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by Robert Sawyer
Ace Books, $25.95, 340pp
Release Date: April 3, 2012

OmiGosh! Sawyer strikes again…with another thought-provoking story. This time the subject is people’s memories. What if you could read a stranger’s memories? To know everything about another person, while, at the same time, some other stranger is reading your own memories. What would it mean to your sense of self? How would it affect your prejudices and choices?

This is a real ensemble cast with no one protagonist except maybe the lead Secret Service agent….. the country is besieged with repeated terrorist attacks. The President is shot and while in the operating room of a nearby hospital, the terrorists blow up the White House with a special new bomb – with a nasty electromagnetic pulse. At the moment that the EMP hits, the President is in the operating room, and on the floor above him is a doctor attempting a radical new treatment on an Iraqi war vet who suffers from PTSD. The treatment is to stop the memories that are disabling his life. And a moment later, nothing will ever be the same again.

Dr. Singh is the first to understand what happened when he was able to read the memories of the lead Secret Service agent, Susan. He was able to figure out that the EMP disrupted his experiment creating a ‘bubble’ that affected 21 people, including the President. Twenty-one people able to read each other’s memories. And one of them can read the President of the United States - a monumental breach of national security if there ever was one. The race is on to identify all the people and who they are reading, in order to find the potential security breach. Now it gets really interesting. There’s a lawyer, a real estate agent, a man and his adult daughter, a pregnant Hispanic woman, an elderly woman from Mississippi , a janitor, the black Iraqi war vet, the surgical team that worked on the President, and two of the Secret Service agents. The experience was either exhilarating or horrifying depending on what kind of memories each person suddenly found inside their own heads. After all, most of us have some secrets that we prefer no one else know.

But in usual Sawyer fashion, that’s not all there is folks. There’s some lovely conflict with a major military operation about to launch and the need for secrecy. There’s more lovely conflict between many of the people who are ‘linked.’ And there’s an awesome resolution which I won’t even hint at. No spoilers this time.

The plot is perfect and grows at a steady pace. The characterizations are quite sufficient for the story. Sawyer is adept at identifying his characters to his reader very succinctly. And I just love the way he makes me think when he finally unleashes the punchline. ~~ Catherine Book

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