SFWRITER.COM > Novels > Mindscan > Typical Passage
by Robert J. Sawyer
Copyright © 2005 by Robert J. Sawyer
All Rights Reserved.
When giving readings at bookstores, I often don't read the opening of a novel;
rather, I look for a typical passage that embodies the flavor and
theme of the book. I find that in a book superstore, where the acoustics
are usually quite lousy, a six- or seven-minute reading is ideal. This is
the passage I often read from Mindscan.
Tomorrow Monday I would go see my mother. As usual,
it was a duty I was not looking forward to. But tonight, a
beautiful autumn Sunday night, should be fun: tonight was a
little party at Rebecca Chong's penthouse. That would be great;
I could use some cheering up.
I took the subway to Rebecca's. Although it wasn't a
weekday, there were still lots of people on the train, and many
of them stared openly at me. Canadians are supposed to be known
for their politeness, but that trait seemed entirely absent just
Even though there were plenty of seats, I decided to stand
for the trip with my back to everyone, making a show of
consulting a map of the subway system. It had grown slowly but
surely since I was a kid, with, most recently, a new line out to
the airport, and an extension of another all the way up to York
Once the train got to Eglinton, I exited and found the
corridor that led to the entrance to Rebecca's building. There,
I presented myself to the concierge, who, to his credit, didn't
bat an eye as he called up to Rebecca's apartment to confirm that
I should be admitted.
I took the elevator up to the top floor, and walked along
the short hallway to Rebecca's door. I stood there for a few
moments, steeling my courage ... literally, I suppose ... and
then knocked on the apartment door. A few moments later, the
door opened, and I was face to face with the lovely Rebecca
Chong. "Hey, Becks," I said. I was about to lean in for our
usual kiss on the lips when she actually stepped back a half
"Oh, my God," said Rebecca. "You my God, you really did
it. You said you were going to, but ..." Rebecca stood there,
mouth agape. For once, I was happy that there was no outward
sign of my inner feelings. Finally, I said, "May I come in?"
"Um, sure," said Rebecca. I stepped into her penthouse
apartment; fabulous views both real and virtual filled her walls.
"Hello, everyone," I said, moving out of the marbled
entryway and onto the berber carpet.
Sabrina Bondarchuk, tall, thin, with hair that I now saw as
the yellow I supposed it always had been, was standing by the
fireplace, a glass of white wine in her hand. She gasped in
I smiled fully aware that it wasn't quite the dimpled
smile they were used to. "Hi, Sabrina," I said.
Sabrina always hugged me when she saw me; she made no move
to do so this time, though, and without some signal from her, I
wasn't going to initiate it.
"It's ... it's amazing," said bald-headed Rudy Ackerman,
another old friend we'd hiked around Eastern Canada and New
England the summer after our first year at U of T. The "it" Rudy
was referring to was my new body.
I tried to make my tone light. "The current state of the
art," I said. "It'll get more lifelike as time goes on, I'm
"It's pretty funky as is, I must say," said Rudy. "So ...
so do you have super strength?"
Rebecca was still looking mortified, but Sabrina imitated a
TV announcer. "He's an upload. She's a vegetarian rabbi. They
I laughed. "No, I've got normal strength. Super strength
is an extra-cost option. But you know me: I'm a lover not a
"It's so ... weird," said Rebecca, at last.
I looked at her, and smiled as warmly as humanly as I
could. "`Weird' is just an anagram of `wired,'" I said, but she
didn't laugh at the joke.
"What's it like?" asked Sabrina.
Had I still been biological, I would, of course, have taken
a deep breath as part of collecting my thoughts. "It's
different," I said. "I'm getting used to it, though. Some of it
is very nice. I don't get headaches anymore at least, I
haven't so far. And that damn pain in my left ankle is gone.
"What?" asked Rudy.
"Well, I feel a little low-res, I guess. There isn't as
much sensory input as there used to be. My vision is fine and
I'm no longer color-blind, although I do have a slight awareness
of the pixels making up the images. But there's no sense of
smell to speak of."
"With Rudy around, that's not such a bad thing," said
Rudy stuck his tongue out at her.
I kept trying to catch Rebecca's eye, but every time I
looked at her, she looked away. I lived for her little touches,
her hand on my forearm, a leg pressing against mine as we sat on
the couch. But the whole evening, she didn't touch me once. She
hardly even looked at me.
"Becks," I said at last, when Rudy had gone to the washroom,
and Sabrina was off freshening her drink. "It is still me, you
"What?" she said, as if she had no idea what I was talking
"Yeah," she said. "Sure."
In day-to-day life, we hardly ever speak names, either our
own or those of others. "It's me," we say when identifying
ourselves on the phone. And, "Look at you!" when greeting
someone. So maybe I was being paranoid. But by the end of the
evening, I couldn't recall anyone, least of all my darling,
darling Rebecca, having called me Jake.
I went home in a pissy mood. My dog growled at me as I
came through the front door, and I growled back.
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