Here’s a post by James Davis Nicholl: Get Out of My Head, about the somewhat uncommon SFF trope where a character permanently shares space in their brain with someone else.
Interesting! Especially because I’ve read most of these (and I swear I really will read Ninefox Gambit eventually).
Mentioned in this post:
Penric. Yay, Desdemona! If you have to share your brain with someone, or multiple someones, this is the way to do it. Awesome magic powers and besides, Desdemona is a nice person. People. Mostly.
Ninefox Gambit. I didn’t know this had the sharing-the-brain trope in it. Nicholl says:
Yoon Ha Lee’s Captain Kel Cheris, in the Machineries of Empire series, is both brilliant and expendable. She is therefore chosen as host to the stored memories of the noted military genius and homicidal maniac Shuos Jedao. She is not allowed to refuse. Cheris and Jedao manage to work out a modus vivendi, one that changes both in dramatic ways.
That sounds really neat! The book just ticked upward on my vast TBR stack.
Cormac in Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series. I’ve never read that but listen to this:
[Cormac] is a mundane human with an inordinate talent for hunting and killing monsters. The American judicial system takes a surprisingly dim view of Cormac’s prudent custom of gunning down people he deems a threat and sends Cormac off to a stint in prison. A haunted prison, to be exact—at least of one of whose ghosts makes a compelling case that Cormac should serve as their new home.
That also sounds really neat! — and here is where it occurs to me that I apparently think this is a pretty snazzy trope. I didn’t realize I felt that way, perhaps because the trope is not all that common. But both of these descriptions make me want to pick up the book immediately.
Leland de Laal in Steven Gould’s Helm.
The glass helm … was stored on an unclimbable mountain peak for very good reason. It is the last surviving imprinter, a device that downloads the knowledge and personality of a long-dead scientist and martial artist. It can also be configured to enslave others…
Ah, that one sounds alarming.
But not as alarming as this one:
Aleytys in Jo Clayton’s Diadem series. Wow, I read that a loooong time ago. I liked it, but I believe I eventually gave the series away, so not that much, I guess. Here’s Nicholl’s acerbic comment:
Aleytys didn’t agree to have the recorded memories of several dead people installed in her head. All she did was don a mysterious alien artifact without asking sensible questions like “Is this a powerful psionic device in which are stored the minds of the deceased?” or “Will I discover that, having donned this stupendous example of alien technology whose owners no doubt want it back, it cannot then be removed?” Yes to both! There’s probably a lesson to be learned here.
In contrast, Steven Dalt in F Paul Wilson’s Healer didn’t do anything wrong, stupid, or desperate. He just hid in a caver for a minute and wham! Permanent new person installed in his head. I read this a long time ago too. Pretty sure I still have a copy. I should re-read it one of these days.
Nicholl finishes off with Silverberg’s To Live Again, which I haven’t read; it’s an SF story where people voluntarily host the minds of the wealthy, who pay for the privilege, I gather.
Other examples? I have one, but this trope wasn’t as thoroughly developed in Mountain as it might be in, for example, a sequel:
Disembodied memory is kind of the thing. I would bet that in any sequel, Gulien’s secondary personality might be more of a thing. Especially because I have now noticed that I like this trope and would probably enjoy developing the idea. It’s not quite what previous Kiebas have experienced, but then Gulien’s initial experiences weren’t quite customary either.