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William's Book Blog

Mostly book reviews.  Very rarely I'll allow William Campbell Powell (author) to write a blog entry on publishing activity, but he's under orders to keep that stuff over on his Facebook page and on http://williamcampbellpowell.com

Currently reading

Fonda Lee
Fonda Lee
Anansi Boys
Neil Gaiman
Zombie Elementary: The Real Story
Howard Whitehouse
Progress: 99 %
The Angel's Game (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, #2)
Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Progress: 6/504 pages
The Longest Week: What Really Happened During Jesus' Final Days
Nick Page
Progress: 43/310 pages

Unchained memory

The Unhappening of Genesis Lee - Shallee McArthur

I came across this while perusing the longlist for the Andre Norton award, selecting it because it wasn't fantasy or horror.


It opened well, with the voice of a human-plus, one of the new class of augmented memory humans, set against an underclass of normal humans.  The problem: someone is stealing the memories of the augmented humans.  Initially coming to the aid of her best friend, who's a victim, Genesis Lee, the teenage female protagonist is having her own memories stolen, but piecemeal rather than wholesale.  Who's doing it, will she get her friend's memories back, will she manage to remember the standard human male love interest from one date to the next?


Not too surprising, any of those questions.  Definitely no surprise that there are mobs rioting as tension between the augmented humans and standard humans escalates.  But then it gets complicated by a separate science thread, that of DNA theft, enabling the possessor to masquerade as the victim and defeat all the (DNA-based) security of the book's world.


So it's certainly a good yarn in the YA mould, with an entirely decent scientific background.  The book is at its strongest when it explores the nature of identity, not only (and obviously) in our own memories, but also the relationship between identity and the memories that others hold of us.


There's also a great tension right the way through the book.  As an involved reader, I wanted to see Humpty Dumpty put together again - memories re-united with their owners, a reconciliation between the two groups of humans and villains getting their comeuppance.  All the while, I'm thinking how hard it's going to be, then uh-oh it just got even harder.  But then there's a bit more new science appearing, so maybe it's still possible, but then ... and then...


Switching metaphors, by the end of the book you realise that Shallee McArthur is going to have to pull one ginormous rabbit out of the hat.  But maybe she just says, the hell with it.  Have an unconventional ending instead.


Recommended for YA science fiction fans who don't mind whether they get a large rabbit or an unconventional ending.