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What if you could live multiple lives simultaneously, have constant, perfect companionship, and never die? That’s the promise of Join, a revolutionary technology that allows small groups of minds to unite, forming a single consciousness that experiences the world through multiple bodies. But as two best friends discover, the light of that miracle may be blinding the world to its horrors.

Chance and Leap are jolted out of their professional routines by a terrifying stranger—a remorseless killer who freely manipulates the networks that regulate life in the post-Join world. Their quest for answers—and survival—brings them from the networks and spire communities they’ve known to the scarred heart of an environmentally ravaged North American continent and an underground community of the “ferals” left behind by the rush of technology.

In the storytelling tradition of classic speculative fiction from writers like David Mitchell and Michael Chabon, Join offers a pulse-pounding story that poses the largest possible questions: How long can human life be sustained on our planet in the face of environmental catastrophe? What does it mean to be human, and what happens when humanity takes the next step in its evolution? If the individual mind becomes obsolete, what have we lost and gained, and what is still worth fighting for?

336 pages, Hardcover

First published April 19, 2016

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About the author

Steve Toutonghi

2 books66 followers
A native of Seattle, Steve Toutonghi studied fiction and poetry while completing a BA in Anthropology at Stanford. After various professional forays, he began a career in technology that led him from Silicon Valley back to Seattle.

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5 stars
171 (13%)
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384 (30%)
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453 (35%)
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190 (14%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 232 reviews
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,109 followers
July 7, 2016
What initially begins as a pretty interesting thought experiment about small groups of joined minds and experiences under a quantum entanglement surgery quickly becomes a lot more.

Doesn't it sound interesting when it quietly becomes a murder mystery, a philosophical discussion about immortality, including mental illness, meme propagation, obsession, and later, a myopic cautionary tale pitting the Joined against the Solos and eventually even a fascinating evolution of humanity as it reaches for the stars? Yes? :)

And that's just the surface, because we get to know some rather good characters, and plot actions, too. :)

It's an immensely readable near-future hop that gets progressively dystopian while retaining the very interesting core concept as both the center piece and the conflict, both within the other joined and with the rest of the solos in the world.

Honestly, this could have been fine as a novel that had just focused on just the smaller plot actions of the first half, but I feel quite lucky that the author decided to put a lot of extra thought and effort into the whole concept, discovering and exploiting a lot of the more interesting aspects of becoming an effective immortal by constantly changing out the "drives", or the individual people, as they wear out, and taking it much further with nearly crazy meme-sets caused by expanded join-sets.

I love SF and Fantasy that show us the rules, and then show us how to break them. This novel certainly gives us a fascinating ride. :)

Profile Image for Philip.
513 reviews683 followers
February 8, 2017
3.75ish stars

Maybe it's a reflection of my intelligence level, but this was a challenging read. I found myself repeatedly having to reread sentences and paragraphs to make sure I knew what was going on. Maybe it's just the nature of the book. For me, at least, there's some pretty hard science going on combined with the meta aspect of singular consciousnesses inhabiting multiple bodies. Throw in some philosophy and environmental commentary and it makes for a pretty heavy novel. In spite of all the confusion (or perhaps because of it) it ended up being a pretty rewarding journey.

The nature of Join is that multiple individuals can meld with each other through a medical procedure that basically combines their minds into a single mind that can be accessed through each of the bodies that make up the Join. Kind of like playing The Sims, I guess. You can create as many people as you want and control them all. So each body is controlled by the single hive mind, but apparently the sum of the minds provides enough awareness to operate several bodies at once. (As opposed to when I played The Sims and inevitably two or three people would end up burning in a fire or starving to death because I'd forget about them :{ ). The two main characters, Chance and Leap, are actually nine bodies (five and four, respectively) each with their own professions, genders, physical attributes and abilities. Not gonna lie, it was pretty hard for me at first as I was trying to keep track of each body (or drive as they're referred to) while simultaneously trying to think of them as being the same person. Eventually I kind of stopped trying to figure it out because that's kind of the point of the novel- the individuals aren't really individuals anymore- but it later became important to know which drive specifically was doing certain things.

I feel like Chance and Leap didn't really have any distinct character traits either. Sometimes it was hard to distinguish between the two of them, but again I think that was intentional- the more people that make up a mind, the more generalized it becomes, essentially stripping away all distinctiveness.

There was an interesting social commentary implicit in the events and the overall society. There's the typical disparity between the majority (joins) and the minority (singles) and the persecution (whether intentional or not) of the minority. Toutonghi also presented some really rich speculations about what society would be like in this world. The environment is going to crap and superstorms are destroying the Earth but the nature of joins as Toutonghi envisions them is that they have a diluted sense of urgency to address threats and fix problems because they're essentially immortal (the consciousness of each individual that makes up a join continues to live on in the join even while the body dies). In theory, the joining process should provide added capability to address the world's problems, the joins just can't bring themselves to give-a-crap because they're so focused on adding to their own capabilities.

