Review of The Last Witness by K.J. Parker (Tor.com October 6, 2015)
This is a first person point-of-view story about a man who can look into people’s heads and remove memories. He feels and remembers all the things he removes, and thus has many unpleasant experiences stored in his head, because those are the most common type of memory that people want to lose. Some people also want no one to know their secrets and they trust the memory-yanking man more than they do their associates. This type of work puts him at odds with some of his partners when he wants to retire to the country.
It turns out the man’s talent has profound implications for his family, and when faced with the situation he has to look at his life in a new way. The main character is profoundly unpleasant and treats many people like dirt, so it is not really a surprise that others don’t like him; they only tolerate him because of his talent. He is only likable when he puts his talent aside.
The concept of what the main character can do is interesting, but Your Humble Reviewers found no one in the novella to be particularly likeable. The setting wasn’t really present except as a place for the story to occur, just a backdrop with very little depth.
So far this has been the [Tor.com Publishing] novella we have liked the least: it isn’t bad, just sort of ho-hum. Neither the setting nor the characters grabbed us; the only thing you are left with is the man’s weird memory-yanking talent, which is interesting but without the character and setting to back it up was not sufficient for a good read.
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