Tuesday, August 14, 2012

False Memory

False Memory, a young adult science fiction novel by Dan Krokos, is one of those 3-star books I enjoy reading in the moment but that don't intrigue me enough to follow them up when the next in the series comes out. I was actually intrigued by the set-up for the next book in this series, and if I'd had a copy on my shelf, I would have dived right into it, no problem. But by the time this one's sequel comes out, I'll have plenty of other books competing for my attention. Since I read advance reader's copies, sequels don't even cross my radar unless I make a point of looking for them after reading a story I'm not ready to let go of. Most likely, I'll never even know when the sequel to False Memory comes out.

False Memory (and I'll get to my opinion of the title in just a moment) begins with 17-year-old Miranda North waking up and not remembering who she is except for her name. She recognizes that a mall is a mall and a cop is a cop, but her past is blank. When she accidentally causes mass panic with her own mind and easily wins hand-to-hand combat, she realizes she is more than your average girl. But it all feels right, and as she returns to the only world she's ever known with a boy just like her, her memories start to come back in patches. The question is, is it enough? Her childhood friends are at odds with each other, but that's nothing compared to pressures from outside the group. Someone wants them dead while another wants to use them for nefarious purposes. Miranda's fractured mind follows along as best it can as her team deals with its troubles, but there's no doubt, some things have changed for her. Can she go back to the person she was, or is she irreparably altered into someone new?

Interesting premise. I like the whole idea of someone starting over when memory fails her. But, tell me, why, oh, why would you go and name a book with memory loss as the premise False Memory? From the beginning, I suspected Miranda's memories! The title felt like a major give-away for someone who hates spoilers. Would you name Star Wars The Boy Whose Father was Darth Vader? So, then, why would you tell us right off the bat that your main character who's struggling with her memory might be remembering things that aren't true? It doesn't make sense. I won't say whether or not it mattered in the end or if it was a real spoiler or not. The point is, it felt like a spoiler, and rather than wondering, I was just waiting for it to happen.

Title aside, there are pieces of this story, or even just lines here and there, that are confusing. If I didn't understand something, I left it and read on, and overall, the story makes good enough sense. There is just something in the writing of it that isn't completely smooth and clear.

My one other problem with the book is its treatment of death. In the opening pages, Miranda accidentally kills people. It's shocking, yes, but I don't necessarily mind the murder being present in a young adult novel. What I need to see, however, is the murderer's reactions. Is she horrified? Does she care? Does it change her? When given the opportunity, does she murder again? I'm sad to say that Miranda's character does not ace these questions. Yes, she feels awful about the initial deaths, and yes, she doesn't want to do anything like that again. But later, she easily kills people who get in her way, and she hardly thinks twice about it. She's trained to be a weapon, but especially after the loss of memories, I would think she'd be more horrified by what she's capable of. The people she kills later in the book are not civilians. They are basically nameless, faceless soldiers, but they are still humans. Does it make it okay to kill people if they would kill you first?

And here's another question the book raises and seemingly answers: is it okay to kill a few so that more don't die? Sacrifice a few for the greater good? It's still murder. I know it's not an easy question, but the lack of internal struggle over it is more of a problem to me than the presence of it in the book. Make the characters tackle the big questions; that's good. But don't raise big questions if you can't deliver an honest discussion of right and wrong. Comparatively, I was less bothered by some of the brutality in The Hunger Games. There, the discussion of good and evil is clear, and the main character has qualms about killing, even for survival.

False Memory is the equivalent of a popcorn movie. A bit of entertainment without much heavy thinking required. This book is released this month.

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