Forest of Memory

Forest of Memory

Book - 2016
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"Katya deals in Authenticities and Captures, trading on nostalgia for a past long gone. Her clients are rich and they demand items and experiences with only the finest verifiable provenance. Other people lives have value, after all. But when her A.I. suddenly stops whispering in her ear she finds herself cut off from the grid and loses communication with the rest of the world. The man who stepped out of the trees while hunting deer cut her off from the cloud, took her A.I. and made her his unwilling guest. There are no Authenticities or Captures to prove Katya story of what happened in the forest. You l just have to believe her."--Page 4 of cover.
Publisher: New York :, Tom Doherty Associates LLC,, 2016.
Edition: First Tor edition.
Copyright Date: ©2014
ISBN: 9780765387912
Branch Call Number: FIC KOWA
Characteristics: 88 pages ; 21 cm


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JCLChrisK Dec 09, 2017

"I've given you the gift of uncertainty."

It's not a spoiler to share that final sentence of this story, because the story is uncertain from the start. It's all about mystery and ambiguity.

You see, Katya lives in a future where everything and everyone is connected. The computer network is everywhere. Even the dust floating through the air contains nanobots. Everything is recorded and can be recalled instantly when needed.

And any item can be 3D printed on demand, so anything with history is valuable for the fact of its unique story. Katya collects and sells such "authenticities." This short novella is her latest and most unusual. It is a letter to an anonymous collector, and the item being sold is her memory of three days she recently spent off the grid. She has become an authenticity herself.

"All of this is what I experienced, but I have no recorded memories of it. I can't play back this episode in my life and report on what I saw. I have to try to remember . . .

"Have you tried to do this? Have you turned off your Lens, turned off your i-Sys, stepped away from the cloud, and just tried to REMEMBER something? It's hard, and the memories are mutable.

"The cloud is just there, all the time. You reach for it without thinking and assume it will be there."

The mutability of memory is what makes everything so uncertain, because there is no evidence to support the experience Katya remembers. And in a world where everything is known at all times, that is a novelty.

The form of the book supports its content. It is brief and spare and reads as though Katya is a minor character in some bigger story that's taking place just off the page. The world-building is merely hinted at, with so many details left tantalizingly vague and unexplained. It adds to the nature of uncertainty Katya shares.

It makes for a satisfyingly unsatisfying tale. Which is the point.

fineplan Dec 22, 2016

The author created excellent mood to the story and character voice. However, while there was a clever aspect to the ending, overall things were too vague to satisfy me.

LPL_EliH Sep 26, 2016

The story zips along with an impressive balance of suspense and thought provoking world building. Kowal deals with some interesting questions, and overall this is a solid little story, but it feels more like an overgrown short story, lacking the developed substance of a true novella.

Sep 18, 2016

This scifi novella, in which a woman is abducted and deprived of her usual technology, could have been a horror story, but Mary Robinette Kowal focuses on the sci-fi implications: how technology puts a screen between us and the world, documents and supplants our own memories, and leads us to fetishize a certain type of authenticity. The twist and the end was intriguing, and the brevity of the book made it a wonderful lunch break. I'll look for her other books.


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