Mini-Review: Forest of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal

Mary Robinette Kowal’s Forest of Memory is one of my favorite of Tor.com’s novellas to date. It’s an interesting exploration of memory and the authenticity of experiences in a world in which nearly all human experience is filtered through a technological lens. Smartly, Kowal doesn’t dwell much on the actual future technology she’s imagined, and she also avoids the pitfalls of attempting to examine the broader societal effects of that technology. Instead, she focuses squarely on a single character and her personal experiences in order to tell a singularly excellent story.

The first-person point of view is likewise a good choice, and Katya is an engaging narrator. The peculiar method in which the story is being told—from Katya’s point of view, in hindsight, ostensibly as Katya types the story on a typewriter for a client—is clever but not too precious. The occasional misspellings and typos are just enough to be noticeable to a keen reader, but not so obtrusive that they detract from the reading experience. Instead, they lend character to the story and add a small sense of realism to an otherwise somewhat dreamlike narrative.

I haven’t read much of Kowal’s fiction, just this and her marvelous novelette “The Lady Astronaut of Mars,” and I’m not sure I’ll ever get around to reading her Glamourist Histories fantasy series, but I will definitely be watching for more of her science fiction in the future.

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