A Superior Spectre by Angela Meyer

‘I am conjuring the past, while she is beginning to see the future.’

At some time in the future, Jeff is dying. Burdened with the baggage of his memories, Jeff flees Australia for Scotland. He has a piece of experimental technology, a device that will enable him to enter someone else’s mind through digitised neural experience (DNE). It’s a technology that has not yet been successfully trialled, and Jeff has been advised to only use it three times. It’s advice that Jeff plans to ignore.

Leonora is a young woman living in the Scottish Highlands in the late 1860s. She is busy and happy at home when her life changes forever. Leonora’s father sends her to stay with her aunt in Edinburgh. But her new life becomes unbearable as Jeff connects to her mind and gives her glimpses of a future that she cannot begin to understand.

There’s more to the story than this. Imagine a world where it’s possible for one individual to invade the mind of another. A world in which the invading individual has no scruples, no care for the person whose mind is being invaded. Imagine how terrifying it would be to see glimpses of a future you don’t understand and to experience longings which are abhorrent to you. Imagine two people trying to control one mind. If you don’t want to imagine this, or at least entertain the possibility that it is imaginable, them you may not wish to read this novel.

I kept reading, sickened by Jeff and his actions, by his disregard for others. I kept reading, saddened by what was happening to Leonora and by the perceptions of those around her. I kept reading, wondering about possibility and about ethics.

I finished the novel, disturbed in part by what I’d read but in awe of the way in which Ms Meyer developed the story. I wondered how many people like Jeff there might be:

‘Or perhaps I will just destroy this. Take no responsibility. Life is chaos; people are all the time causing minute fluctuations which will change history’s path.’

How does it end? You’ll need to read it for yourself.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster (Australia) for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

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