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Join by Steve Toutonghi

Join (edition 2017)

by Steve Toutonghi (Author)

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915195,062 (3.53)5
Authors:Steve Toutonghi (Author)
Info:Soho Press (2017), Edition: Reprint, 336 pages
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Join by Steve Toutonghi


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The concept of this work is fascinating, and there's no doubt that this is what sucks readers in and pushes them forward beyond some of the beginning's confusion--because, really, there is a fair bit of a learning curve involved in jumping into this world and getting comfortable with it, to the extent that one can. But that said, the ideas and the interplay between characters is more than enough of a pay-off for that confusion, and in the end, I have to say I'm really glad to have stumbled onto this book. I think the only disappointment I have here is that the book really started to gain inertia once I got past the confusion and became more comfortable with the things worked and who the characters were, but not long after that, such levels of intrigue got introduced that, once again, it wasn't easy to try to keep track of what was going on--and really, I'm not sure I did at all times. Without doubt, this is one of those books that nearly demands a re-read.

The other caveat here is that a reader has to work a bit to follow everything--ideally, this is probably one of those books that's best read in 2-4 long sittings, rather than a few chapters per day. Though the chapters are often very short, and may give the impression at a glance that this could be read in bits and pieces, I'm not sure a reader has any chance of keeping track of the characters without reading it quickly and in large chunks.

All in all, the concept and promise of this book were well-delivered on, and I'll absolutely be looking to see what else Toutonghi puts out. I have a suspicion that this book could easily have been two books, and been a bit stronger and less confusing, so I'm hoping that his next book will be a bit less rushed. Regardless, I feel sure it will be worth the time. As to whether or not I'll re-read this one, I'm not sure. I'd like to have a firmer feel of the world and the way things played out, but without more connection to the characters, I'm not sure I'll be drawn to. Perhaps if there's a sequel?

For now, I can certainly recommend this to readers who want high-concept sci-fi. It's worth the effort. ( )
  whitewavedarling | Nov 15, 2017 |
A fascinating read, but I must say that the full premise of joining multiple people into one remained the core attraction. The plot never really got a hold on me. Also, keeping track of who is who (if you can even say so) never got natural, I kept having to consciously think back who Chance Five was again.

But the core idea is a huge one and this alone made it definitely worthwhile to read. All of the philosophical implications about life and death, personhood, society, nationhood were thought through very well and I really enjoyed following the author in his explorations. ( )
  teunduynstee | Sep 4, 2017 |
I won a signed copy in a GOODREADS giveaway -- Ok... this story was very jumbled as it kept jumping back & forth between the different lives/drives. I freely admit I got lost several times. I will have to re-read this again later and see how I feel about it a second time around. The story premise was intriguing, it had interesting characters, and lots of mini-plots: some without resolution, like real life, I suppose. ( )
  tenamouse67 | Jul 23, 2017 |
Join has a big intriguing concept and leads you to ponder large philosophical questions. I was thoroughly drawn in and found Join very hard to put down.

TIP: If you have trouble tracking the many characters, keep going! It became much easier quickly. Or, make a list.

Join is superbly intelligent in its construction. For example, pay attention to what’s happening when the author uses the Join name (e.g. Chance) vs. the drive name (e.g. Chance One, Chance Five, etc.) I don’t believe there were any wasted words or meaningless elements to the story. I believe I will get even more out of it when I reread it – perhaps in a few months.

I want more! Whether a sequel, a prequel, or even a series of short stories exploring the big questions, the different characters and Joins, and the interactions between factions. So much already explored, and still so much more potential. ( )
2 vote jbizroe | Apr 26, 2016 |
Quirky and thought-provoking, with a darkly humorous streak.

(Full disclosure: I received a free ebook for review though Edelweiss. Trigger warning for offensive language.)

"That kind of intimacy among drives is mocked by solos. Before most solo resentment hardened into religious resistance, there was a famous sketch comedy show, Howard, Howard, Howard, Howard, Howard, Howard, and Howard, that parodied the closeness. The seven Howards would stand in a circle, five men and two women, picking one another’s noses."

“'In the beginning,' Rope Three says, 'when Join was first introduced, and for a long time after, I assumed we’d all join. That we’d all become one single individual. Can you imagine that? No more other.'"

Set in a distant (?) future that's both inconceivable and all-too-familiar, Join takes the "soul mate" concept to the next level through its innovative "join" technology. Individuals - the vast majority of whom have already had their brains hacked into and connected to the biowave network via implants called "caddys" - can choose to join with one another, creating a single consciousness that lives on even after the death of a member ("drive"). Joins often start out as pairs - i.e., married couples - who later join with younger "honeymooner" couples. As the various drives work and save for additional licensing fees, the join can continue to accumulate more drives, whether they choose to merge with existing joins or court more desirable "solos."

