Forest of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal is a near future sci-fi novella told by the main character typing up her story on an old typewriter she is planning to sell for its unique nostalgia. I love the future depicted in this story with collectors wanting antiquities for the unique experience they contain, but I wish we had gotten more answers about what Katya actually got involved with in this strange world.
Note: I received an advanced copy of Forest of Memory from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.
Forest of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal
Published by Tor.com on March 8th, 2016
Genres: Adult, Sci-fi
Page Length: 88 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
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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’s 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’s story of what happened in the forest. You’ll just have to believe her…
- The future depicted in this novella is one that doesn’t seem all that distant, with a computer running in our brains functioning as an advanced smart phone and people wishing for the good ol’ days where you actually experienced things in the real world instead of virtually. I especially loved the addition of humans being alerted when wildlife will be crossing a path and the human has to wait so as not to disturb the animal! I know some ecologists that would love that ;-).
- Much of this story focuses on the idea of wabi-sabi though my understanding of it from the novella is different than what Wikipedia reports, so I’m not sure who’s right, ha. I loved the idea, though, of antiques being valuable not just for their rarity but because they contain all the marks of their existence and a story for every imperfection.
- Forest of Memory is written by Katya as an account of what she experienced and she’s writing on an old typewriter. Therefore, there are times when she decides to use a different word and backspace isn’t a thing on a typewriter, so instead she has to cross out the old word and type the new. These moments are included in the copy we get to read, which is kind of fun to see.
- My main feeling while reading this novella was amazement at the questions raised. I was dying to know what was going on in this future and what it could possibly have to do with these deer. The world created for this novella is fascinating and I really want to know more.
- I read an ARC, but I’m pretty sure there are purposeful typos in Forest of Memory that aren’t just from reading an ARC (because they are really blatant) and I think they are to go along with the idea that Katya is writing on a typewriter. They got rather annoying though and I could have done with just the strike outs instead of the transposed letters.
- After finishing this novella I can’t tell you anything about why the events occurred. Katya doesn’t really know, hasn’t had the chance to find out, and everything is left completely up in the air. It felt very incomplete and unsatisfying. I don’t think there was even enough context given for a discussion group to make reasonable guesses that wouldn’t just be writing an ending for this novella.
Forest of Memory depicts a near future world that immediately captivated my imagination. I loved the idea of antiques becoming valuable in a world where everything is printed and perfect and virtually experienced. However, I have no idea what was actually going on in this plot and I really wanted to know. I’m not a fan of novellas that don’t give some sort of conclusion, so this ending didn’t work for me.
Have you read this one? What did you think? Are you excited for it if you haven’t gotten to it yet?
Forest of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal
© 2016, Anya. All rights reserved.