Set on an Earth on the brink of environmental collapse, this near-future sci-fi novel revolves around an intriguing premise: Those wealthy enough can essentially buy immortality through a procedure involving “cognitive migration”—the ability to transfer a person’s identity (memories, personality, etc.) into another body.
When Ray Mettler, a disgraced but still wealthy entrepreneur obsessed with the possibility of dying, and Marcus Takana, a poor and uneducated young man with a penchant for long-distance running, are approached by a mysterious woman from a secret research organization with a bizarre offer, they both quickly agree. The deal is surprisingly simple—and life-changing—for all parties: Takana agrees to give Mettler his body when the businessman eventually dies in return for unimagined wealth, knowledge and an opportunity to live a fulfilling life; Mettler receives a young, healthy body and a chance to live again. The only qualification is that they can never tell anyone about the pact. At first, both men are more than satisfied with their decision: Takana undergoes a procedure that allows him to avoid aging for as long as he lives; he purchases and implants a MELD chip (a vast database of knowledge) and uses his newfound wisdom to eventually create a new kind of grass that turns the tide on global warming and effectively saves the planet. He falls in love, gets married, has a child and is even named to the prestigious position of minister of discovery of the United Commonwealth of North America. But his terrible secret—that a stranger will soon inhabit his body—begins to wreak havoc on his conscience, and he looks for a way out. Powered by a fiercely intelligent, fluid narrative, well-developed characters and brisk pacing, Moskovitz’s (Carousel Music, 2004, etc.) novel is remarkably strong. That said, there are some highly improbable plot twists, and worldbuilding could stand to be upgraded; references to hover cars and robotic military, for example, greatly enhance the story’s richness. Also, for such a solid start, the conclusion isn’t as powerful as it could be.
The mind-uploading concept may not be new to sci-fi, but this visionary novel nearly hits it out of the park.