Book Review: The Multiplex Man, James P. Hogan

I teased this one in my bookaholic post, so I figured I might as well get around to reviewing it. The book is The Multiplex Man, by James P. Hogan. I’m not even sure where I first heard about this one (a libertarian blog somewhere, probably), but I picked it up used from Amazon for a very nice price, so there wasn’t a lot of risk in trying it.

The book describes a time in the not-so-distant future. The Western powers (US and Europe), driven by the environmentalists, have begun to clamp down on capitalism as a waste of resources, while the remnants of the old Soviet Union have embraced unbridled capitalism and are rapidly expanding (even into space). The governments of the West have built up enormous propaganda about the dangers of those capitalist nations to control their own citizens, and the people fear that capitalism in the East will collapse, leading to an attack by the East on the West. Thus, they rule their people through fear of an unlikely enemy.

In this world you find Richard Jarrow, a government history teacher who’s bought the lie— hook, line, and sinker. But one day something strange happens. He goes to the doctor, is put to sleep for some routine tests, and then suddenly wakes up 6 months later, 1000 miles away from his home, in a strange hotel room. And in a different body. Furthermore, he tries to head back to his home, only to find out that Richard Jarrow died a mere month after his last memory. Confused and disoriented, particularly by the fact that he has gained incredible fighting ability, he goes on a search to find out exactly what’s going on. He soon determines exactly whose body he’s inhabiting, and starts to see that there are forces of the Eastern capitalist countries who want to use him to further their own ends. Not to mention that the former fiancee’ of the body he’s inhabiting wants the original inhabitant’s personality back. As he starts down the eventual road to the climax of the story, you see how various personalities inside him all start to meld together and fall apart, and you watch as his own psyche starts shorting out.

To go any farther would give too much of the plot away, so I’m not going to do that. The book itself reminded me of a suspense-thriller much like Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne series. You have a man who isn’t quite sure who he is or why he’s capable of doing what he can do, unsure who to trust and how to survive his situation. It’s a bit more sci-fi than the Bourne series, though, and again to get into the details would give away too much of the plot. Last, for the libertarians in the bunch, it’s certainly got a dystopian vision that is distrustful of state control, sees the government as the enemy, and views unbridled free-market anarchist capitalism as the driving force of prosperity.

As a suspense-thriller novel, it is a bit formulaic at times. You have the protagonist, trying to figure out exactly what is going on in a world that seems to threaten him from every direction. You have the supportive female, who distrusts him at first but grows to push him to his destiny. You’ve got shadowy government figures all around, and you’re never sure which of them is working to help the protagonist and which is not. However, to call it formulaic doesn’t make it a bad book. Hogan throws in twists and turns in places that I hadn’t seen coming, and in general it’s an engaging read.

I’d say that if you’re looking for a new author to check out, and you’re into the suspense-thriller genre, it’s certainly worth a look. If you like the Bourne series from Ludlum, and you’re a libertarian, I think you’ll like this quite a bit. This is a decent novel with libertarian themes, but not to the extent that it beats you over the head with it. As I’ve said with a few other books, this one won’t win any awards, but it’s definitely a nice book to while a few hours away.

  • tarran

    Hogan’s “Voyage from Yesteryear” was the first free-market anarchist book I ever read.

    It’s horribly formulaic and the dialogs are pretty cheesy. Unlike Ayn Rand, he knows how to keep things short, and the explanations of the engineering and physics were magnifique.