Forest of Memory: Engaging if somewhat bewildering

Forest of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal SFF book reviewsForest of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal SFF book reviewsForest of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal

A story set in the future about an ‘authenticities’ dealer, Forest of Memory is set in a culture where everyone is connected by an omnipresent internet. The main character has a personal AI who is always listening and also recording and broadcasting the life of the protagonist. Mary Robinette Kowal then thrusts the main character into a situation where none of her technology works.

The premise of the tale interested me. In few words, Kowal has built a culture that is both rooted in today and wholly futuristic. It is believable and engaging, asking and answering: what if the internet connects us all, all the time? Its dream-like atmosphere and descriptions lend to the uniqueness of the tale, and made it a gripping setting. Further, I found the characters easy to get into. They were understandable when they needed to be, and mysterious when they could be. Those elements added up to a deeply engaging narrative.

On the other hand, I am completely convinced that this story is not for me. Not in a negative sense, but rather in the sense that I do not think I understood the subtext of the story. Forest of Memory was intriguing from the start, and I enjoyed many aspects of the story but I was bewildered with the conclusion. To me, it came at an odd time and with a particular message: a message that I had missed.

Overall I can’t give Forest of Memory any less than 3 out of 5 stars. It’s really a beautiful story with some interesting elements and plot. However, I was left more confused than satisfied which made this story less than the 4 or 5 stars it could be for someone else. I recommend it, even if its subtleties weren’t for me.

Published in 2016. 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.

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SKYE WALKER, who has been on FanLit’s staff since September 2014 (after a brief time on staff as a YA reviewer in 2007-2008), is from Canada. Their HBA in Anthropology and Communications allowed them to write an Honours paper on podcasting as the modern oral tradition of storytelling: something they will talk about at any and all opportunities. Skye is a communications professional in the non-profit sector. These days their favourite authors include Ursula K Le Guin, Bo Bolander, and Chris Wooding. They can be found on social media @cskyewalker.

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2 comments

  1. Hrm, this sounds intriguing! I’ll have to keep an eye out for it. Thanks, Skye!

  2. Yeah, it does sound quite interesting, actually.

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