Once more unto the breach we go.
When people hear the name Kevin J. Anderson, about the last thing they think of is an underappreciated or underrated author. And for good reason. He’s been wildly successful in his career. But he also has a black sheep of sorts floating around, and I think it’s one worth a much closer look.
This is Hopscotch.
Originally published in 2002, and republished by Kevin J. Anderson’s own publishing house (Wordfire Press) in 2013. And it is the very first Anderson book I ever read. In fact, I would say that reading this book had an impact on me (I originally read this in sixth grade.) and my writing that goes pretty deep. Sure, it’s science fiction, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be time for drug use, drinking, tortured artists, and lots of sex.
In fact, in reality, those are probably where a lot of our scientific advancements will go instead of, I don’t know, faster than light travel. Kind of just the way of the world.
Spoilers Start Here
Now, this is the story of four people, in a world where body swapping is not only possible, but exceedingly common. People swap consciousness back and forth more often than I change clothes. Three of our four main characters have this ability: Garth, who’s a talented artist, Teresa, who’s looking for the answers to life’s great mysteries, and Eduard, who has turned body-swapping into a business. Don’t want the flu? Live in my body for a couple weeks. Going through surgery? Take my body to the Bahamas.
Needless to say, Eduard is the one who ends up in a problematic situation, needing the Bureau of Tracing and Locations to step in when someone refuses to give his body back (The BTL is a necessary part of this kind of world. They can track who’s actually in which body.). And this is where we see character four, Daragon. These four were orphans in a monastery together. But while the other three were normal and could hop minds around willy-nilly, Daragon was the freak who couldn’t. Instead, he was able to tell who’s mind he was dealing with, no matter which body it moved into. Hopscotching didn’t trick him at all… which of course meant he was immediately sniped up to work in the BTL.
The plot of Hopscotch is… well… which one? There are four plots, and rather than focusing on one main one, Anderson allows them all room to breathe, and one of them will almost certainly speak to any given reader. Which is risky… but kind of brilliant. It’s a move that led critics to sort of pan the book, and they are certainly allowed their opinions. Everyone is. My opinion is that, by leaving room around the plots like that, I not only got the story that grabbed me hardest of all—Garth, the artist who swaps bodies so his can rest while his mind continues to work on the collection—but I got three other very interesting plot lines that gave me room to take a break.
Spoilers End Here
Kevin J. Anderson is a true fixture in the science fiction community. And clearly not just because he shows up at conferences all the time (Seriously, though. All. The. Time. Even in little old middle of nowhere Eastern Washington where I live. There he is.). He’s written over 120 books, including Star Wars EU (Excuse me, Star Wars Legends, thank you so much Disney…), X-Files companions, Dune prequels, and dozens of his own books. Yet somehow, when Hopscotch is brought up… crickets.
And hopefully, I can be a little part of the movement to change that. Because, really and truly, the book is brilliant.