This week, I’m reviewing Charles Soule’s second novel, Anyone, which I definitely didn’t request solely because the blurb made me pine for Quantum Leap, no way. Ahem. Anyway, this fair and unbiased review was conducted in exchange for a free electronic copy of the book. Enjoy!
This review contains an affiliate link to Bookshop.org, which will earn me a commission if used, and will help to support independent bookshops.
Be anyone with Anyone. That’s the catchy line wheeled out by NeOnet Global, the company affectionately known as Anyone. After a freak accident occurs whilst working on an Alzheimer’s cure, Gabrielle White realises she has invented a technology that could change the world, allowing people to transfer their consciousness to other bodies. The applications are staggering, but it’s not long before we advance 25 years into the future to see the effect the technology and the company that wields it has had on the world. And it’s not what Gabrielle was hoping for.
Whilst it has indeed revolutionised the world, it’s also brought with it a number of problems. The darkshare, for one, where people can rent out their bodies for any illicit purpose that can be imagined. It’s here we first meet Annami, as she undertakes her first darkshare run, coming to in a compromising situation which she – having been merely a vessel for someone renting out her body – has no awareness of whatsoever, her consciousness dormant beneath that of the person who rented her. It’s not long before Annami is on the run, desperately seeking sanctuary and attempting to make sense of her situation. It’s the first of many action-packed scenes, all of which zip along nicely; no surprise, given Soule’s background in comic book writing.
This structure is retained throughout the novel, as we hop back and forth between Gabrielle’s discovery of the technology and Annami’s attempts to put her complex plan in motion and bring those who wronged her to justice. This works well from a pacing perspective, with various dramatic reveals, twists and turns mounting up in both protagonists’ stories. Given the nature of the technology, it can be a little bit of an exercise in mental gymnastics trying to keep in mind exactly who is who. The technology itself is also given a lot of explanation early on, as are the systems which regulate it. Ideally this exposition would be communicated more subtly, through conversations between the characters for example, which might have made it feel a little less intrusive.
That plan of Annami’s is also, as mentioned, rather complex. This complexity isn’t in itself an issue – there might be a lot of variables and moving parts to it, but looked at as a whole it wouldn’t be fair to label it confusing. However, it’s only really in the final third (or even quarter) of the book that we actually get enough insight into the purpose of her plan to discern what it is that she’s actually trying to accomplish. A drip feed of information is fine, but these drips come a little too slowly, and we’re left feeling like we’re in the dark and – presumably unintentionally, but perhaps appropriately – just being carried along for the ride. Whilst this can occasionally frustrate, there are just enough hints and clues dropped that a payoff seems tantalisingly possible.
Sharing the stage with Annami, Gabrielle’s side to this story shows us how the technology came to be, as well as the events that led up to Anyone getting their hands on it. A lot of these sections of the novel have their fair share of tense moments, although not with the same levels of action that Annami’s often do. Gabrielle’s altruistic and optimistic hopes for “the flash” (as the technology comes to be known) are admirable, but this mindset seems at odds with her oft-displayed callous disregard for human life. Reconciling her reckless decision-making with her supposedly noble ideals is at times difficult, and occasionally results in struggling to empathise with her, particularly when she’s doing things that could put her family in harm’s way. She is a likeable character in many respects though, with enough individual quirks to make her feel well-realised and distinctive. Other readers might well find her more endearing.
Anyone is an entertaining thriller, with plenty of thought-provoking ideas. It earnt more than a few appreciative nods as I worked my way through its elaborate plot, and the fast-paced action and breathless desperation of some scenes can’t fail to quicken the pulse. Some exposition-heavy sections suck the wind out of its sails a little, and the moral ambivalence of the protagonists can make them at times difficult to root for, but the core concept is interesting enough that it will no doubt have you planning your own body hopping holiday by its end.
Anyone is published by Hodder & Stoughton, and was released in hardback last year. It’s out in paperback today though, and you can order your copy through this affiliate link.