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    HOPSCOTCH by Kevin J. Anderson (see his website)

    Bantam Books, February 2002

    In the not-too-distant future, humans have developed the ability to switch bodies with one another. Since the opportunities for crime are immense where a criminal can simply use another's body, law enforcement has taken on a powerful role and the BTL is a much feared organization. In an orphanage run by monks, three of four friends learn to experience body shifting. One, however, is incapable of shifting bodies but has the unique ability to see the true identity of a person no matter what body she may be wearing. One of the friends, Eduard, takes on jobs switching bodies for money. When one body switch goes horribly wrong, the four friends become caught in a battle between friendship and the law.

    Author Kevin J. Anderson's (see more reviews of novels by this author) concepts of human ability to shift bodies (hopscotch), as well as that of the semi-sentient computer/human web that monitors all activities, are both interesting and well presented. Anderson's talented writing keeps the reader involved in the story and willing to suspend disbelief. The characters' lack of real motivation, however, undermines the story. Eduard recognizes the futility of proving his innocence and doesn't even try to do so. Garth achieves success as an artist and doesn't know what to do next (although Anderson's descriptions of Garth's frustration with his success and his need to achieve more ring true). Daragon serves to hunt down Eduard, yet doesn't seem especially motivated beyond this. Even Teresa, separated from her body by a brutal cult leader, meanders through much of this novel.

    Anderson's writing, and his development of the idea of body-shifting are both capable enough to make HOPSCOTCH enjoyable reading. I found myself wishing that he had done more with his talent and with the basic premise.

    Two Stars

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