I'm trying to identify a novel I read around 1990 give or take 5 years.
It was fairly short (maybe 120 pages or so) and I read it in Dutch, but it is most likely a translation of an English original.

I'm very vague on the story content, but there are a couple of specific details that stuck in my mind and are hopefully enough to have someone be able to identify this.

Story is set in a near-future USA. Computers and self-driving vehicles are everywhere.
At the start the main character (a man about 30 or so) lives on a houseboat that travels the waterways in Florida (Everglades probably).
He suffers from total memory loss, but gradually he recovers and start to discover his past.

He (re-)discovers he can mind-link to computers, making him a uber-hacker. And he discovers that he used to work for a black-ops government outfit together with several other people with special powers.

One of those (his love-interest?) is a lady with telepathic ability. Another is a former priest that specialized in prayer/healing sessions, but he is actually be able to heal for real without prayer. However he uses is ability mostly in reverse, as assasin, by giving people heart-attacks and strokes making it appear they died from natural causes.

The main characters memory-loss may actually have been induced by this priest guy to make him forget all the dirty work he did for the government. (I'm not sure on this detail, but it is logical.)

Now his memory returns the government agency is after him so he goes on the run. Eventually there is a showdown in which the telepathic lady gets killed. Someone else gets mortally wounded (not the main character I think) and is saved by the priest (who repents and, for the first time in years, prays again).

Some other details:
The main character while rummaging around in computer networks encounters an AI entity that has come into being in the interconnected computers of the world. The AI helps him several times.
I'm not sure of this: I seem to recall his first contact with the AI was when he was a child and in hospital for a long time. With nothing better to do is mind "connected" with the hospital computers and there he encounterd the AI.

When the telepathic lady dies her soul is "rescued" by the AI and she lives on in a virtual reality, or something similar to that, created by the AI.

During the main characters flight across the USA he makes use of cargo-trucks. Those big 18-wheeler rigs still ply the interstates form coast to coast, but they are fully self-driving now. Due to Union/Teamsters pressure (this was explicitly mentioned in the novel) they still have a mandatory cabin, including sleeping space. The main character travels a long distance by hiding in such a sleeping cabin.

It is not much to go on. Can anyone identify the novel?


1 Answer 1


This is Coils by Roger Zelazny.

The protagonist was once part of a group of "special" people created or found by a government agency for "special operations" -- but someone he got cashiered and his memory wiped. One of the catch-words that repeats when the protagonist is applying his mental connection to anything digital (which is everything) is "ticket-derick", a sort of onomatopoeic reproduction of the sound of digits flying by.

When he's just starting to recover the faintest hint of his memories, he meets up with the "telepathic" woman you describe, and asks her how everyone else is doing (hoping to fish out some information to help his memory recovery without giving away his amnesia -- very much like Corwin does in the beginning of Nine Princes in Amber), and she replies something to the effect of "Just like you, much the same, but better at what we do."

  • 1
    Dangit.... When I wrote the question I was thinking to myself... A bit like Corwin in Amber is trying to figure out the past events.... And Merlin in the second series although that didn't involve memory loss, just being kept in the dark by everyone around him. I just checked a couple book-reviews and summaries and it is indeed the novel I am looking for.
    – Tonny
    Commented Feb 24, 2021 at 14:58

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