The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

In 2022, a memory-destroying plague stalks humanity. Previous Life Access Surgery (PLAS) allows recovery of memories of former lives. After such operations, Caroline Bohentine, Joe McLaren, and Robbie Brekke seek information, through the reincarnation database, on their past-life ties. Robbie shows close links with virtually everyone who has undergone the surgery. While Caroline and Joe face personal tragedies, violent flashbacks seize Robbie. On a hallucinatory quest in Wyoming, he lapses into unending replay of others’ memories. These bring insights into his role as a central “memory node” in the evolving oversoul.

Caroline, Joe, and Robbie seek PLAS for different reasons. Caroline, a survivor of incest and two failed marriages, hopes to discover versions of herself that she prefers to the current one. Joe, a sober attorney, wants to be cured of his multiple sclerosis; the cure is an unexplained side effect of the operation. An underworld boss sends Robbie for the surgery.

Caroline and Joe are suspicious of Robbie’s facile charm, but in the clinic’s hothouse atmosphere, the three find themselves drawn together. Some reasons are revealed in memory flashes. Robbie was Caroline’s son in a previous life, and Joe, as boss in a Chinese porcelain factory, once ordered Robbie’s execution for careless work. These discoveries add guilt to the interpersonal dynamics.

A bomb explodes at the home sheltering Caroline’s young...

(The entire section is 517 words.)