The choice to focus on Chance and Leap specifically is, I assume, because each of them, despite their Joins, are still facing down their mortality in some way. They each have to come to terms with how they're going to survive and the (sometimes desperate and questionable) things they're willing to do to preserve themselves from death and to help each other, even while they're mostly unworried about how the planet is kind of imploding.

The ending was unsatisfying and kind of unnecessary and incohesive, I think. And there were times I didn't understand the narrative choices or I got lost and confused. But Toutonghi had some big, complicated ideas and did an admirable job of presenting them here. Again- someone with a higher IQ will probably appreciate this even more than I did. :)
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,275 reviews227 followers
July 18, 2016
The future world of Join is one of environmental devastation where many of the survivors have turned to a new technology that allows a group consciousness.

Chance is a five, a group consciousness of three male and two female bodies. Chance's newest drive (human body) has just been diagnosed with terminal cancer and Chance is struggling with the concept of losing part of itself. At the same time Chance's oldest friend, another join called Leap is displaying an odd tic which is pretty alarming because one of Leap's bodies copilots a sub-orbital shuttle with one of Chance's.

A chance (heh) meeting in a bar exposes Chance to mortality in a way it wasn't expecting and soon after Chance is in danger that pushes it into more exposure to Leap and it's problems. And Leap has a pretty major problem that actually has implications for the whole society of people, both for joins and solos.

This is a meaty book. The implications of group consciousness, how it would come about, why it would be attractive and what it would be like in terms of practicalities is extensively looked at. Some of the more interesting problems, including mental illness and joins with fundamental incompatibilities are covered. There's also a strong warning here on self-absorption (joins and join problems) in the face of overwhelming real problems (total environmental collapse).

In terms of science, I don't buy much of this. I think it's done far more believably in stuff like Ramez Naam's Nexus books, but this one explores the social issues in a much richer way. I'm a firm believer in AGW and I have an educated layman's understanding of the science and I just don't believe that any of the science predicts the sort of permanent lightning storm cells (Jupiter red spot on Earth) that this book has. But that's ok, you have to buy a lot of extremely speculative stuff with this book; the important thing is that it's self-consistent and explores the SF elements according to the rules it establishes.

I had to go read something lighter about half way through because it was becoming a bit unrelentingly grim, but this was still a good read.
Profile Image for Jessica Woodbury.
1,641 reviews2,158 followers
March 25, 2017
A dreamy, lyrical, and inventive sci-fi novel with a big concept that's beautifully built and imagined. In the world of JOIN, you can form a single entity by joining your consciousness with another person. That shared consciousness lives in both of your bodies, managing them the way you manage your limbs.

You spend the first part of this novel learning how this world works, watching Chance, a join of five "drives" navigates life and experiences the world. Chance has just added its fifth drive only to find out that this newly acquired body has a cancer that is likely terminal.

Then this literary sci-fi novel takes a twist towards Noir as Chance encounters Rope, a join who seems to violate all the rules of what joins are supposed to be, and suspects that something is terribly wrong with Leap, a join Chance Two works with closely. Solving these mysteries picks apart the entire society Chance lives in and potentially its future as well.

The imagination on display here is impressive, but this is a book more concerned with lovely prose than picking apart its concept. There is much here on what identity is and what it means, but not much of the practical issues. (Personally, it doesn't matter how much I love someone, I don't want us to live the same life or for them to have access to all my memories. That's kinda squicky.) That's necessary for the concept to work and you have to be willing to accept the novel on those terms.

At times the book tended to ramble or share too much expository information all at once. The ending was unsatisfying, but it didn't make me regret the journey of the book, which I found fascinating and thought-provoking.
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,981 reviews1,991 followers
December 15, 2016
Rating: 4.5* of five

An excellent, provocative read. I wasn't impressed by Ancillary Justice, a different take on multi-consciousness society, but this other-end-of-the-stick vision of it was fascinating to me.

A better review was, horrifyingly, eaten by Blogger! I'm still distraught.

EDIT But no longer! The real review is finally, finally, finally live.
Profile Image for ash | spaceyreads.
349 reviews209 followers
July 22, 2017
3.5 stars. Review to come.

Great idea, weird plot. I give 5 stars for the premise of the join and the worldbuilding that went along with it, and 2 stars for the story.

