Tuesday, March 09, 2021

Five SFF books about division and separation

Aliya Whiteley writes across many different genres and lengths. Her first published full-length novels, Three Things About Me and Light Reading, were comic crime adventures. Her 2014 SF-horror novella The Beauty was shortlisted for the James Tiptree and Shirley Jackson awards. The following historical-SF novella, The Arrival of Missives, was a finalist for the Campbell Memorial Award, and her noir novel The Loosening Skin was shortlisted for the Arthur C Clarke Award.

Whiteley's latest novel, Skyward Inn, is a classic science fiction story of division between worlds, states, families, and memories.

At Tor.com she tagged five top SFF books about division and separation, including:
The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

Many of the divisions mentioned so far happen on a large scale, but there are some that are little more than fine cracks, barely noticeable, and it takes exquisite writing to make them visible to the reader. Often books that achieve this feel deeply truthful about what it means to be human. Personality is, perhaps, a collection of memories, thoughts and feelings, joined together with the cracks papered over in reality. In fiction, these cracks can be exposed. They can even be blasted apart.

The Memory Police starts as a dystopia, set on an island where a police force might enter your home and take you away, never to be seen again, for a very specific crime: remembering. Once all the islanders lose a memory of something—a small thing such as a ribbon, say—it is a crime to still be able to recall it. Why can some people continue to remember? But the questions that drive the first pages of the book soon give way to deep concerns about how much is being lost by each forgetting. The focus becomes the question of how much an individual can lose in this way before there’s no personality left at all. Ogawa brings in psychological horror brilliantly: everything can be divided, in the end, and there will be nothing left for the memory police to conquer. All that we are can be taken away from us.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue