All My Sins Remembered by Joe Haldeman

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.