Anyone by Charles Soule
Published by Harper Perennial
Released December 3rd, 2019
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Note: I received a free ARC of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects my opinions.
Before discovering this sci-fi novel, Charles Soule was known to me primarily as a comic book writer. I’ve loved many of the series that he’s written for Marvel, so when I found out that he wrote novels, I jumped on the opportunity to review this.
This story follows two timelines: the first, in the near future, when a neuroscientist named Gabrielle White attempts to find a cure for Alzheimer’s and accidentally discovers “the flash,” a way for people to shift their consciousness into someone else’s body; and then approximately thirty years later when a woman named Annami is trying to tell the world that The Flash isn’t quite what they think.
The chapters alternate between the two timeless with the sections of the book separated by editorials and news articles about The Flash. I loved the way the story was told, as Soule was masterful in the way the story unfolded together via the separate timelines. As I neared the end, I found myself becoming excited anytime I found another connection to the character in the other timeline.
I enjoyed reading this book a great deal, and if there ends up being a sequel (the novel ends in such a way that I expect there will be), I’ll read it for sure. That said, however, the novel didn’t blow me away. It fell into that strange category between “that was pretty good” and “awesome!”
The plot of the book intrigued me right away. Who among us hasn’t thought at some point about what it would be like to wake up in a different body, if even for a moment? This book allows the characters to do just that. Instead of having to spend nine hours on a plane for your dream vacation, you can simply Flash into people already there and then come home to your original body. Want to do some crazy shit that you wouldn’t dream of doing in your own body? Use the Flash.
While most of The Flash traffic is tracked and overseen by the company Anyone, there is also a “dark web” of Flash traffic, and that is where we meet Annami. Annami finds herself in need of quick cash and allows her body to be used for illegal shares, never knowing what is being done with her or to her. It’s a world that I wouldn’t mind reading more about.
The reason I couldn’t give this novel a higher rating, though, was that the main conflict of the story felt a little weak to me. Intellectually, I understand the conflict and the protagonists’ motivations, but it was hard for me to feel invested as most of the story was told from the perspectives of Gabrielle and Annami, who are definitely on the same side of the fight. There are one or two brief interludes where we see the story from the perspective of the antagonists, but I feel as though the story would have been more engaging if we knew more about the “villains” of the tale.
The majority of side characters were underdeveloped in favor of all of the good characterization of Gabrielle and Annami. Their characters were well-written and easy for me to become attached to, but their personalities and motivations are very similar. For example, both characters have a very one-track mind and their goals come first before anything else, including family and friends. While there are stark differences in them, the familiarities were so overwhelming that it felt like the entire story was being told from the point of view of one character. I wish we had gotten some deeper characterization of some of the antagonists (see the paragraph above) and side characters, particularly a side character named Jon Corran.
While the ending of the novel was unsatisfying to me, I still enjoyed the book well enough that I would eagerly read a sequel to it, and will definitely be watching the television adaptation once it’s released. The novel is far from perfect, but if you’re a fan of near-future technology-heavy science fiction, my guess is that you will enjoy this book.