On to the premise, and I will talk more about the premise and my thoughts about the idea but I have no thoughts about the confusing plot itself. Toutonghi paints a very comprehensive picture of a world where fusing minds in different bodies is possible and has been for a few decades (I use the word fusing instead of his chosen word 'join' because I feel like the term joining implies not complete unification - ie. one mind - like what it's supposed to be, but a connection between two separable entities). When someone is a Join, it means that they were once a few persons, but now is one person that owns a few different bodies with memories and skills that the bodies experienced and had prior. Really cool concept, and like I said, completely different from, say, two minds that are connected or that can read each other. When a body dies, the person still has a few bodies and a mind that inhabits them all. However, the Join can still reaccess their previous un-joined individual minds in dreams. Which means a Join of 5 can sit down together in a dream, all 5 unique persons, and have conversations. This is supposedly because a Join is a unified mind but still made up of unique minds deep down in their psych. (I don't know what I'm saying. This is some psychoanalytic pseudoscience stuff. But it's cool).

There are obviously Joins that are very different. Some people join because they are scared of dying. Some people join because of money. I find it interesting that a Join can pick (even go through informal interviews) with people who want to join with them, and find out if they have any skills or attributes or experiences or assets that they want to have. A very business-like way to go about something so intimate. Of course, some people join because they feel right with each other or because they love each other. Toutonghi talks about all the possible types of Joins in his book.

Besides the obvious social issues - the non-joined vs joined social conflicts, hierarchies, policy changes and discrimination, Toutonghi presented an interesting issue that I didn't expect - environmental issue. Joins are less likely to be motivated to work on environmental issues for a number of reasons I won't go into because it's more interesting to read it. And it's part of the plot. I really liked this angle he took. It tied in to a shift in philosophy - now humans are once again divided in philosophy because Joins and those who are not no longer share the same fear of death.

Now onto the plot. It's disjointed and it really made no sense. The protagonist Join seemingly stumbled onto a series of events he initially didn't want any part of, but nearing the end of the book he had a 180 change in mindset. The story involves a lot of events that are supposed to be related to each other, and I can see that they are, but they are not written in that manner. A murderous Join we see in the first few pages disappear for the next chunk of the book and then when they meet again the response was underwhelming and unrealistic. I made it through the book because the author was good at introducing new things to think about related to joining, and in fact, it feels like the plot should take a backseat to let the worldbuilding shine through. It just feels like the author can't decide how to balance the two of them.

Overall, I would recommend this book for a thoughtful read, but I won't blame anyone if they start to skim.
Profile Image for K.M. Alexander.
Author 4 books178 followers
March 3, 2022
Steve Toutonghi's debut novel, Join, is one of those science fiction books that stick with you much like the work of Philip K. Dick or, more recently, Jeff VanderMeer. It's the kind of book that comes up while you're at work or socializing or brushing your teeth. Its themes both challenge and provoke, all with an engaging plot. I was hooked. In fact, it's rare that I have to force myself to slow down with a book.

Set in a near future where Earth is ravaged by extreme weather events, we find ourselves confronted with the technology of Join: the merging of individual consciousnesses into a single person. Join is the crux of the story, the partial cause for tragic events on a personal and, ultimately, global scale.

Throughout the novel, Toutonghi takes us on a journey into the ramifications of Join. Masterfully weaving beautiful prose and dark humor, he examines the ideas of individualism, mortality, gender, and consciousness while staying grounded in humanity. Toutonghi never goes too far, poking and prodding these ideas just enough to ask questions and challenge us, the reader, to provide the answer to an even bigger question: what does it mean to be human?
Profile Image for Tudor Ciocarlie.
457 reviews215 followers
August 7, 2016
After Too Like the Lightning and Ninefox Gambit, Join is another ground breaking novel that I've read in 2016 and probably that greatest use of quantum physics that I've ever encountered in a book. This kind of speculative fiction, full of complex, mind-blowing ideas and with a difficult, innovative structure, is the main reason why I'm reading science-fiction. Like Gravity or Kim Stanley Robinson's Aurora, Join talks about why we should look into ourselves and at the suffering Earth, and not at the outer-space and at the ways to escape from our own actions.
Profile Image for Jason.
1,179 reviews259 followers
August 23, 2016
4 Stars

Join by Steve Toutonghi is an original piece of science fiction crossed with speculative fiction and a dab of psychology. It explores to some degree the question as to What is it to be human? It more readily explores and contemplate, What is death? Join does a good job at world building and explaining enough to allow the reader feel comfortable in the setting along this group of characters.

Toutonghi has developed an awesome take on the evolution of Man with the onset of the hive mind. Each person that bonds with someone becomes "a drive" unit. The concept of drives and the connected consciousness open up so much that could be. This is the driving force that is the novel Join. This book is sure to have you thinking about the subject matter. It will leave you in wonder. I love the deep subjects that arise from this novel and how Toutonghi explores them.

