Tag Archives: Dystopian Fiction

Review: The Memory Police

The Memory Police

The Memory Police
By Yoko Ogawa, Translated by Stephen Snyder
Vintage, 9781101911815, July 2020, 288pp.

The Short of It:

Ethereal and beautiful, tinged with sadness.

The Rest of It:

On a remote island, random objects begin to disappear. Birds, roses, ribbons, etc. The inhabitants wake to a feeling of change yet can’t put their finger on what has changed until they interact with others on the island. The strange thing is that the feeling that the disappearance causes precedes the actual disappearance which is followed through to completion by the inhabitants themselves. So when roses disappear, the inhabitants gather up all the roses to destroy them and send them down a river.

The disappearances are enforced by the Memory Police. How they know when someone is holding out is not explained but if someone tries to preserve something that has disappeared, they are taken away. Eventually, when all traces are removed, most of the inhabitants can no longer recall the item at all. All memory of the item has disappeared as well. But there are some who never forget. The memories of these items remain in them, and for some, they’ve even been able to preserve the actual item, such as a piece of candy. As living becomes more difficult and the situation more dire, you can’t help but compare what is going on with Orwell’s 1984.

The three main characters are for the most part, unnamed. Our protagonist, a young woman, lost both her parents and lives a solitary life. She is a writer and befriended by her editor, only known as “R” and a kind old man who knew her mother. The three navigate these disappearances as best they can but “R” happens to be one of the people who can remember and so he must go into hiding with their help. What will disappear next?

This story is beautifully written. I found myself rereading many passages as I went along. The author’s skill at evoking a particular memory is especially wonderful. I found myself mourning all the things we have lost during this pandemic. The smell of a wonderful meal, served to me in a bustling restaurant filled with laughter and happy people. Or I found myself missing movie theatres and that anticipation you feel when the previews roll or the smell of hot buttered popcorn while sitting back to enjoy a really good film. The story made me feel all kinds of things. Yes, it made me a little sad but also hopeful because I am fairly certain that the tangible things we’ve lost during this pandemic are only temporary losses, not like the ones in the story.

The author’s inspiration was Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl. This makes sense when you consider the hiding that must take place to keep these people safe. The Memory Police is a wonderful read. I have found a new favorite author in Ogawa and can’t wait to read another book by her.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Parable of the Sower

Parable of the Sower

Parable of the Sower
By Octavia E. Butler
Grand Central Publishing, 9781538732182, (1993) 2019, 368pp.

The Short of It:

The California that Butler writes about in this 1993 novel is in essence where California is headed towards today.

The Rest of It:

The story takes place in the early 2020’s. Much of California is a wasteland, depleted of resources and occupied by bands of thieves who are addicted to a drug called Pyro. This drug makes them want to burn down everything around them, including innocent people taking shelter for the night.

Lauren Olamina is only 15-years-old but has witnessed some horrible things. She, along with her family are the lucky ones. They live in a gated community with other families who support and protect one another when they can. But anytime anyone in the community leaves the protection of those gates, no one knows if they will ever make it back because it’s bad out there. A simple trip for supplies is never simple when desperate people want what you have. Even within the gates, each night they are subjected to thieves jumping the wall to pillage and destroy. Lauren, at such a young age is taught to shoot and yes, to kill. The only catch is that Lauren is a “sharer”. She suffers from an illness of empathy and can feel the pain and pleasure of others. There are few like her, but when she chooses to shoot someone she has to be sure because she could end up crippled by their pain if she doesn’t kill them outright.

Nothing lasts forever. Lauren is eventually forced to leave the safety of her community and hooks up with others also looking to survive. Her plan is to start a new community once she finds the right place. If you are familiar with the Bible at all, you will recognize the title choice for this book. The Parable of the Sower is all about planting seeds. Some take, others don’t. What survives are the plants with deep roots. In this case, trusting one another and putting your life on the line to protect someone you hardly know for the sake of community is how such a community will survive.

This was a very hard book to read during this pandemic. The pace is a little slow and the writing is the type that you must sit with for awhile. Reading about a California that has been decimated by climate change and seeing how its inhabitants deal with the lack of water and other resources was a tad depressing but also eye-opening. Butler always seems to know what’s coming and she didn’t hold back here. California is walking a fine line. We are battling drought, brush fires that force our power grids to shutdown as a preventative measure, increased poverty and homelessness. NOT to mention what the rest of the country is battling right now, the pandemic. Chilling.

Parable of the Sower is a worthwhile read. Just know that if you read it now, it might take some time to get through and might send you into a downward spiral temporarily but I enjoyed the writing quite a bit.

Source: Purchased
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.