Does love equal memory? Or does memory equal love?
Felicia Yap's impressive debut is a scintillating psychological thriller with a sci-fi twist. It's set in a world much like ours, with one huge difference: the key social division between people concerns their memory status. All adults are classified according to whether they can remember only yesterday (Monos) or both yesterday and the day before (Duos). Duos are accorded higher social status, better jobs, and generally more admiration and respect. Monos, by contrast, are often regarded as stupid and can only aspire to menial jobs. The prejudices are deeply culturally entrenched; "mixed marriages", while not illegal, are socially frowned upon and viewed as doomed to failure. After all, Monos and Duos are just too different to make it work.
Naturally, this very limited capacity for memory presents major challenges for day to day living and society has evolved to find ways of coping. Modern technology helps greatly - inventions by successful Duos like Steve Jobs and Tim Berners-Lee enable people to record everything (in their iDiaries, of course) and learn from them key "facts" which they are then able to retain. (I admit I'm not entirely clear about how this works, though a brief explanation is given. However the author, Felicia Yap, unlike me has a background in biochemistry so presumably has some insight into how memory works.)The reason why memory is so limited is touched upon (it's something to do with a genetic switch) but never expanded on - its just the way people are, and as far as anyone knows, that's the way they have always been.
Despite the high concept, this is ultimately more detective story than science fiction. The story cleverly weaves together several strands, arising from the discovery in the Cam of a woman's body, quickly identified as that of forty-three year old Sophia Alyssa Ayling. Successful novelist/aspiring politician Mark Henry Evans (a Duo, of course), his unhappy Mono wife Claire, ambitious DCI Hans Richardson who's hiding his own challenges, and the elusive Sophia herself all have their role to play. To say more would spoil it. But I will say: there are twists, turns, and the ending is a complete surprise.
This book is destined for huge success. Read it! I can't wait to see what Felicia Yap does next.