Audiobook Review: Anyone by Charles Soule
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: HarperAudio (December 3, 2019)
Length: 14 hrs and 1 min
Narrator: Emily Woo Zeller
Having very much enjoyed Charles Soule’s debut The Oracle Year, I simply could not wait to get my hands on his new novel, and I’m pleased to say I was impressed once again. Not only that, it appears he has outdone himself by writing something even more unique and mind-blowing, if you can believe it. Ratcheting up the excitement and knuckle-blanching action, Anyone is a relentless sci-fi thriller that would also make any fan of Blake Crouch or Black Mirror feel right at home.
Told through multiple timelines, the story first takes us inside a barn in Ann Arbor, Michigan where brilliant neuroscientist Dr. Gabriella White is on the verge of a breakthrough in her Alzheimer’s research project. Unfortunately, her funding is also about to run out, leading Gabby to throw caution to the wind and risk it all in an act of desperation. To her horror, after experimenting with her equipment in a way she’s never had before, she finds her mind mysteriously transported into the body of her husband Paul. And thus, “flash technology” was born, a process which allows an individual to transfer their consciousness into another person’s body, a process which would change the world forever—for of course, no discovery this big can stay buried for long.
In fact, its effects could be seen right away, as another timeline of the story takes us twenty-five years into the future and use of flash technology is rampant. Gabby’s original vision for her invention, which was to help society heal divides and increase equal opportunity, has largely been lost. Now anyone with enough money can rent a body for however long and whatever reason, and anything the law won’t allow can be circumvented in the thriving black market called the darkshare. So long as there’s demand, there is certainly no shortage of people offering up themselves as vessels for someone else’s “out of body” experience.
One of these individuals is named Annami, a young woman who is willing to risk the darkshare if it means making money quickly. Everyone knows flash technology can be dangerous if you allow someone you don’t know to use your body. When a person flashes their mind into someone else, their own body lies in a dormant state. The person’s whose body is being occupied, on the other hand, their consciousness goes somewhere in limbo, in a process no one can really explain. Once they return to themselves, they have no recollection of the entire period their body was being occupied. Sadly, Annami learns this the hard way, when following her darkshare experience she awakens to the scene of a bloodbath, with no idea what her body had been used for.
At first, it’s anyone’s guess what these two timelines have to do with each other. Gabby’s thread mainly deals with the origin of flash technology, and as you can imagine, that’s one journey fraught with peril and suspense. Not only is Gabby bewildered by her own invention, struggling to understand it through haphazard experimentation, she also gets in trouble with some powerful people by borrowing more money than she can pay back. I enjoyed her storyline so much, it was almost irritating the way the narrative kept bouncing back and forth between the present and the future, when all I wanted was to find out more about Gabby. Don’t get me wrong; Annami’s story was intriguing too in its own way, mainly because we got to see how life in the future has altered by flash technology. Not too surprisingly, there’s a lot of misuse and corruption, and Ammani’s world reminded very much of a Blade Runner style dystopian.
Still, the complete lack of connection between the two timelines grated on my nerves—at least at first. But as the plot developed, as both threads starting coming together to form a bigger picture, that was when the real fun was unleashed. And that’s the genius behind this novel. It takes a bit of patience and commitment, but if you’re willing to give it the time it needs and watch it unfold, it will reward you in a big way. Even when you’re on alert for clues and you think you know where the story is going, you might be surprised. This one is full of unexpected twists and turns, and so much of what you read will floor you with its sheer imagination and creativity.
Speaking of which, flash technology can be a bit confusing to grasp, and that might be my point of criticism. Much like in The Oracle Year, the concept behind of Anyone relies on the reader to suspend their disbelief and not ask too many questions, working best as “what-if” novel. If what you want are explanations based on hard science, this probably won’t be for you, but if you’re looking for a suspenseful, fast-paced sci-fi thriller with a unique and innovative premise, I think you’ll find this one will bend your brain nicely and get your pulse racing.
Audiobook Comments: It seems like every other book I listen to these days is narrated by Emily Woo Zeller, but I’m certainly not complaining! I loved her voices for all the characters (especially since there was so much body swapping), and it was impressive the way she switched between Gabby and Annami’s parts, making the transitions seem smooth and natural. I’ll always be a big fan of her work, and I thought her performance in the Anyone audiobook was fantastic as always.