I read this book pre-2003.

Body swapping was a world norm, science psychobabble explained away. Souls were IDed and tracked by wrist identification that you were supposed to synchronize right after the swap. Occasionally a criminal would bolt with your body, but the penalties were high so...?

Some people made money by providing breaks for "more important people." They allowed important meetings or research to continue uninterrupted because the body could go sleep or eat or take care of needs while the mind/soul kept working.

Partners body swapped during sex. Businessmen body swapped with belly dancers to experience how a different body moved.

I'm sure there was some central conflict like government conspiracy, but the world building construction was what stuck with me. Anyone know what book I'm talking about?


4 Answers 4


Fairly certain this is Hopscotch by Kevin J Anderson

Suppose you could switch bodies with another person? What exciting new experiences would you choose to explore? What forbidden desires would you indulge? Suppose someone stole your life–how far would you go to get it back?


For a fee, Eduard Swan will swap bodies with people in distress–those facing surgeries, emotional crises, moments of unpleasantness or discomfort they can’t or would rather not deal with. Eduard will experience the suffering for them. It’s a lucrative business, and in a world in which no one is required to feel any pain, there is no end of clients. But someone doesn’t want to play by the rules. Someone doesn’t want to return his body. And, unfortunately for Eduard, that someone is one of the world’s most powerful men. Now Eduard has no choice but to steal back his life.


Moving from underground hopscotch pleasure bars to the highest enclaves of power to a seamy underworld of illegal Phantoms, ancient minds who steal younger bodies in a quest for eternal life, Eduard and his friends seek the meaning of identity in a society in which appearances mean everything–and nothing–and where everything is relative...even murder.

Has body swapping and ID bracelets I dont recall those particular switches in the story although they could have been mentioned in background information.

  • Yes, this is the book. I have the book an can add extracts from the section with the belly dancer if you want. Commented Jan 18, 2018 at 10:55

While this sounds likely to be the correct answer, the first thing I thought when I glanced at the question was Cerberus: A Wolf in the Fold, by Jack L. Chalker. This is book 2 of the Four Lords of the Diamond series by Chalker.

Background: a human interstellar (possibly intergalactic) empire located a system with four planets, called the Warden Diamond. The planets cause humans who go there to be unable to leave the system, and to develop various mental abilities. The system is used as a penal colony; however, aliens are reaching out to the inhabitants of the system, and are fomenting unrest.

An agent is sent in to track down the leaders of the four worlds who were dealing with the aliens, and regain control of the situation. Humans have a sort of "body swap" technology - they can basically record the mind of one person, and use that to overwrite another person's mind; the other person becomes a mental copy of the first (the other person's own mind, however, is gone). So, four mental copies of our agent are sent out, one to each of the four worlds.

On Cerberus, the ability humans gain is the ability to swap bodies (without a technological crutch, and with both minds actually swapping bodies, rather than an "overwrite" scenario) with others from that same world, which happens while the two individuals are asleep.

I'm pretty sure there was some way to prove your actual identity (a necessity from a logical standpoint, after all), but I'm not sure what it was off the top of my head; it could have been ID bracelets, but I think it was more automatic than that (note that this was basically a planet full of white-collar criminals).

The agent's "mental copy" in this book is female (the lead character is male); the copied agent makes sure to fall asleep next to a man on the first night, and uses that as his primary body for the start of the book (technically "bolting" with it).

The central conflict is the between the galactic government, the aliens, and the leaders of the four worlds in the system.

So, the same central conceit, and several matching/close details. However, there are notable deviations from the work described by the OP:

  • The body swap doesn't happen during sex (although, if the partners then fall asleep in close proximity, it would happen).
  • I have no recollection of anything regarding belly dancers.
  • Since the swap took time and sleep, there would be no benefit in swapping deliberately to continue meetings or anything; a meeting would have to be interrupted for hours, after all. Thus, there was no market for bodies to borrows, as appears to be the case in the desired book.

I was watching a thread on Facebook asking about a very similar book. It turned out to be Peter R. Emshwiller's The Host (later released as LEVELS: The Host). Maybe it's the same book you're looking for?

Regards, Kelly J. Cooper

  • 2
    Could you add a bit more details about the book in order for the asker to be able to evaluate if this is the correct answer. Adding a synopsis of the book would go a long way.
    – Shade
    Commented Jan 28, 2021 at 8:06

Anyone by Charles Soule. Told in two perspectives: one of the inventor, the other of a woman using the technology. Edit: similar synopsis but I realized Anyone was written much later

  • 1
    Hi, welcome to SF&F. I see that you've realized it wouldn't be a match since it was published in 2019, but you might still usefully update this to describe all the ways it does and doesn't match the question.
    – DavidW
    Commented May 30 at 3:30

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