Baen (Jan, 2016), Cover by Kurt Miller
Whilst the plot of Eric James Stone’s Unforgettable (2016) might sound like a cliché one is liable to find in any old espionage novel with a gimmicky hook to reel the reader in, it works, and it works wonderfully. The conceit, that a man is completely forgettable due to a quirk of quantum mechanics functioning at a macro-scale, is actually quite unique. Neither people nor computers, or even surveillance equipment, can keep any record of him in their memory after sixty seconds have passed. The record simply vanishes. With a talent (or curse) like this, one would imagine a smorgasbord of opportunities to put this ability to good use. After an initial fling with petty larceny, Nat Morgan chooses to work for the Central Intelligence Agency. The opening of the novel finds him in the middle of a Company job involving corporate espionage which introduces both some of the advantages and limitations of Morgan’s ability.
Unforgettable is fun and effortlessly readable. It moves at a sizzling pace with just the right amount of droll humour conveyed through its casual tone. All the while through the novel, Stone seems to manage a good balance between an affectionate parody of the spy genre and delivering a rollicking good adventure that takes Morgan from western Europe, Russia, to the Middle East and back again. And yet, he also speculates on the more serious, human ramifications of Morgan’s strange affliction. The most affecting such section being Stone’s brief, matter-of-fact examination of the protagonist’s childhood; a predicament tainted by un-remembrance on the part of others.
Despite the strange, quite fantastic element that is the quantum quirk affecting Morgan, the narrative doesn’t initially bestow a patently science fictional air. However, as the plot progresses and he’s on the trail of a business tycoon attempting to build the most powerful quantum supercomputer the world has ever seen (cue evil laugh and steepled fingers), you’re presented with lay explanations that impart an intuitive understanding of quantum entanglement. As the novel approaches its climax, it moves firmly into science fictional territory with a depiction of the potential consequences of an artificially engendered singularity event. It even tackles themes such as the nature of free will as viewed through a quantum lens.
With the ironically titled Unforgettable, Stone has begun a lively series with a fun premise that holds strong promise. The novel reads lightly, but it still manages to stimulate through the soft exploration of its quantum themes. And although development for the ancillary characters is a little on the lighter side (the story is suitably plot-centric), the work more than makes up for this deficiency with its pace, adventure sequences and almost whimsical tone. Luckily, Stone restrains himself from taking this tale down a darker, grimmer path than it could have gone, which makes the novel agreeably friendly for a younger readership. While it isn’t a ‘young-adult’ novel per se, it certainly exudes an ambiance associated with that category without devolving into its conventions. It’s also one of those rare instances where a cliffhanger ending actually works. For sheer entertainment value and easy readability, Unforgettable gets top marks. It’s great science fiction candy.
© 2016 Nirvan Jain
From Nebula and Hugo Award–nominated Carolyn Ives Gilman comes Dark Orbit, a compelling novel featuring alien contact, mystery, and murder.
Reports of a strange, new habitable planet have reached the Twenty Planets of human civilization. When a team of scientists is assembled to investigate this world, exoethnologist Sara Callicot is recruited to keep an eye on an unstable crewmate.