For a fee, Eduard Swan will swap bodies with people in distress - those facing surgeries, emotional crises, moments of unpleasantness or discomfort they can't or would rather not deal with. Eduard will experience the suffering for them. It's a lucrative business, and in a world in which no one is required to feel any pain, there is no end of clients. But someone doesn't want to play by the rules. Someone doesn't want to return his body. And, unfortunately for Eduard, that someone is one of the world's most powerful men.
Now Eduard has no choice but to steal back his life. He has the perfect alibi - or so he thinks. For even in a world where you can hopscotch from body to body, you always leave a trail. And following that trail is a relentless dispenser of justice named Daragon, a childhood friend, now a zealous and ambitious agent of state security, who won't let old friendships stand in the way of doing his duty. When Eduard goes on the run, hounded at every turn by Daragon, his only hope is two other childhood friends: Garth, a tormented artist who gains success beyond his wildest dreams, only to discover the terrible price of fame; and Teresa, a spiritual seeker who risks losing her own body to a fanatical religious cult as she embarks on a harrowing quest to find her true identity.
Moving from underground hopscotch pleasure bars to the highest enclaves of power to a seamy underworld of illegal Phantoms (ancient minds who steal younger bodies in a quest for eternal life), Eduard and his friends seek the meaning of identity in a society in which appearances mean everything - and nothing - and where everything is relative... even murder.
"Anderson delivers a taut, imaginative tale of sf action and intrigue that blends a noir atmosphere with personal heroism and courage." (Library Journal)
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