All My Sins Remembered is the second book I’ve read by Joe Haldeman. The first, The Forever War, was a really good book about the social and psychological effects of extended space travel when it screws with subjective versus objective time. All My Sins Remembered is similar but different.
It reads like three short stories spackled together with brief psychoanalytical segues. I think that is because that is what it is. They are science-fiction spy tales in exotic climes where the spy, one Otto McGavin, gets things called “personality overlays” which basically consist of full-body plastic surgery and tandem hypno-learning with the person he is going to impersonate. This constant readjustment of his personality slowly erodes the two years of training he’d had in becoming a prime operator.
I guess I’m getting ahead of myself. Initially, Otto McGavin wants a normal space job, one preferably not at odds with his Buddhist upbringing. Instead, the government shunts him off to become a spy, against his will. After the training is complete, he has to obey whatever his orders are, and they are often to kill. Yet under this, the original man is in his own private hell.
The toll all this death takes on him finally bubbles to the surface after he has to use a little girl as a human shield. His Buddhist mantra has been slowly wearing away at the hypnolearning. But only piecemeal, and with drastic consequences. It is an excellent book on three counts, in terms of science fiction, in terms of spy thrillers and in terms of illustrating the torturous path of good twisted into evil.