Mnevermind That!–Reviewing the Persistence of Memory.

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Genres: Romance, Erotica, Sci-fi
Themes: Gay representation
Stars: Worldbuilding Star, Warmth Star, Sizzle Star

Today I review The Persistence of Memory, the first of the Mnevermind trilogy by Jordan Castillo Price. In true JCP style, Mnevermind treats us to a sweetly soul-warming story with a sci-fi twist. The twist, in this case, may suggest that the erotic romance would be particularly mind-bending, perhaps even maddening–it’s not. So just mnevermind all that!

Daniel Schroeder is living his dream, a mnemography business with his dad, Big Dan. Funny, though, how a memory can spoil a dream. Mnemogaphy is a technology that allows you to live a memory that never actually happened, called a mnem (pronounced “nem”). In mnem your perfect can come to perfect sensory to detail, and despite being fully artificial, you won’t see the cracks in it until after it’s over, and the “memory” has already begun to fade permanently.

What’s the point, then, if it fades? Consider how an experience can color your life even when it’s forgotten. You’ll never recall the details of your feel-good mnem adventure, but the glow of satisfaction will stay in your subconsciousness. Imagine being able to say goodbye to a loved one, and continue on with that sense of closure. Or be kissed by your ideal lover, and from then on feel more wanted than ever before.

And for a mnem not to fade–to go persistent–would be worse than most realize. Each day, when you woke up, you would believe that fake memory to have actually happened. Even if you found proof otherwise, the memory would keep coming back. Every day would be a rediscovery that your loved one is actually gone, that your dream celebrity never went out with you, that you never got reunited with your ex.

Thus it begins for Daniel’s love-hate connection to mnem. Running the memory palace is exactly what he wanted, and after his mother left, the business–and his relationship to Big Dan only improved. Until Big Dan had a mnem go persistent. Worse still, a mnem memorysmithed by Daniel. One in which his mother never left.

Daniel can’t trust his memorysmithing anymore, and the daily rounds of mom’s-not-here haven’t helped things with him and his dad. He’s relegated to mere thought sherpa, mnemographic guide who pegs clients in and out of their artificial fantasies. Confidence shot, and decidedly boyfriendless, he’s not where he’d hoped he’d be at this time of his life. So it’s understandable that when he meets a handsome stranger while playing sherpa, he can’t help but question if he’s menming himself.

The Beats
Daniel can’t seem to get away from mnem. His fading memory palace, Adventuretech, is all he has left of his old passion for it, but it’s hard running it by himself after Big Dan retired. Especially while pulling shifts at a rival memory palace, unable to even keep his mnem packets updated as they start to grow screwy.

Case in point–while guiding a client out of mnem, Daniel sees sensory oddities like black feathers, crows, and a man who materializes out of the background while pointedly not part of the clients’ fake memories. A man in black with striking features and a clear awareness of Daniel. Which is a strange combination of unsettlingly hot and creepy as hell.

Daniel falls further into a cautious hunt for the man in black. He finds himself constantly checking his palm–looking for the ballpoint-ink X, he and Big Dan’s personal system for verifying if they’re mneming or not–and can’t decide if the man is real, an eerie mnem glitch, a hallucination, or something weirder.

He can’t help but need to know. Not only as a professional, in case his mnems are going bad, but because it’s one of few sparks of excitement remaining in his life. This only grows more true when the man in black and he finally square off–and share a startling, all too brief, kiss.

Daniel’s about to meet the man of his mnems: Elijah Crowe, unique, mysterious, and entirely unexpected. And Daniel has no idea if he can handle this in real life.

The Highlights
The Persistence of Memory is a rather short intro to the Mnevermind trilogy, but one packed with escalation. We’re smoothly introduced to the concept of mnem such that it requires less explanation than it sounds like it should.

In reading and rereading this book, I can’t help but find it both heartbreaking and a little hilarious how Daniel must balance his sense of real life compared to mnem. At one point, Daniel compares mnemography to a beloved dog that one day went rabid and mauled Big Dan, turning frightening and untrustworthy overnight. As tough as that is, Daniel holds up surprisingly well. But he’s hanging on by a thread, unhappy and in desperate need of support, so seeing him constantly check his palm carries a massive, if understated, impact.

Once again, I have to hail JCP for writing a love story about partners that are different ages, both older than thirty, and with unique but believable lives behind them. Daniel is a rough-looking chain smoker who seems like he might be as natural a grease monkey as he is a mnemographer. Meanwhile, Elijah’s sleek black mystery has an unanticipated–and entirely endearing–layer of meaning. Neither of them are super young, super pretty guys we might feel urged to describe as “normal.” A description which, interestingly, covers most people. I often focus on representation of women and all queer peeps, but this form of representation is valuable, too.

Speaking of representation! Though this commentary will have more of a place when I review the second book in the trilogy, I can’t talk about Mnevermind without talking about its representation of autism. I sort of want to explode into incoherent gushing about how much it tickles me to have a character on the autistic spectrum depicted with dignity, grace, and a little positive humor as well. I’m sure we’ve all read stories with, uh, unfortunate implications for their autistic-spectrum characters. Mnevermind isn’t among them. Without wanting to spoil, I felt Mnevermind illustrated neurodiversity not only in an informed way–JCP clearly has done her research–but a compassionate one. Part of this is showing Daniel’s realistic reaction of uncertainty, apprehension, and then understanding.

I award Mnevermind: The Persistence of Memory . . .

The Worldbuilding Star: The idea of mnemography is brilliant, but a brilliant concept isn’t always what warrants this star. What does it for Mnevermind is how richly that concept intertwines the whole story. The very phenomenon of mneming surrounds and informs Daniel’s life, his problems, and his hopes. The question of where real begins and ends isn’t a mere thought exercise, but one which haunts Daniel daily. The exploration of a sci-fi idea like this, which could have made for a rather heady story, ends up relatable and insight-shedding for both Daniel and Elijah.

The Warmth Star: The story has a lot of heart. It’s not only about Daniel and Elijah and their growth toward mutual understanding, but Daniel and Big Dan. Daniel’s plight isn’t a world-about-to-end conflict–it’s just not meant to be that sort of story–but it’s resounding nonetheless. The emphasis on finding each other when life has become a confusing maze, on essentially having a hand to hold when you’re lost, is what bound me up in it so much, made it so identifiable, and brought out such depth of feeling.

The Sizzle Star: This story has relatively few erotic scenes, less than, say, a volume of PsyCop. But I just cannot deny the queen her Sizzle Star. The detail, the rotation of tenderness and eagerness, awkwardness and steam, coil layers of erotic tension in each encounter.

Reader, please consider Mnevermind: Persistence of Memory. It’s one to remember.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jesilea
    May 13, 2014 @ 02:04:18

    Wow, excellent review! I can’t wait to read this.

    Reply

  2. jesilea
    May 13, 2014 @ 02:04:58

    Reblogged this on jesilea.

    Reply

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