In Igor Martek’s slim volume, Three Lives of Henry Musselwhite, a disembodied man samples three diverse lives.
Sometime in the future, humanity has learned how to extend life indefinitely for selected individuals. Although the physical senses (taste, touch, sight, hearing, smell) no longer exist for these voyagers, they retain their ability to reason, feel emotion, and recall memories.
Readers meet Henry Musselwhite, a protagonist who lives on a quantum chip, drifting through deep space. He is apparently able to call up other people’s lives on his quantum chip and live just as their original souls did. Thus, as the story unfolds, he experiences three lives from contemporary times in diverse societies.
The three lives involve: a Ukrainian truck driver who struggles to handle a failing marriage, distant teen, and shaky employment; a Catholic monk in Appalachia accompanying a colleague through death throes despite his personal doubts; and an Italian immigrant to mainland China who tries to finish college and find work while wooing a young woman from the wrong social strata.
The stories share a common theme in that each main character must ignore his society’s rules/protocols to achieve success. They deliver fascinating characters and cultures that readers may find exotic, and the settings and players differ enough to maintain reader interest.
The book taken as a whole, however, is somewhat baffling. Ostensibly science fiction or fantasy, the novel fails to offer the sort of rich world building that characterizes those genres. In fact, the narrative arc seems designed merely to present the three separate existences. The connecting thread between each life recounted is tenuous, at best, and readers may struggle to understand the author’s overall message.
Ultimately, the narrative presents frustrations. Readers should enjoy the three stories, however, provided they can overlook the thin framework that contains them.
Also available as an ebook.