It seems every new generation gets to witness at least one incredible technological advancement. Something as transformative as the internet or as wondrous as the telephone often redefines life as we know it forever. In Anyone, comics writer-turned-sci-fi scribe Charles Soule builds a world around a similarly staggering invention, but it’s his interest in the people who create it, use it and profit from it that captivates the reader. If you could transfer consciousness to another body, would you be ready for the consequences?
Gabrielle White, a brilliant and determined researcher, is at the end of her rope. Out of funding and losing confidence, she has one last chance to prove that her work to cure Alzheimer’s disease hasn’t gone to waste. When she flips the switch on the laser array in her backyard laboratory, something miraculous happens. For an hour or so, she transfers her consciousness into her husband Paul’s body and back again. Knowing that her financial backers would kill for this technology, Gabby must find a way to keep it a secret while she figures out how to reveal it to the world and ensure that it’s hers.
Twenty-five years later, the introduction of “flashing” has changed the course of world history. Annami is a secretive loner with a chip on her shoulder. By day, she’s a brilliant engineer at Anyone, the company that oversees consciousness transfer worldwide. By night, she moonlights as a dark share, lending her body as a vessel for criminals to take over for a fee. When a dark share deal goes bad and she loses everything, she takes matters into her own hands to fight the evil that flashing has brought to the world.
It is impossible to write about Anyone without first acknowledging the depth of thought and structure Soule has put into flash technology and its potential impact on the world. In chapters written from Annami’s point of view, small details reveal how consciousness transfer affects international relations, sex workers, criminal operations, military aid and more. However, flashing takes a personal toll on everyone in the story. Annami and the characters she interacts with are all direct victims of Gabby’s invention, and Soule’s Blade Runner-inspired cityscape is full of fascinating, often broken people searching for answers.
This gritty future is especially interesting when compared to Gabby’s chapters, which juxtapose perfectly against Annami’s. While Gabby by no means has an easy time of it (some of the troubles she runs into during flash technology’s infancy are gut-wrenching), the promise of a new future that will be better for millions contrasts beautifully with the actual future, where we see that even the purest intentions can be warped into pain and suffering.
In today’s world, we are given glimpses of possible futures impacted by vast technological advancements. But we don’t often consider the costs that might come with those futures. If we really could be anyone, would we want to?