon feel to it. But the lack of connection between relatable characters and the fresh plot grated on me. I almost DNF’ed this but kept going because I knew he was going to tie it all together at the end.
In the end, I rated this three stars for a cool story, but my connection and enjoyment stopped there.
I received a copy of this from the Publisher in exchange for my open and honest review.
About The Author
Charles Soule is a Brooklyn, New York-based novelist, comic book writer, musician, and attorney. While he has worked for DC and other publishers, he is best known for writing Daredevil, She-Hulk, Death of Wolverine, and various Star Wars comics from Marvel Comics (Darth Vader, Poe Dameron, Lando and more), and his creator-owned series Curse Words from Image Comics (with Ryan Browne) and Letter 44 from Oni Press (with Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque.)
His first novel, The Oracle Year, about a man who can see the future and way this ability changes the world, will be released in April 2018 by the Harper Perennial imprint of HarperCollins.