The premise of the short story Changes is this: In the near future, cancer will be curable by one dose of a wonder tablet. The side effect? The whole system of the patient will be “rebooted”—and his gender will change.
Rajit, a bashful homosexual, becomes a world-renowned icon after inventing the ‘Reboot’ drug. His personality in real life lies in stark contrast with his biographic motion picture, shown clearly through the sections of the story alternating scenes from Rajit’s reality and from the film. Overtime, when the drug becomes more dangerously popular than the recreational medicines that precede it, Rajit himself is forgotten. People who take Reboot are not just those who have cancer—those who want to “change” their sexes are frequent customers. They can easily achieve what they want that by taking the drug; if they want to go back to their original gender, they can do so by taking another dose. Yes, that easy. Purposes vary, but most of the time it’s for the fulfillment of self interest: “In Thailand and Mongolia it was reported that boys were being forcibly rebooted into girls to increase their worth as prostitutes. In China newborn girls were rebooted into boys: families would save all they had for a single dose.” In his nineties Rajit is dying of prostate cancer but he never took Reboot.
While it has a touch of science fiction in it, the story as well tackles several issues still apparent in our present society, including the culture and the selfishness of people who will stop at nothing just to get what they want. Like the other stories in this collection Changes tugs at the heartstrings in an odd sort of way. The ending, especially. It didn’t move me enough to make me cry, but I’ve been introduced to Rajit’s real lonely life, seen his troubles and fears, and then his death. That’s enough to make me feel a tad sad for him, and to make me brood. Over the years we watch flicks about famous people but do we know how much of the stories we’re told were true? Films won’t sell if they’re just about the redundant life of an ordinary person so several scenes were added and altered. Most of the time the celebrated people in biopics are just ordinary people too, living ordinary lives. They must have done one or a few remarkable things that shone the limelight on their name, but that doesn’t guarantee that their lives would be as interesting as the books we read and praise. Rajit is alone. Who will remember the story of his life?
I didn’t intend this review (or now more appropriately called a “faux review”) to be heavily weighed with my sentimental ramblings, but that’s really what I feel. Neil Gaiman has this way of ending his stories that will surely leave his readers thinking about the message he is trying to convey. I love this story.