Review of Forest of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor.com, March 8, 2016)
Katya is a futuristic antiques dealer from the West Coast. She is riding her bike on a forest trail and pulling a trailer along behind. Her latest acquisition, a typewriter, is in the trailer. Her sales are dependent on clients believing her videos and social media posts about where in this post-disaster United States she acquired her items. This of course requires being constantly connected to the internet and her customers.
Suddenly she is completely cut off from all outside connection and she discovers a man and a deer nearby. Her discovery means she is a danger to the man and his boss’s project so she gets kidnapped and taken to his camp. The events which unfold in the camp and the relationship between Katya and her captor are the centerpiece of the story. Her captor’s boss and his attitudes and tastes also play a role in Katya’s fate.
Kowal’s descriptions make the forest, the deer, the camp, and the characters spring right off the page. It is a profoundly creepy story, and Your Humble Reviewers do not wish to spoil it overmuch. The extensive use of technology and how the lack of it influences the story and Katya’s choices makes the reader look at present-day technology and social media in a new way. It is not a very flattering look at present-day society.
If you like science fiction with a touch of creepiness or urban fantasy set in a natural world, you will love this story. It’s set in the future, but the forest setting makes it feel like urban fantasy. Like many of Kowal’s stories, it is one that makes you think and will leave an impression long after reading.