Saturday, October 31, 2015

Identity Matrix -- Jack L. Chalker

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Victor Gosner was your average social outcast. He never had many friends and had no real connection to society. He was just some guy camping in the back woods of the Yukon when some government agents and a Native American girl stumbled upon him. Before he knew it, Victor Gosner was that girl, trapped inside of her body. His former body had been taken over by an alien that was residing in the girl’s body. Gosner didn’t know how lucky he was to be alive. Usually, when one of the aliens switched bodies, the old body was killed along with the personality that used to inhabit the new body.

He found out rather quickly, though. He was on the run as a new person, without much money and any sense of a legal identity. He made it to a ferry where he met up with Dorian Tomlinson, a 19-year-old college student. Unfortunately, another encounter with one of those aliens put Victor in Dorian’s body and Dorian in that of the girl. That’s where things start to get complicated.

One of the agents that were initially with the girl, Harry Parch, takes the alien in for questioning. He also takes Victor and Dorian with him. After what happened, he couldn’t really just leave them. He explains that Earth is at war with the Urulu, which is what the alien race calls itself. There’s apparently also another alien race, but Parch has as of yet been unable to actually meet one. (It also has the ability to switch bodies at will.) Dorian and Victor are recruited to help Parch fight against the aliens, whatever they may call themselves.

Parch is in charge of a government project called the IMC. Its their job to find a way to do what the aliens do, which would give Earth an advantage. After a while, Victor and Dorian realize that Parch can’t be trusted. It’s up to Dorian, Victor, one of the aliens, and an old friend of Victor's to stop Parch before we become the enemy.

The book seems to alternate between science fiction and erotica. Victor had always wondered what it would be like to be a woman, and he got his chance to find out. There was also a part of the book where he and Dorian had to be “disposed of” for knowing too much. Since he is now a very attractive woman, he’s reprogrammed to be a stripper. Dorian is sent to a reservation.

Aside from that, it’s a very exciting book. No one can trust anyone, really. Harry Parch is the only character that has immunity, yet there are other reasons not to trust him. He really is the perfect character given his role. He is the lead government agent in charge of the facility; he needs a certain amount of detachment. Many of the characters worked out well. Even the erotic elements can be thought of as a necessary part of the book.

It turns out that there really are two alien races. The other race is called, simply, The Association. The Urulu are thought of as good guys and the Association is thought of as the bad guys. The Association essentially creates hordes of mindless zombies, which take the form of a huge cult on Earth. (It’s actually the result of a few smaller cults coming together.) It’s a little cliche, but it gets the point across.

The trouble is that it’s hard to think of a victory against The Association as a victory. We now have the ability to do what they can. It’s really a matter of what we’ll do with that ability. We’ll either become like the Association or like the Urulu. In the end, will we become a species that we can live with?

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