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The Memoirist (NewCon Press Novellas Set 1)…
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The Memoirist (NewCon Press Novellas Set 1)

by Neil Williamson

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This is the fourth and final novella in NewCon Press’s new series of novella quartets (I wonder where they could have got that idea from?). These first four are straight-up sf, so I will admit to some surprise at seeing Neil Williamson’s name, since he’s not known for straight-up sf. But, thankfully, The Memoirist certainly qualifies as that, and even better, it’s a pretty damn good piece of straight-up science fiction. A ghost writer is hired to write the memoirs of the lead singer of a long-since defunct rock band that had a Moment a couple of decades previously. That Moment was at a near-legendary gig in a small club, of which no recordings or footage exists. And yet the myth of the gig overshadows what meagre impact the band itself ever had. In this world, ubiquitous “bees” provide 24/7 surveillance… but it seems that mythical gig triggered something which led to a new type of “bee”… and to say any more would give the plot twist away. I’ll admit I thought the mystery dragged out a little, but the way the plot then shifted into left-field more than made up for it. I enjoyed this, a good piece of near-future sf, almost McLeod-esque in places, with an interesting premise and an in interesting, and nicely oblique, approach to that premise (okay, it was a little Espedair Street too, but that’s hardly a complaint). Good stuff. ( )
  iansales | Jun 22, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Do you ever feel that you are being watched by hidden cameras, that your emails are being read by the wrong people, that the government is keeping an eye on you? Do you ever wonder whether the virtual friend that you have just met online is not quite who you think he is? Neil Williamson's new science-fiction story, The Memoirist, takes you 50 years into the future and explores a world where these worries become nightmares.

Rhian Fitzgerald makes a living ghost-writing memoirs. Her interviews with her clients give them the feeling that they have personally contributed to the composition, although she is able to compile most of the memoir from information available in the cyberspace of the future. She travels to Paris to meet Elodie Eagles face to face at her apartment because Ms Eagles avoids electronic communications. But this is not a routine assignment. Elodie, an aging celebrity rock-star, is developing Alzheimer's and has lost her memory of a night in Glasgow 50 years earlier –the night of her impromptu, final, solo performance. It was a crowning moment in her own mind. Her songs protested the surveillance state, and this final performance led to running battles with the authorities in the streets of Glasgow. Her final performance, and a particular song that she sang only once, has gone from her memory, and she is desperate to bring it back.

Rhian’s enquiry into the events of that night, with the help of a mysterious friend, Pawel, whom she knows only through virtual communications, leads her deeper and deeper into a nightmare of electronic surveillance, loss of personal privacy, and confrontation with state authorities.

The technology of the future dominates the story. The surveillance cameras of today have become a ubiquitous system of eyes mounted in electronic "bees" that hover and watch everyone, everywhere, except in the private spaces of bathrooms and bedrooms. The smart phones of today have disappeared, replaced by technology that feeds data and images from the Internet, and from the bees, directly to the eye so that a constant stream of information can be seen, and managed merely by blinking. Today's websites have been superseded by Homespace, which allows anyone, at any time, to wander virtually within your private rooms.

The story enters a new dimension as Rhian is sucked into Project Panopticon. Caught between the demands of government agents and the genius of Pawel, she is forced to make a decision that may affect the future of us all.

The themes of privacy, surveillance, virtual relationships, and the automation of memory, are at the heart of this novel of ideas. ( )
  perhapsthisone | Apr 25, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I like the idea of this book but I don't think it was necessarily captured very well. In the end I was confused whether the author was for security or against. I felt the main character was a bit blah and didn't seem to have an opinion on the main subject of the book. The book started out a bit scary with the bees but the book lost it's steam and went downhill fast, which is surprising since it's only about 90 pages. I thought the writing was very good though and at times I felt drawn in but this probably isn't a book I'll remember in a year or two. ( )
  sophiemanic | Apr 21, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
An interesting novella, obviously set (or setting up) a world for more of a novel exploration. The opening is very rocky, (overly grandiloquent vocabulary used slightly incorrectly) but the style quickly settles down within a few pages. It's a shame the editors didn't correct this for more of an immediate impact. The social commentary is always welcome in a science fiction setting, but the direct relevance to today's topics of interest means that it will date very quickly.

Rashia is a Memoirist of the title - she ghost writes memoirs for people unwilling or unable to write their own. But this is the future, so instead of interviewing them over many hours, she just scours all the public online records and creates their history from that. She is frequently more successful at scouring sordid details than the client wants, and these can be carefully elided. MOst of the story is not about Rashia or her client, but instead about the society she's living in. Specifically the WatchNet of artificial 'bee' drones, complete with cameras keep society as safe as it's ever been - at the price of constant surveillance everywhere of everyone. It's still possible to maintain a little privacy in the bedroom, but the shame of being reprimanded by consensus drivers everyone to balnd behavior - even swearing in public has vanished. However a collective of anarchists have other ideas.

Being a novella has many drawbacks and with such a grand agenda as this they are readily apparent. Mostly the lack of other characters, but also any exploration of subtlety in the technology. IN general authors should avoid attempting any explanations via quantum mechanics because it really doesn't help. (Note it doesn't work like that, not even as a what-if).

Probably an author to keep an eye on, along the lines of Stross. ( )
  reading_fox | Apr 15, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Reminiscent of Gibson of at his best.... ( )
  AlanPoulter | Apr 15, 2017 |
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