An explanation of a drive:

"LEAP FOUR IS DREAMING. LEAP is both in the dream and outside of it. Leap One is also sleeping, but not dreaming. Leap Two is in a cafeteria. Leap Three is talking with an orderly. The drives are like the hands of a pianist."

"We used to say that stories had a primary theme: either person versus nature, person versus person, or person versus him or herself. That was before. For stories of our time, I believe those themes have become one.   —Jalisa Romero, interview on Fresh Air "
"if you like puddin’ and pie one simple question will tell you why where’s that sugar you wanted to try? it all got baked into puddin’ and pie —Lulu’s Rhymes ‘n’ Things"

Join is a good read with a satisfying ending. I look forward to reading more from Toutonghi.
Profile Image for Darth J .
417 reviews1,265 followers
Want to read
April 21, 2016
The premise makes this sound a lot like Sense8, so I want to read this before the second season premiers.

Profile Image for Overbooked  ✎.
1,535 reviews
August 19, 2016
Thought provoking. The story is part thriller and part vision of human evolution. It pivots on the idea of “Join”, a future technology that enables humans to combine their minds while keeping separate bodies (drives).

“Join” has advantages. Virtual immortality is an obvious one, even if your body perishes, your personality would survive in the joined “entity”, or would it?
What about not having regrets? your “being” could experience multiple lives, you wouldn’t have to make exclusive decisions; for instance, in your career path, you could be an artist AND a scientist.
In fact, it is advisable for people to join with abilities and skills different from their own, young and old in order to have more choices and a broader perspective. “You” could simultaneously be male and female.

Joining is expensive and has limitations; moreover, it comes with strict procedures to ensure its success. It is not advisable to have more than 20 concurrent drives, the risks are instability (e.g. body tics and seizures) and eventually integration failure (due to incompatibility), aka “flip”, if rules are bypassed.

And then there are the consequences to society. There is a potential for the wealthy to abuse of the technology. Individuals that, either by choice or by lack of funds, decide not to join, aka solos, are concerned about the deteriorating state of the planet environment (Earth is plagued by draught and violent storms). They also resent the increasing organisation of society and privilege around joins, leaving them marginalised. Some solos prefer to live in isolated communities, for this reason they are nicknamed “feral”, like animals.

In this society, what does it mean to be human? Solos believe that humans are the ones who remain in the same state they are born, i.e natural. Doesn’t it equate to say that joins are unnatural?

The mystery part was not as strong as the dystopian aspect.

This was a fascinating but challenging read for me. At the beginning, I got confused and frustrated by the many characters, so I wrote down a character map to keep track of who was who, and that helped a lot.
It is an impressive a debut novel and I’m looking forward to the author’s future work. Highly recommended to all SF fans.
Profile Image for Summer.
753 reviews11 followers
November 24, 2016
I honestly don't know WHAT I just read. It started out as a murder mystery which I was really into. Then they solved the murder and it was like NBD. They found the bad guy but no one was particularly worried about it. Then there was a different plot where a dude was dying of a mysterious disease, that had something to do with his mother. The mother, Josette, was a very interesting character and I really dug the storyline of her trying to decide if she wanted to "join". I would have loved more about how weird it would be to, like, BECOME your mother. But then we were into the next story line which had us sneaking into a super top-secret base of rebels. I loved it. But the rebels were actually totally working with the establishment so it was fine. WTF? What kind of rebels are you?? And then we had a short but weird storyline about friends merging and self sacrifice and it was all very interesting but then that was over and everything was fine. Also we had to explore a totally insane situation that was kind of murder and suicide and just total mindfuckery. The bad guy was back but that was fine too. Lastly we are supposed to be thinking about the earth or something but I really wasn't sure who I was supposed to be routing for. The establishment has spies but the rebels are working for them anyway and murder is literally kind of like jaywalking here. I honestly don't know what I just read.

I really enjoyed actually reading the book. it wasn't until halfway that I realized I had no idea what the plot was. Frankly I don't know WHAT the author was trying to do. It was all over the place. But it was certainly interesting. I loved his premise and world building. The characters were really great.

Still, for all that, to have a good book you need a beginning middle and end. This book had literally none of the above. It was bonkers.
Profile Image for Crini.
352 reviews410 followers
January 23, 2018
I'm not saying "if you love Sense8, read this one!" BUT if you like the sharing headspace kind of thing from Sense8 and don't mind characters who are more distanced, less touchable, while getting a thoroughly fucked up, very science-y story, THEN you should definitely read this.

