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by Jamil Nasir

Pub Date: May 7th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-7653-0611-1
Publisher: Tor

Nasir revisits familiar territory (The Houses of Time, 2008, etc.) in this venture into alternate realities on the etheric plane.

In a future where everything has been privatized and the government has mutated into a sinister embodiment of the military-industrial complex known as USAdmin, private investigator Heathcliff Ransom, “endovoyant,” puts his ability to interpret psychic emanations and roam around on the astral plane to work on behalf of well-heeled clients. Hired to locate the consciousness of comatose, elderly Margaret Biel by her would-be heirs, Heath finds her in Italy, in an etheric world where she’s occupied a new, young and beautiful body. Worse, he watches as she murders her companion only to find that his own consciousness now occupies the dead man’s body—except that he isn’t dead. Then he falls through a terrifying aperture into further adventures, among whose elements are USAdmin, a mysterious organization called Backward and a possible artificial intelligence, Amphibian. Somebody, meanwhile, attacks and kills everybody at Heath’s offices back in Maryland. Then Heath learns how to switch back and forth between himself as Heath and his new body, Michael. Later still, everybody—including Heath/Michael—somehow gets transformed into virtually immortal androids. What? Why? How? Don’t ask—not only is it unclear which reality is which, or how they’re related, but the protagonist deliberately avoids investigating any of the numerous puzzles—in fact he’s not even curious. So why should readers be? Still later, we slide away into crepuscular, quasi-religious metaphysical nebulas.

A futile and self-indulgent exercise in so-whattery.