Charles Coule’s brilliant second novel, “Anyone,” presents us with a wonderful and terrible proposition: how would you like to be able to enter someone’s — anyone else’s — body? That proposition, that profound question, is the crux of the issues created by Soule and the crux of the problems experienced by his protagonist, Gabrielle White.
She is the accidental inventor of the Flash, the set of instruments, devices and procedures which makes possible the nearly unthinkable and incomprehensible reality of the consciousness of one person entering the body of another. She is searching desperately for a cure to Alzheimer’s, but instead, she somehow — to her surprise and temporary delight — creates the Flash and dreams of the wonders it may provide to the world. Just imagine: if “he” enters “her” body (temporarily leaving an empty dead-ish shell of the body of the person who has entered her body), and this person enters that one’s body, and that one enters this one’s, soon everyone will be truly equal — rich will be able to experience poverty, impoverished will be able to experience wealth, high will be low, plain will become beautiful, and everyone will therefore become equal, or at least somehow equalized. She imagines this set of conditions as a world-changing phenomenon that could provide everyone a better understanding of the human condition.
But Gabrielle’s dreams, it seems, will not come to fruition. The entire process is stolen from her; the Flash falls into the hands of a power-hungry, greedy, and entirely evil businessman; Gabrielle falls into his clutches and becomes his prisoner.
“Flash” to the world a few years later. That world is now virtually upside-down. Businesses are destroyed, human beings are left as shells, the rich use the Flash as their personal playthings. Want to take a trip to Costa Rica? Just enter the body of a Costa Rican. Airlines out of business. The poor become Flash prostitutes, using their bodies as vessels for those who want to use another body for purposes of entertainment — or criminal activities.
The Flash company that rules the world calls itself Anyone. Its motto is, “Be anyone with Anyone.” And as Soule’s world of Anyone becomes a complex of confusing doubles in which nobody knows who anybody else really is, he introduces us to a new protagonist, Annami, a beautiful young woman who is a Flash expert, willing to use her body as a vessel for an underground, illegal flash business in order to quickly raise the money to destroy Anyone and perhaps everyone who uses the Flash as a vehicle for domination and the amoral destruction of anyone or anything that gets in their way.
“Anyone” is science fiction with no starships, no flying cars, no magic, no superheroes. There is only the Flash and everything it does and everything it stands for — the horror of unlimited power, the beauty of dreams of true equality, the struggle for justice, the all-too-willing vulnerability of the human psyche, the potential of science to change the world. No thoughtful reader should miss this novel. (Review by JK)
Also by this author, “The Oracle Year.” Just as fascinating!
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Harper Perennial, the publisher, for review purposes.