However, twenty is the upper limit for joins; after this, the competing perspectives can cause disorders in the join, such as the rare but terrifying meme virus. Likewise, the join must be consensual throughout the procedure and recovery/integration period; if one of or more the drives changes her mind, it could cause a "flip" - a progressive and fatal disorder.

Chance is a join with five drives - the newest of which has just been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Though Javier Quispe will survive the death of his body - thanks to his join with Chance - as a recent solo, the prospect still scares him. Meanwhile, Chance's best friend Leap is exhibiting alarming symptoms: mainly, violent tics of which she seems unaware and vehemently denies after the fact. Given that Chance Two and Leap Two pilot long-haul freighter ships together, this breakdown is no small concern.

Chance and Leap's fates become inexorably intertwined after a chance (haha!) meeting with Rope, a mysterious and sullen join who seems to have more drives than allowed by the Directorate. Drives that he murders, one by one. Yet Rope might just know of a cure for Leap. The pair's journey to find it will take them far away from their home in New Denver, to an underground society of "ferals" in Arcadia.

Join is an imaginative and unusual book, with a deliciously morbid sense of humor; it falls smack dab in my wheelhouse (scifi) but still feels fresh and new. While Chance is the MC, the join technology is really the star; its many implications and possibilities are enough to keep your head spinning for days: What happens when parents join with their children? Can a single consciousness safely house both a victim and her abuser? Does Join devalue human life by rendering individuals expendable? Wouldn't Join just exacerbate inequality and poverty by allowing the rich and powerful to join with each other, thus concentrating their resources? How might the justice system penalize joins who break the law? What impact might this have on our planet, when those in power view everything as temporary and transcendent?

Because of this, I would've preferred that Toutonghi focused primarily on the tech and its personal ramifications for Chance and (especially) Leap, rather than launching into a more macro conspiracy plot involving the sinister Directorate (formed by a join of sorts between the US government and Vitalcorp, the company behind Join). Consequently, it sometimes feels as though the story's all over the place.

It's clear that Toutonghi is trying to make some Larger Points - about the nature of the self, the malleability of identity, and the necessity of mortality - but he often falls just short of the mark. He doesn't do himself any favors by writing in the present tense, and his tone sometimes feels a little cold and clinical (maybe it's all the tangents). Also, the naming scheme can make it terribly difficult to keep the myriad characters straight.

Even so, Join is still a page-turner that I'm likely to be thinking about for days and weeks to come. 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 stars where necessary.

http://www.easyvegan.info/2016/04/18/join-by-steve-toutonghi/ ( )
3 vote smiteme | Jan 1, 2016 |
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To Monique. Join me for a story.
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From one of his five childhoods, Chance remembers his bare feet, wet and shining on the flat white surface just beneath a thin layer of water.
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Book description
What does it mean to be human, and what happens when humanity takes the next step in its evolution?

When Join arrived, it was hailed as a miracle: a technology that allowed humans to join consciousnesses. To experience perfect, constant companionship through multiple bodies. To never die.

But Chance and Leap—two joins of five and four respectively—discover a terrifying malfunction in the technology.

Chance and Leap must journey into the climate change–ruined heart of North America and the communities of never-joined “ferals” in search of the only ones who can dismantle the technology: the ones who created it.
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"What if you could live multiple lives simultaneously, have constant, perfect companionship, and never die? That's the promise of Join, a revolutionary technology that allows small groups of minds to unite, forming a single consciousness that experiences the world through multiple bodies. But as two best friends discover, the light of that miracle may be blinding the world to its horrors. Chance and Leap are jolted out of their professional routines by a terrifying stranger--a remorseless killer who freely manipulates the networks that regulate life in the post-Join world. Their quest for answers--and survival--brings them from the networks and spire communities they've known to the scarred heart of an environmentally ravaged North American continent and an underground community of the "ferals" left behind by the rush of technology. In the storytelling tradition of classic speculative fiction from writers like David Mitchell and Michael Chabon, Join offers a pulse-pounding story that poses the largest possible questions: How long can human life be sustained on our planet in the face of environmental catastrophe? What does it mean to be human, and what happens when humanity takes the next step in its evolution? If the individual mind becomes obsolete, what have we lost and gained, and what is still worth fighting for?"--… (more)

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