When I started reading Join, I was mostly just ??? because it was super hard to tell all these characters apart who were part of a join. About 10% in it got fucked up fast though and I knew it was worth it to keep reading. While I never truly cared about these characters, at least not as much as I usually prefer, it still had some kind of effect on my when certain things happened to them. I think overall it was mostly morbid fascination that made me enjoy this so much. The shared headspace idea was freaky enough to me, something I could never imagine wanting to experience myself, but then the shit hit the fan and the book was taking the fast train towards a 5-star rating.

The only thing that kept me from being completely blown by this story was the overall arc and its ending. There is a second part to this story besides the Join, its technology and related issues. A huge part of the story is about earth's climate, global warming, natural disasters and the lack of anyone really doing anything to keep earth sustainable while being too busy with other issues (like the Join).
Overall I liked this too but it often seemed so disconnected from the rest of the story and the ending kind of left me hanging.
Profile Image for Dramapuppy.
387 reviews44 followers
April 23, 2017
This book destroyed itself by putting way too much effort into trying to be hard sci-fi.

The main concept is multiple people joining into one consciousness. This is the only thing in the book that isn't over-explained. We never find out the logistics of how this works. But at least we get to hear about the physics behind futuristic cars. The entire text is bogged down by scientific details about things that don't matter, and it doesn't leave time to actually explore the concept.

There are actually some interesting ideas here, which is why I didn't give it one star. Unfortunately, the entire book serves only to set them up, not to actually explore them. At the end, I hadn't formed my own opinion about anything. I just didn't care.

The characterization is also really bad. The multiple personalities merging did not come through in the text; it was all muddled together.

All this makes for a ridiculously boring book. Join had potential, but it doesn't live up to it.
Profile Image for Andrea.
379 reviews53 followers
July 26, 2016
Surprisingly excellent. This has been compared to Ancillary Justice and I cannot help measuring one against the other. They are opposites in many ways - one into many versus many into one, galactic empire versus a single fragile Earth, looking inwards rather than ourwards. All themes that deserve exploration. Very well done for a debut.
Profile Image for John.
405 reviews30 followers
May 20, 2016
A Memorable Futuristic Exploration of the Nature of Identity and Technology

Quite possibly one of the best debut novels of 2016, "Join" is the best debut speculative fiction novel I have seen from a mainstream literary fiction writer, with Steve Toutonghi worthy of substantial admiration for superb world building and in creating a believable dystopian near future. In "Join" he explores philosophical issues related to the nature of identity and our current concerns with technology. Simply for these two reasons alone, "Join" is worthy of a wide readership, that should include long-time fans of speculative fiction as well as those who tend to read only work by mainstream literary fiction writers. Much to his credit, Toutonghi deserves ample praise for creating a plausible near future that remains consistent with science and technology, unlike for example, a highly praised debut speculative fiction novel published several years ago by another mainstream literary fiction writer who wrote about epidemiologically implausible word viruses in a rather minimalist Art Deco-inspired alternative history future.

Where I would find fault with Toutonghi's brisk, fast-paced storytelling is having as lead characters, Chance, Leap and Rope, who are not especially intriguing or memorable as characters worthy of the reader's attention. Toutonghi's most notable character emerges towards the end of the book, Hamish Lyons, the mysterious leader of those humans ("ferals") unwilling to embrace the mental and intellectual possibilities made possible by the JOIN technology. This stands in sharp contrast with, for example, with such memorable characters as the ageless spy Edie Banister, the heroine of Nick Harkaway's "Angelmaker" and Flynne Fisher and Ainsley Lowbeer in William Gibson's "The Peripheral"; Gibson's latest novel is especially worthy of note here since he offers readers two compelling versions of the near future that are replete with the gritty realism that is surprisingly lacking in Toutonghi's "conceptual powerhouse" - as Tor.com's reviewer dubbed it - of a novel. Despite the flaws in character development, Toutonghi has written still, a thought-provoking fictional meditation on the nature of identity and technology that definitely deserves a wide readership.
Profile Image for Michael.
326 reviews17 followers
January 23, 2016
Steve Toutonghi's debut novel, Join is a lovely piece of speculative fiction that explores a near future that explores the next phase of humanity and how the changes to the race have dire impact to the planet itself. In an unspecified future, individualism has a whole different look as more and more people chose to join. Small groups of people merge minds into a single consciousness while retaining their physical bodies, allowing them to experience life through multiple bodies, and in affect, living forever, for while individual bodies die, the consciousness remains alive in the Join. While much of humanity has chosen to live this way, there are still solos living individual lives either by choice, or because the process is more than they can afford.

