Ahoy there me mateys! Here be another dystopian for the crew. In this one, the premise is that all across the globe people’s shadows are disappearing. And though it seems like a miracle at first, humanity learns that with the loss of shadows comes the lost of memory. And with the loss of memory comes the loss of identity.
Against this backdrop, ye follow several people. Among them are husband and wife, Ory and Max. Ory and Max went to a wedding at a resort where they remained trapped once the world starts to disintegrate. The problem, Max loses her shadow. So when Max goes missing one day, Ory sets off to find his wife before she loses all memories including the ones about him.
Ye also follow a man who has also lost his memories but from an automobile accident. He suffers retrograde amnesia and has no recollection of anything that happened before waking up in a treatment facility.
The concepts of memory loss and identity are what truly make this a book worth reading. The people who lose their shadows, the shadowless, tend to lose all their memories within a quick period. Think a week or so. But it happens in such a fashion that ye might remember what yer parents did for a living but not their names. And it only gets weirder as the person begins to lose more and more. I found how the shadowless dealt with the memory loss to be fascinating. In particular, Max records her thoughts of self on a cassette player as her memories begin to fade. Her journey was the most interesting to me.
But this book also has a more magical element. It is never explained as to why it happened or even how it really works. But the consequences of this magic use are crazy, scary, and weirdly fun. Having partial memories of things causes the shadowless to inadvertently change the very fabric of reality around them. Simple things like making the handle of a knife change to a favourite color. Or more complex things like creating creatures from myth that then come to life.
What I didn’t like about this book was that I thought two of the subplots in the middle were long, unnecessary, and a bit boring. One deals with a shadowless war in D.C. I didn’t mind it being included in the story but it was drawn out and extremely coincidental. The other subplot involves a cult that worships the shadowless. I could have done without that one altogether. And the “dramatic” intertwining of the cult, the D.C. shadowless war, and the merry band of travelers was kinda ridiculous and resolved in a fashion where the whole was less than the sum of the parts. The religious war was extremely anticlimactic with an absurd magical solution.
That said, if ye ignore those two subplots, the rest was thought-provoking and interesting. While the ending was a little less than satisfactory, there were some resolutions concerning the shadowless that were very well done. In general this was an excellent debut and I will keep me eye out on future work from this author.
Goodreads has this to say about the novel:
One afternoon at an outdoor market in India, a man’s shadow disappears—an occurrence science cannot explain. He is only the first. The phenomenon spreads like a plague, and while those afflicted gain a strange new power, it comes at a horrible price: the loss of all their memories.
Ory and his wife Max have escaped the Forgetting so far by hiding in an abandoned hotel deep in the woods. Their new life feels almost normal, until one day Max’s shadow disappears too.
Knowing that the more she forgets, the more dangerous she will become to Ory, Max runs away. But Ory refuses to give up the time they have left together. Desperate to find Max before her memory disappears completely, he follows her trail across a perilous, unrecognizable world, braving the threat of roaming bandits, the call to a new war being waged on the ruins of the capital, and the rise of a sinister cult that worships the shadowless.
As they journey, each searches for answers: for Ory, about love, about survival, about hope; and for Max, about a new force growing in the south that may hold the cure.
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