The Archived: Hard to believe in, but still a pleasant read

The Archived by Victoria Schwab science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsThe Archived by Victoria Schwab

The Archived by Victoria Schwab science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsMackenzie (Mac) Bishop, a high-school student, has just moved to a new town with her mom and dad. They’re living in an apartment in a renovated old hotel. Her mom is excited about restoring and reopening a once-popular coffee shop in the hotel, but Mac knows that her mom is really just trying to stay focused and busy after the recent death of Mac’s younger brother.

What Mackenzie’s parents don’t know is that Mac is a Keeper, a job she inherited from her now-deceased grandfather. Keepers are responsible for tracking down the confused embodied souls of dead people (usually children) who wander away from the Archive, where a copy of everybody’s history goes after death. They may look like zombies, but these “Histories” are simply recordings of a person’s life and they must be returned to their vaults if they wander away. Since the public doesn’t know about the Archive, the Keepers, Crew, and Librarians of the Archive have to work in secret.

A Keeper’s job can be dangerous and Mac is often coming home with injuries she has to hide from her parents. But suddenly, after moving to the hotel and changing territory in the Archive, Mac’s job has gotten much harder. The souls she must return to their rest are older, stronger, and feistier. Plus, there’s a lot more of them. One of them, a dead boy named Owen, who used to live in the hotel long ago, seems much too self-aware. He refuses to be re-archived and is causing problems for Mac.

Another problem is that Mac’s bedroom is haunted by the ghost of a girl who was murdered there long ago. As Mac investigates, getting to know the older people who live in the hotel, she discovers that there were other murders around the same time, and there’s a connection to Owen… which is unsettling since Mac is starting to develop feelings for him.

The Archived by Victoria Schwab science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsThe Archived (2013) wouldn’t be a young adult novel without a love triangle. The other guy is Wesley Ayers, who’s got spiked black hair and wears guyliner. He’s sweet, helpful, and interesting.

The best part of The Archived is the characters. I found it easy to like Mac, whose experiences and responsibilities make her wise for her years. Not only has she lost two people she loves, but she deals with the consequences of death every day. Victoria Schwab does a great job with her character. I adored Wesley, and I felt for Mac’s mom, who was trying to cover her grief with a flurry of activity. The characters were the best part of the novel, but I also loved the old hotel setting, though Schwab could have done a little more with it.

As far as the plot goes, it’s unique and mysterious, making it a quick read that never left me bored. However, I found it difficult to believe in the entire premise of the Archive, the Keepers, and the Librarians. The structure didn’t really make sense to me. What’s it for? They don’t seem to do anything with the Histories except to catch them when they escape. Why not lock up or otherwise incapacitate the Histories so they can’t wander away? Or why store them at all? And it doesn’t make sense for a teenager who’s still under the authority of her parents and school to be working for such an organization. And how can her parents be so oblivious to her activities and injuries? I enjoyed Schwab’s characters and setting, but these questions were serious problems for me. Maybe they will be answered in the sequel, The Unbound, which I’ll be reading next.

Piper Goodeve narrates the audio version of The Archived which was recently produced by Tantor Audio. She was perfectly cast and does a great job with both the male and female voices. The audiobook is 10 hours long.

Published in June 2013. Audiobook published in 2019. Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books. Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive. Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was: a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive. Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous—it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost, Da’s death was hard enough, but now that her little brother is gone too, Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself may crumble and fall. In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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