But even as humanity moves toward its next phase of life, the planet itself is in grave environmental peril. Worse, Chance, a join of five, stumbles upon the existence of a potentially mad, and decidedly murderous abomination called Rope. Meanwhile Chance's friend Leap finds itself in grave peril from a rare condition that only affects Joins. Chance and Leap must find a way to save Leap, while avoiding the terrifying fate that could await them both through Rope's machinations.

Reminiscent of recent work by David Mitchell and Neal Stephenson, Steve Toutonghi has created a fascinating future for humanity, all the while exploring the concepts of individuality and immortality, posing questions with no easy answers.
Profile Image for Wendy.
474 reviews1 follower
January 18, 2016
This is one of those books that sucks you in during the first few pages, but you're also trying not to get too attached to the characters because you know it's all going to go sideways in a minute. Then, it does, and you just can't put the book down. Excellent story well-written, and very much a sense of things coming full circle, a sense of completion at the end. I really wasn't sure I was going to like the story because the idea of a Join, completely sharing your thoughts/memories with another, seemed too foreign. But, Toutonghi writes in a way that makes the Joins seem understandable and compelling. It did take some time for me to really wrap my head around the concept but the tension of the novel takes hold immediately. A friend of mine loaned me her Advance copy, which she got from a local bookstore. I say this to explain how I read it before the release date, but don't really feel beholden in any way to the author or bookstore.
Profile Image for Darren C.
3 reviews1 follower
November 10, 2020
I'm a sucker for character development and I was concerned that since the characters are complex and, well, non-standard (you're presented with this in the first few pages), I was concerned that I wouldn't connect with them, but that didn't turn out to be a problem. I'm impressed with how well the author presented a complicated concept in a way that was, to me, very accessible.

I was also pleased and impressed with how Toutonghi ended the book - I won't offer any spoilers here, but suffice to say that I didn't get what I was expecting, I got something better.

Several other reviewers have used the term "thought provoking" and my assessment echoes theirs. On the other hand, other reviewers have noted that this was a challenging read. Not so for me. I found it a challenge to put this book down and read it in just a few days without feeling that I was in the midst of a literary workout. Oh, it caused me to ponder the concepts presented and do a little daydreaming on the "what ifs" it made think about, but I really enjoy that. I'll read Garrison Keillor or Tom Bodett if I'm in the mood for pure recreation.

Toutonghi has created a world/system that could be a rich source of new material if he chose to mine it - I hope he does!
Profile Image for Mike Bridge.
16 reviews5 followers
August 9, 2021
Join is a masterfully written book and keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole ride. When I first picked the book up, I was concerned that there would be a bit of confusion due to the way the author addresses the joins and drives in the story. But before I was even halfway through the book my mind really changed the way it thought of these characters, which is what I think the author was trying to accomplish. The book truly begs the question: "what's the value of identity?"
Profile Image for Tor.
275 reviews7 followers
May 4, 2016
Oh man. This book was really fascinating and kept me hooked. At times it was hard to keep the characters straight and to follow, I had to keep flipping back a page thinking I may have missed something but I think that was also part of the point. Totally recommend for sci-fi fans.
Profile Image for Mandy.
4 reviews
May 28, 2016
It was all over the place. It took so long to understand who was who. I was trying to get out of my comfort zone and was quite glad it was chosen for our book club but it took forever for me to get in to the book and then when I finally did the ending was just wrong. It didn't fit.
Profile Image for Jenni.
480 reviews14 followers
September 9, 2016
Super interesting, great ideas. Exploration of a new type of consciousness and what it would mean for the world, very literally. Would recommend.
Profile Image for Sana.
1,099 reviews962 followers
January 30, 2018
'No matter what you may wish from them, endings are always lies.'

Join ended up being a lot more science-y than sci-fi usually is but still not exactly hard sci-fi which in turn stopped me from really getting attached to the characters. Some of these characters are really fucked up, sure and they do go through one sort or another of character development, but never enough to fill the gap. A large part of that is also because of the secondary plot of climate change that converges with the main plot a little to late and then the book just fast-forwards into the ending which I found pretty unsatisfying in and of itself.

Yet, I really liked that not knowing enough about how joins work and the number of ways in which things can go wrong produced such a great opportunity to explore a rare join issue that is fatal and ended up taking the whole join program into the uncharted territory of endless possibilities.

For me, the best part of reading Join was the whole joining experience and how the joins functioned and what made them join and why it came to a point where not joining was seen as odd and solos were seen as something was wrong with them. Naturally then, the exploration of certain themes such as identity, humanity, mortality, individuality and just plain mindfuckery added layers of depth to the conceptual whirlpool that is this book. So while it fell short in places, I would definitely recommend Join for these reasons alone.

