For Flashback Wednesday, we're reviewing Dan Krokos's False Memory. False Sight comes out in a matter of weeks - a book we're also reviewing - and we wanted to recap what happened in False Memory before then!
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published August 14th 2012 by Hyperion
Format read: Hardcover (owned)
Author Dan Krokos proves beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he is definitely one to watch in the rising stars of YA science fiction.
So when I heard about False Memory in January of 2012, it quickly became one of my most anticipated debut novels of the year. I spent most of that summer writing my dissertation, and energetically counting down to the book’s August release date.
(In fact, if you follow me on Twitter, I’m sure you can probably find some flailing tweets from the exact moment on the release day, when the UPS guy finally dropped off my book at my office. My intern was extremely amused.)
And let me just say, the book absolutely lived up to my expectations. It was a rip-roaring read, and I felt exhilarated as I finished – just like I had watched an action movie.
Now that the second book in the series, False Sight is about to be released, I figured that it was high time that I actually sat down and reviewed False Memory. So here we are!
However, please note: I’m going to try and remain more vague than normal during this review, because I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone coming into the series for the first time!
However, after Miranda inadvertently uses a mysterious power that triggers an incident of mass hysteria at the local mall, she runs into a young man named Peter, who claims to have knowledge of Miranda’s pre-amnesia life.
Left with no choice but to trust him, Miranda goes along with his movements, and soon learns that both she and Peter are a part of a team of genetically-engineered teenagers with powers and abilities that can be harnessed as a weapon against others.
But if that isn't enough, a revelation from Miranda's creators soon sends her entire team on the run, desperate to survive...
Things that worked:
* The writing
While False Memory is Krokos' debut novel, readers would be hard-pressed to find any of the usual signs of a newer, and still developing writer.
False Memory is written with the sort of absolute confidence that reflects in every facet of the novel. From the sharp dialogue, to the deftly plotted action scenes, Krokos writes with the obvious ease of a skilled storyteller, who is slowly peeling back the layers of an ongoing mystery.
I was especially impressed with how Krokos chose to set up the foundations of Miranda’s story.
By establishing Miranda as an unreliable narrator, Krokos could have easily chosen to explore Miranda’s background in a number of ways. However, he made the wise decision to have her essentially choose to emotionally start over - e.g. her admittance that she’s a different Miranda that the one that Noah fell for – which made it far easier for readers to follow along with her progression throughout the course of the novel.
And because Miranda was a newer version of herself, this also added a layer of poignancy to the relationships that she reestablished with Noah, Peter and Olive.
The fact that Miranda literally could not remember the bulk of her relationship with Noah, or Olive’s tacit acceptance of the fact that even though Miranda was essentially a different person now, Olive would still never have a chance to be with Noah, all contributed to an emotional profundity which I don’t often see in the teenaged relationships of YA novels.
* The world building
Like any science fiction book that takes place in a contemporary setting, Krokos has the tricky job of making sure that the scientific elements of his plot stand out, while also making the actual logistics of the science seem like perfectly sound developments in our average, day-to-day world.
Krokos does this spectacularly, developing a world within our world, while presenting science that is both high-tech and completely feasible. The idea of scientists essentially cloning teenaged soldiers doesn’t seem all that far off from the cloning and military developments that we see now.
I'm definitely looking forward to learning more about the project in False Sight, especially the capabilities of the cloning technology, and the potential ramifications of the project having created Sequel from Noah's Miranda, than from the original stock.
* The pacing
False Memory moves at an incredibly brisk pace. The book opens in medias res for Miranda's story. She's already lost her memory, and Noah and Olive – two members of Miranda’s team - have already gone on the run.
From then on out, the book does an excellent job of balancing the quiet, introspective moments, and explosive confrontations.
From Miranda inadvertently sending an entire mall's worth of people into a complete panic, to Miranda coming face-to-face with Noah for the first time and remembering (to her shock!) at tacitly giving permission to have her memory taken, Krokos always seems to instinctively know when to show Miranda's moments of self-discovery, and when to really get the action moving.
On that note...
* The action scenes
If I had to list one thing that Krokos does better than just about anyone else in his genre, it's his action scenes. They're explosive, breathtaking, riveting... you get the point.
Because of who Miranda is and what she’s been cloned to do, she's basically thrown into battle scenes repeatedly throughout the course of the book. One moment she's battling with staffs, the next moment, she's tearing up the scene with a katana.
In all of these cases, Krokos does an excellent job of not only setting up the scenes, but also describing them in a way that’s extremely rich and fitting to the story. To some extent, he also uses these fight scenes as a unique way for Miranda to explore her background, and her history.
By having Miranda showing a prowess with certain weapons, Krokos is establishing the time and the extent that Miranda’s had to practice with these weapons, pre-memory loss. And by having Miranda remember the various conditions that she’s fought in, really highlights the fact that she and her team are dealing with a plan that’s been in the works for a long, long time.
* The ending
I may be in the minority here, but I thought that the ending for False Memory was fantastic, and highly unusual for the genre.
Rather than end with a cliffhanger that would emotionally coerce readers into coming back – Catching Fire, I’m looking at you – Krokos actually makes a conscious effort into typing up a significant number of the loose ends which have developed during the novel. Questions are answered, characters are recovered, and situations are resolved.
However, Krokos does leave enough questions answered that also make readers want to come back – e.g. we still don’t know the full end game of Miranda’s creators. And I’ll definitely be one of them.
Things that didn't work:
On the one hand, the lack of character development totally makes sense.
Miranda and her team are clones, doomed to live out the lives and objectives that they've been ordered to fulfill, by their creators. They spend so much of their time training and doing the bidding of their creators, it's only natural that they're not going to have had the time to figure the small things in life - e.g. personality traits; ambitions; goals, etc.
On the other hand, the lack of character development did make it harder for me to relate to Miranda and her journey.
Instead of truly connecting with her journey - e.g. her indecision between choosing Peter and Noah; her growing realization that she's a different Miranda, than the one that Noah knew - I felt like I was just standing on the sideline, watching Miranda's story unfold through a distance. I'm generally okay with that distance when I'm watching an action movie, but I prefer to get into a character's head more when reading.
Ultimately, this is a personal preference on my part, rather than anything to do with Krokos's style. I think that whether or not you agree with me on the character development; will depend on your reading preferences as well.
But if you're looking for an action-filled book that also has substantial character development, this may not necessarily be for you. However, I would say to give the book a try anyway - the story itself is worth it.
As for me, I'll definitely be back for the sequel. Outside of my own issues with the character development, I think that Krokos has created an exciting world that I'm definitely looking forward to returning to.
About the author:
You can contact him via Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr, or just go over to his house! For publicity requests, please contact Jen Corcoran at Disney*Hyperion. For rights questions, please contact Joanna Volpe at New Leaf Literary and Media.