Starts off as a bit of a slam-dunk adrenaline powered kill-fest, but
gradually sublimes into a surprisingly delicate work, culminating in the
protagonist--more later--entering the mind of a body taken over by a
zealot, to seek out the original occupant, only to find that they are
happy to cede the body and live out an ephemeral existence with no
physical presence. Deep indeed.
So this is a universe, like Richardʼs other works, in which minds and
souls can be freely transferred between bodies both living and synthesized,
and people effectively live forever. The actual containment of the spirit
is a small module implanted in the neck at the top of the spine, and an
act of extraordinary criminal activity is to kill a body, cut out the
module, and either destroy it, preserve it, or even subject the spirit to
The protagonist is an ex-special operative, who has been put into a body
(‘sleeved’) a couple of hundred years since he last knew consciousness.
And the body he has been given has super-powers, like the ability to climb
walls and survive what would have been fatal accidents. But this has in
fact been done twice, so there are two such operatives and they are put on
missions to eliminate each other. In truth, this duality doesnʼt enter
the story as much as it might, and really ends up being slightly
superfluous, except it keeps the prime protagonist (the renegade one on
the run) having to think ahead of himself.
And the renegade falls in with a bunch of revolutionaries out to overthrow
the excessively rich overlords of a small planet, who hanker after a
long-dead leader who supposedly turns up inhabiting the body of a distant
lover of the protagonist, alluded to above.
And so it is a very rich, subtle and involving story. In truth, as with
all of Richardʼs books that I have read, there are just one or two too
many characters to be able to keep track of, and at times the story line
seems to fall away. But the surreality and sheer imaginative drive keeps
the work going.
And then the grand finale is an adrenaline-packed shoot ʼem up that would
suitably crown any mindless Hollywood production.