Favorite quote: 'So I have to accept this treatment on faith?'
'Of course,' Hamish says. 'As you would any treatment.'
Profile Image for Thikrayat Al-aradi.
372 reviews36 followers
October 23, 2019
That was mindblowing!!!

The story is one of a kind, it's so intresting it's so attention grabbing it's packed and oh my god I'm so impressed!
The writer's ability to build up a world that very unique with an amazing and complicated concept and have things going on is just so beautiful!!! I'm very impressed I'll read his other works 😍

At first I had a bit of trouble telling who is who because the whole thing is just unimaginable but I got the hang of it pretty fast and enjoyed the book very very much
Profile Image for mad mags.
1,155 reviews87 followers
January 1, 2016
Quirky and thought-provoking, with a darkly humorous streak.

(Full disclosure: I received a free ebook for review though Edelweiss. Trigger warning for offensive language.)

"That kind of intimacy among drives is mocked by solos. Before most solo resentment hardened into religious resistance, there was a famous sketch comedy show, Howard, Howard, Howard, Howard, Howard, Howard, and Howard, that parodied the closeness. The seven Howards would stand in a circle, five men and two women, picking one another’s noses."

“'In the beginning,' Rope Three says, 'when Join was first introduced, and for a long time after, I assumed we’d all join. That we’d all become one single individual. Can you imagine that? No more other.'"

Set in a distant (?) future that's both inconceivable and all-too-familiar, Join takes the "soul mate" concept to the next level through its innovative "join" technology. Individuals - the vast majority of whom have already had their brains hacked into and connected to the biowave network via implants called "caddys" - can choose to join with one another, creating a single consciousness that lives on even after the death of a member ("drive"). Joins often start out as pairs - i.e., married couples - who later join with younger "honeymooner" couples. As the various drives work and save for additional licensing fees, the join can continue to accumulate more drives, whether they choose to merge with existing joins or court more desirable "solos."

However, twenty is the upper limit for joins; after this, the competing perspectives can cause disorders in the join, such as the rare but terrifying meme virus. Likewise, the join must be consensual throughout the procedure and recovery/integration period; if one of or more the drives changes her mind, it could cause a "flip" - a progressive and fatal disorder.

Chance is a join with five drives - the newest of which has just been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Though Javier Quispe will survive the death of his body - thanks to his join with Chance - as a recent solo, the prospect still scares him. Meanwhile, Chance's best friend Leap is exhibiting alarming symptoms: mainly, violent tics of which she seems unaware and vehemently denies after the fact. Given that Chance Two and Leap Two pilot long-haul freighter ships together, this breakdown is no small concern.

Chance and Leap's fates become inexorably intertwined after a chance (haha!) meeting with Rope, a mysterious and sullen join who seems to have more drives than allowed by the Directorate. Drives that he murders, one by one. Yet Rope might just know of a cure for Leap. The pair's journey to find it will take them far away from their home in New Denver, to an underground society of "ferals" in Arcadia.

Join is an imaginative and unusual book, with a deliciously morbid sense of humor; it falls smack dab in my wheelhouse (scifi) but still feels fresh and new. While Chance is the MC, the join technology is really the star; its many implications and possibilities are enough to keep your head spinning for days: What happens when parents join with their children? Can a single consciousness safely house both a victim and her abuser? Does Join devalue human life by rendering individuals expendable? Wouldn't Join just exacerbate inequality and poverty by allowing the rich and powerful to join with each other, thus concentrating their resources? How might the justice system penalize joins who break the law? What impact might this have on our planet, when those in power view everything as temporary and transcendent?

Because of this, I would've preferred that Toutonghi focused primarily on the tech and its personal ramifications for Chance and (especially) Leap, rather than launching into a more macro conspiracy plot involving the sinister Directorate (formed by a join of sorts between the US government and Vitalcorp, the company behind Join). Consequently, it sometimes feels as though the story's all over the place.

It's clear that Toutonghi is trying to make some Larger Points - about the nature of the self, the malleability of identity, and the necessity of mortality - but he often falls just short of the mark. He doesn't do himself any favors by writing in the present tense, and his tone sometimes feels a little cold and clinical (maybe it's all the tangents). Also, the naming scheme can make it terribly difficult to keep the myriad characters straight.

Even so, Join is still a page-turner that I'm likely to be thinking about for days and weeks to come. 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 stars where necessary.

