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I used to read science fiction books by the bagful from the 1960s through the 1980s, at which point I stopped for reasons not pertinent here. I still will pick up one occasionally --- usually with the name “Blake Crouch” on the spine --- but for the most part, I breeze past the genre except for the annual “Best of” short story collections. Accordingly, I have been wanting something like ANYONE for a while now. This is Charles Soule’s second novel (after THE ORACLE YEAR), and while one never knows, I predict that it is destined to be described with a host of superlatives by anyone who reads it.

The narrative alternates between the present and a future that is roughly a quarter-century from now. In the present, a struggling scientist named Gabrielle White is attempting to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease when she accidentally discovers a method that transfers one’s consciousness into the body of another. Almost immediately she begins to realize the possibilities, good and otherwise, that might result if and when this discovery and technology are unleashed upon the world.

"ANYONE is as wild a ride as you are likely to read this year. It rings all the right bells and chills in all the right places."

Unfortunately, Gray Hendricks --- the head of Hendricks Capital, which has been funding Gabrielle’s research (and has the ownership rights sewn up, six ways to Tuesday, to any discoveries she makes) --- is as coldly ruthless as he can be. Gabrielle tries to keep her discovery secret, but to no avail. Gray is just as quick to see its potential, so much so that he wants her research to continue under his ownership. He is prepared to do anything it takes to make sure that happens and demonstrates he will do just that.

Meanwhile, the timeline of the book’s future track proceeds apace. It is obvious that Gabrielle’s discovery --- known as “flash” and controlled by a company named NeOnet Global, but generally referred to as “Anyone” --- has changed everything. Flash enables a “traveler” to transfer his or her consciousness to the body of a “vessel” anywhere in the world and, in some cases, beyond. It is all paid for, registered and legal, with each session taking place for a specified and limited period. There are all sorts of questions attached to this, such as what happens to the consciousness of the vessel while their body is being inhabited, but everyone is pretty much caught up in the experience of Anyone’s marketing tagline: “Be anyone with Anyone.”

Naturally, there is an illegal market for flash, which is called “darkshare” and allows off-market vessels to rent out their bodies for anything from murder to kinky sex to anonymous travelers with no questions asked. In the middle of this new world, a woman named Annami is pursuing a desperate and possibly crazy plan of revenge against the whole system. We slowly learn (and maybe eventually guess) who Annami is, why she is doing what she is doing, and how far she is willing to go.

ANYONE is as wild a ride as you are likely to read this year. It rings all the right bells and chills in all the right places. What particularly struck me --- your results may differ, but I doubt it --- is how much I really wanted to see flash come to fruition in my lifetime and experience it (though, as presented here, I would be a “dull,” or too old to legally do so). That desire lasted right up to the last couple of pages, where I irrevocably changed my mind. See what you think.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 5, 2019

by Charles Soule