Michael R. Fletcher and Clayton W. Snyder
This book is cold, mean, and brutal. It features hard, cruel characters, made stronger and tougher by the uncaring, cynical world they live in. Or perhaps it features ordinary people just trying to get by? People who turn into vicious, traumatized monsters when they don the trappings of their day jobs.
The world painted her is fascinating – bleak as the faded hope of the doomed, but fascinating all the same. A hint of the fantastic outside the city, but always out of reach. A bit like the good future you could have if you hadn’t had to spend your last coins on three potatoes for the evening’s stew. If you hadn’t drunk half a bottle of vodka last night just to forget there would be a new day tomorrow.
You don’t even know what you do at work.
You’re a different person, then. The memory stones you put on at the start of your shift, with someone else’s memories, take away all the memories you gained during the day when the stones come off in the evening. Except sometimes, the memories bleed over, and you’re pretty sure the blood on your hands isn’t yours, and whoever it came from won’t need it any longer. You don’t even smoke, and yet you stink of cigarettes.
What’s even going on? Who’s memories do you carry? Who do you become when you’re at work, and why does someone else want their memories? What will they do with the people you care about if you don’t do what they say? What will your employer do if you lose their most valuable asset: the memory stones – not you?
You’re a dead man, or woman. There’s no way out. Your memories are someone else’s and your feelings too, and the only thing you know is that someone you trusted has betrayed you – or you wouldn’t be dead. The person who’s memories you carry wouldn’t be dead, and you wouldn’t remember being killed.
What I’ll whine about
Violence. This book contains a lot of brutal violence, cruelty, and torture, and it’s all described in explicit detail. It’s part of the story and the world, and the book wouldn’t be the same without it, but it got a bit much. I found I became desensitized to it, the words lost their meaning, and I kept wishing the story would just get on with it.
I’m not sure whether that says more about me than about the book, though, and perhaps that’s part of what reading this kind of story is about?
Another thing that bothered me a little is that it took very long for me to figure out the plot. I wasn’t really sure what these characters were about, other than getting through the day and living their lives, and that wasn’t what I expected from this book. It did clear up eventually, but it took its sweet time.
What I’ll gush about
World building. As hinted on above, I really like the concept of memory stones (and personality stones). The idea that you can mix and combine memories and personalities to turn someone into a completely different person is fascinating. It may not necessarily be new, but I’ve never come across it executed in this way, and it’s absolutely brilliant.
Characters. I’m all about characters, and the ones in this story are excellent. Flawed and broken beyond repair, but still holding on, struggling, and doing their best to survive.
Did I mention the world building? It’s not just the magic, but the city itself that. I don’t have any personal experience of the part of the world this is built upon, but it feels very authentic. Despite the violence, the misery, and the bleakness, the world feels real and tangible in a way that I don’t often come across.
If you’re in the market for something dark, mean, and brutal, take a stab at this (bad pun intended).