Profile Image for Linda.
138 reviews
March 9, 2018
Join is a challenging book from the outset. The premise is that multiple people can join their minds to become a single mind with multiple bodies, each able to work on separate tasks. The beginning of the book attempts to replicate this experience for the reader, jumping between multiple bodies (the main character starts with five) with multiple events happening simultaneously, expecting the reader to track them all. I felt as though my own brain struggled with it and maybe grew some new connections in the process. It's thrilling when a book challenges you in a way that you've never been challenged before, and I suspect that some of the negative reviews came from people who were turned off by this intentionally chaotic opening.

If you keep going, eventually you get used to tracking multiple instances of the same character, and the book itself calms down with the perspective shifts. It's a great concept with a well-executed opening, and I was willing to buy into a lot of the consequences of this world, but I found the ending took a real turn and felt rushed.
Profile Image for Aimee.
615 reviews18 followers
April 6, 2016
Review originally published @ Reading Lark: http://readinglark.blogspot.com/2016/...

Can you imagine merging with other human beings? Not marriage, not a Vulcan mind meld, but actually becoming one in mind, soul, consciousness? That’s what the new Join technology can do for you. What’s more, besides the near immortality of course, is that the new merged consciousness gets to keep using the bodies of the people that Joined. One Joined consciousness, multiple bodies through which to experience and interact with the world. What could possibly go wrong?

Join, by Steve Toutonghi, is exactly the high-concept science fiction I adore. Lots of philosophical conundrums attend the new technology. How does Join change the relationship of humanity to the natural world? How does it change the relationships between the Joined and those who choose to remain solo? What happens when a corporation basically becomes the government? Reading this book made me feel like I felt the first time I read some of Arthur C. Clarke’s earlier stories like Childhood’s End or Tales from the White Hart.

Join is grown-up science fiction. Toutonghi throws readers into the deep end and hopes that we’ll be able to at least keep our heads above the water as we are inundated with the multiple perspectives of the novel. Most of the main characters are Joined, and therefore have multiple bodies (called drives) operated by a single consciousness. It does take some work to keep track of which drive is doing what in which location, but if you’re not afraid of a novel that makes some demands of the reader, Join is absolutely worth the effort required to understand the action. If you’ve read Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie, you’ll have some idea of what this is like, though the multiple perspective concept is much more pervasive in this novel.

My one reservation about Join is that the two main characters, Chance and Leap, don’t have much of a character arc over the course of the story. Chance and Leap are each composed of five Joined people. Presumably, the more drives a Join has, the less each new Joined consciousness affects the whole (if personalities work mathematically, that is). But I like to see protagonists really grappling with issues in a novel as philosophical as this one, and I felt like although they each went through a great ordeal neither of them ended up changing to any significant degree. It’s unclear to me whether the flattish character arcs are because the characters are Joins, or whether character change was less important to the author than the philosophical issues of the story.

Steve Toutonghi has written a compelling debut novel that will make you question what you think you know about the nature of death and the relationship of people to the planet we live on. Although this story stands well on its own, there are a few loose ends that make me hopeful for a second novel in this storyline.
Profile Image for Carmen.
504 reviews15 followers
January 6, 2018
As humanity faces devastating storms threaten their future on Earth, new technology emerges that allows multiple consciousness into a single mind across each of their bodies. This technology, Join, gives humanity a chance at immortality because their mind will outlive their bodies as long as it's joined with at least one living person. The joined slowly ignore the environmental threats to their habitat in favor of what emerging technology can bring while those who choose to remain solo are more concerned about fixing Earth. When the shroud is ripped from the eyes of two close friends, Chance and Leap, they soon discover that Join and the companies behind it are not what they've been led to believe.

I was a little confused at first because each person who is joined has one name, so it threw me off that Chance was Chance One, Chance Two, and so on. I was able to fully get into the story once I got used to how the clusters worked. After that, I enjoyed this complex story that covered the science and human aspects of the world it takes place in. At some point, I was reading it like Join was a totally normal and real scientific discovery. The science behind it in this world is fascinating. Picture something like Sense8, if you've seen it, but taken to another level where each person in the cluster are all one person once they've joined. Add how anyone can complete the procedure as long as they pass all the medical and psychological checkpoints and afford it, and you've got Join.

Underneath the science of this world, it's a story about mortality, technology, and environmentalism. Many people wish that they could live forever, and technology solves that in this story. People are dazzled by new technology and begin to overlook how it can help us save the environment. It's a great dystopian novel that amplifies the things that concern many on a daily basis and turns it into a scenario covering what could go wrong.

Above all, it has complex and rich characters that had a hold on me. I loved learning about each of the characters and why or why not they chose to use Join. The way these people interacted with each other and brought their valid concerns to light is extremely captivating. The mystery plot that surfaces is just one of the many elements that goes on to answer questions one may or may not have. I'm excited to see what Toutonghi's future work has in store for us.
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