I think it's been 15+ years since I originally read the story, and I believe it was either a short story or a fairly short novel. I recall certain tidbits like:

  • The man's brain is put into a new "generic" body.
  • His mental faculties are greatly diminished at first, so he's given an intelligent brain implant with eye interface that demonstrates with simple animations how to do simple tasks. The eye interface is activated by a couple of quick blinks.
  • He spends the first few months doing menial labor of some sort, and feels like he is a captive or slave.
  • He eventually escapes with the help of his brain/eye implant. One part of the escape that stands out is that he's screened at some sort of security terminal and asked why he has the implant, which the implant then tells him to respond "because I'm mentally retarded" which surprises the protagonist enough to make his lie sound believable.
  • It's eventually revealed that his captors/masters awoke him to inherit some sort of great authority or power, once he had sufficiently recovered.
  • If he was truly brain-damaged, does it count as a lie? – JAB Dec 16 '16 at 19:50
up vote 6 down vote accepted

It's the novel A King of Infinite Space by Allen Steele.

The scene you describe is when the protagonist, William Alec Tucker III, is being interviewed by a customs lady:

The customs lady looks like Madonna when she went through her Marlene Dietrich phase. She feeds my card into a slot on her podium, gazes at a screen only she can see, then regards me with glacial blue eyes. There's a set of silver bangles in her left earlobe. "Your name is John Ulnar?"

...

She raises her eyes. "Why are you wearing a MINN, Mess'r Ulnar?"

Before I can stammer something stupid, Chip flashes the proper answer across my eyelids. Oh, my God, I would have never thought of this . . .

"Umm ... ma'am, I'm mentally retarded."

The ice in her eyes thaws a few degrees. Her mouth starts to open and her face reddens ever so slightly, then she quickly looks at her screen again and taps her fingers on the keypad. "Sorry," she whispers under her breath. "Forgive me."

I'll be damned. This steel bitch actually pities me.

Tucker is injured in a car crash and suffers brain damage. His head is removed and cryogenically stored by a company called Immortality Partnership. A hundred years later he's revived in a new body. I can't remember what the ending is and a quick skim through the book hasn't reminded me - I'll have to sit down and reread it properly. As I recall Immortality Partnership went bust and all the heads it had stored were bought for some nefarious purpose.

  • That's the one! Thank you! – Zikes Jan 27 '16 at 21:21

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