For a fee, Eduard Swan will swap bodies with people in distress - those facing surgeries, emotional crises, moments of unpleasantness or discomfort they can't or would rather not deal with. Eduard will experience the suffering for them. It's a lucrative business, and in a world in which no one is required to feel any pain, there is no end of clients. But someone doesn't want to play by the rules. Someone doesn't want to return his body. And, unfortunately for Eduard, that someone is one of the world's most powerful men.
Now Eduard has no choice but to steal back his life. He has the perfect alibi - or so he thinks. For even in a world where you can hopscotch from body to body, you always leave a trail. And following that trail is a relentless dispenser of justice named Daragon, a childhood friend, now a zealous and ambitious agent of state security, who won't let old friendships stand in the way of doing his duty. When Eduard goes on the run, hounded at every turn by Daragon, his only hope is two other childhood friends: Garth, a tormented artist who gains success beyond his wildest dreams, only to discover the terrible price of fame; and Teresa, a spiritual seeker who risks losing her own body to a fanatical religious cult as she embarks on a harrowing quest to find her true identity.
Moving from underground hopscotch pleasure bars to the highest enclaves of power to a seamy underworld of illegal Phantoms (ancient minds who steal younger bodies in a quest for eternal life), Eduard and his friends seek the meaning of identity in a society in which appearances mean everything - and nothing - and where everything is relative... even murder.
Don't tell the science fiction purists but I have a special place in my heart, my bookshelves, and now my Audio Library for the rare "sweet" science fiction stories. Hopscotch is right in there with Asimov's "The Ugly Little Boy", Heinlein's "Have Spacesuit Will Travel", Piper's "Little Fuzzy", and more recent addition, Scalzi's "Fuzzy Nation". (Totally loved that Scalzi really kept the "sweetness" of that story.) Most of the time, the sweet sci-fi isn't a writer's best example of science fiction, but I am just a sucker for an emotionally perceptive story with a techie plot/setting. It seems easier to me to do a sweet story in fantasy or some other genres so the truly touching story with a science/technology backdrop just gets me every time.
Kevin Anderson might have made this story more commercially successful if he rewrote it with more emphasis on the sexual exploration afforded by body swapping - there are some sex scenes, but this isn't erotic sci-fi. Or he could have made it a YA dystopian - make the characters younger and dumber, set up a quadrangle romance instead of a friendship, and amp up the Big Brother oppressive aspect of the BTL. Or he could have easily done it as a fantasy with body swapping being a magical quality that needs no scientific explanation and make COM a more mystical realm of gods and goddesses. But Kevin Anderson ultimately wrote a story that is really about deep and abiding friendship and let technology set the scene and drive the plot. Hopscotch is a sweet sci-fi - heavy on poignant/a little light on science.
The science and technology in Hopscotch is interesting, but it doesn't quite hang together. How many millenia would it take for people to evolve the ability to exchange minds and how would that happen anyway? And by the time that did happen we would surely be way past mere hover cars as transport. Both the technology and the politics/culture of the society in Hopscotch are painted with broad strokes - sketched out more than explained. However, the plotting is fast paced, never a boring moment, and the characters are some of my favorites. All the body swapping and misadventures of that ability aside, at its core, Hopscotch is about true friendship. Three boys and a girl who grow up together in what is essentially a futuristic orphanage and become "family". The challenges to their deep commitment to one another begin immediately upon leaving the orphanage and culminate in the climax of the book to provide a really great touching and satisfying ending to this story.
Although I've read the book several times, I picked up the audio version when it was on sale and found it got to me just the same hearing it as reading it. Jim Meskimen is not bad as the narrator - just doesn't rank up there with my favorite narrators.
If you want hard science sci-fi, skip Hopscotch. If you'd like a good adventure with characters you can really love and root for or if, like me, you can appreciate the occasional "sweet sci-fi", you'll probably enjoy Hopscotch.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
Absolutely. It is one of the books that you listen to over & over again.
What did you like best about this story?
Imagination. The plot was winding and not predictable at all.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
I made it in two.