Book Review: The Multiplex Man by James P. Hogan

I read James P. Hogan’s Inherit the Stars in high school or early college, and I was easily smitten with his version of speculative science fiction mysteries. So when I hit Downtown Books in Milwaukee last week, I looked for an author with whom I was familiar, and I found James P. Hogan and The Multiplex Man. I started reading it that night, and I have finished it a little more than a week later. The elapsed time counter reflects the nature of the new job and all that rather than the nature of the book.

The Multiplex Man starts out on a good paranoid fiction note: A middle school (well, they call it “junior high” in Minnesota where the novel takes place) teacher Dick Jarrow has a normal day, with a normal visit to his experimental psychotherapist. He, Dick Jarrow, wakes up in a different body in the Atlanta Hyatt some months later and he’s got to figure out what happened. And why the authorities claimed he died.

The world in which this story is set reflects a dystopian future of the United States. It, and its allies, have been yoked by environmentalist concerns into rationing and authoritarianism. On the other hand, the newly-liberated East is known as the “Wild East” because its liberal, laissez-faire policies are not centrally planned. It’s a spooky projection that reflects what conservatives and isolationists fear most, and it’s odd because James P. Hogan published this in 1992. He wrote it before Kyoto and before Kofi.

I loved this book, and would recommend it if you’ve got a couple nights open in your schedule, or if you’ve got a book club with whom you want to discuss materialism and the nature of the human soul as reviewed through the prism of science fiction. Or, even if you don’t have a book club and just want to engage me in a discussion of the same over a couple of yummy Guinness Draughts.

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