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Past Lives Present Tense (Ace Science Fiction) Mass Market Paperback – November 1, 1999
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
If you could mind-meld with any historical figure, who would it be? Einstein, Shakespeare, Helen of Troy? Somewhere in the near future, a fascinating method is developed to encode a client with all of the memories--indeed, the entire personality--of another person. The characters' selections range from the mundane (Babe Ruth) to the offbeat (Anne Boleyn) to the downright terrifying (Jesus), with varying results. What's surprising is how lightly these people enter into permanent symbiosis with a stranger--marriage seems hardly a commitment at all compared to having someone's entire being hardcoded into your brain!
Reading this book is like walking the same path at different times of day: some plot points repeat like a worker on an assembly line while others, viewed in a different light, suddenly seem more sinister or powerful. Several of the stories seem overly familiar, while some have been sculpted into truly affecting, original tales--most notably those of Margaret Ball, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and Gary A. Braunbeck. While the cadence of the stories becomes lulling at times, there are some magnificent twists and tangents to uncover. A satisfying read, but one can't help wondering what would've happened had the writers been given more leg room. --Jhana Bach
From Publishers Weekly
Having cooked up a way of reconstituting the dead from their DNA to merge them with living humans, Scarborough (The Healer's War) gathered 14 fellow fantasy and SF writers to imagine the consequences. The perennially popular Kristine Kathryn Rusch is among them, as are the prolific Jerry Oltion and the meticulous and writerly R. Garcia y Robertson. There is some lovely prose here. Gary A. Braunbeck's "Who Am a Passer By" abounds with passion and poetry. Carole Nelson Douglas, invoking Florence Nightingale, crafts an interesting composition through clever jump-cuts and ellipses. Scarborough's setup is a fertile one for SF fabulation, and there are three or four different approaches represented here, stylistically (e.g., monologues by one or both symbionts or the viewpoint of an interested third party) and thematically (e.g., the procedure as therapy or as a selfish plot). The conceit becomes a bit tedious by the ninth or 10th application, though. Several of the stories end abruptly in predictable moralisms, the conclusions logical but emotionally undeserved. Most are marred to some degree by awkward floods of facts that derail the narrative or violate the believability of the character; perhaps this is due to the preponderance of historical themes, requiring elucidations of actual circumstances. For the many SF fans more interested in ideas than in stylistic virtues, this will be no obstacle to the book's enjoyment. (Nov.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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A scientist discovers how to extract memories from genetic material. He becomes Dr. Chimera - a blend of himself and his beloved wife. An inventor hosts Leonardo da Vinci and finds there is more to life than inventing. A mother gets more than she bargained for when she melds an explorer with her comatose daughter.
A variety of authors from the science fiction, fantasy and mystery genres tackle this premise of experiencing the memories of another and a very satisfying anthology is born.