A Novel

Book - 2016
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"From one of Canada's most celebrated writers, two-time Giller Prize winner Moyez Vassanji, comes a taut, ingenuous and dynamic novel about a future where eternal life is possible, and identities can be chosen. In the indeterminate future in an unnamed western city, physical impediments to immortality have been overcome. As society approaches the prospect of eternal life, a new problem must be confronted: with the threat of the brain's storage capacity being overwhelmed, people want to move forward into the future free from redundant, unwanted and interfering memories. Rejuvenated bodies require rejuvenated identities--all traces of a person's past are erased and new, complete fictions are implanted in their stead. On occasion, though, cracks emerge, and reminders of discarded lives seep through. Those afflicted suffer from Leaked Memory Syndrome, or Nostalgia, whereby thoughts from a previous existence burrow in the conscious mind threatening to pull sufferers into an internal abyss. Doctor Frank Sina specializes in sealing these memory leaks. He is satisfied in his profession, more or less secure in the life he shares with his much younger lover, content with his own fiction--a happy childhood in the Yukon, an adulthood marked by the influence of a mathematician father and poet mother. But one day, Presley Smith arrives in Frank's office. Persistent thoughts are torturing Presley, recurring images of another time and place. As he tries to save Presley from the onslaught of memory, Frank finds clues that suggest Presley's past may be located in war-torn, nuclear-ravaged Maskinia, a territory located in the southern hemisphere, isolated from the north by fiercely guarded borders and policy barriers. Frank's suspicions are only intensified when the Department of Internal Security takes an interest in Presley. They describe him as one of their own, meaning his new life was one they created for him, and they want him back. Who was Presley before the Department remade him, what secrets are buried in the memories that are encroaching upon him? As Frank tries to save Presley from both internal and external threats, cracks emerge in his own fiction, and the thoughts that sneak through suggest a connection with the mysterious Presley that goes well beyond a doctor and his patient."-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: Toronto :, Doubleday Canada,, 2016
ISBN: 9780385667166
Branch Call Number: F VAS
Characteristics: 258 pages ; 22 cm


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Nov 11, 2017

This novel is partly a mystery, but mostly a reflection on the issues of the 21st century and an indictment of the small group of the very wealthy and powerful.

Jun 15, 2017

I was absorbed by this speculative fiction that is set 50 years into the future, yet deals with current issues – ageism, lawlessness, right-to-die, poverty and joblessness, immigrants, and
unequal power structures. It poses searching questions about life and our society. Award-winner Vassanji writes beautifully, and is sometimes witty and ironic, as he unfurls the development of his main character who, like many of the rich “reconstituted senior citizens”, has been redesigned with new memories for ease of a continuous immortal life. The snag – that occasionally old memories leak through – catapults and deepens the plot. A thought-provoking and discussion worthy book. "In our bid to become immortal, can we really know for certain who we are?" (p.126)

Jun 01, 2017

Different from anything I've read by Vassanji before. Enjoyable take on possibilities of a future society where a kind of generational (rather than class) struggle sets in and where memories can be manipulated. Clever and engaging.

Mar 30, 2017

This novel is a mishmash of Sci-fi, Spirituality, Politics and attempt at humour. It took me a while to understand what was going on but once there I quite enjoyed it. I'm not usually interested in futuristic books but this one doesn't sound too far into the future - the premise of continuous life , immortality if you would, is quite believable when Vassanji states it. Not a page tirner but an intriguing read.

Mar 15, 2017

I am neutral about this book. It has a reasonably good premise but I feel that the author has tried to do too much with it so it is unclear what is really the point. There are components of the dichotomy between rich and poor, foreigners vs those who 'belong', rabble rousers vs those who respect the law, young vs old, those who have access to resources and power vs those who don't. All of this comes out of the central premise that if you have the funds you can rewrite your life and go on forever. I just found it to have a self-satisfied "cleverness" that got on my nerves. There are even points in the book where things like an obvious illiterative sentence has been thrown in with what seems like egotistical indulgence. This is a 2017 Canada Reads selection so I will be interested to see how the champion of the book presents it.

Mar 03, 2017

This book was really interesting. The premise was new to me and quite fascinating and the progression (transformation?) of the main character was interesting.

The author made a lot of subtle and not so subtle commentary about the dream to live forever and about way way advantaged people treat disadvantaged people (pitying them, but still acting as though they're expendable).

The one thing I didn't like was the last chapter. It was more of an epilogue and, save for exposing one key connection between two characters, it felt a bit gratuitous. Worse, it felt a little out of place and ruined the beauty of the last scene.

All that said, it's a good book and worth the read.

A great read. Complex mix of Orwell and Alfred Hitchcock A great discussion for any book club. I look forward to reading more by this author.

SquamishLibraryStaff Oct 22, 2016

An Utopian tale with a modern twist. Vassanji uses wit and humor to tell a clever tale relevant to our times and addresses issues we are all familiar with.

"Many people reach a stage when they want simply to quit families, relationships, disappointments and start afresh... So we give them new identities, new lives with new memories, and they renew themselves in mind and body. It's simple, and it's what people want."

And here is the premise for Vassanji's brilliant new novel of an Utopian future where people can choose longevity and a get a whole new set of fake memories without any of the emotional baggage of their old but true memories. The catch is that sometimes old memories tend to leak into their current lives and this is known as "Nostalgia" or leaked memory syndrome.
And as in every Utopia, there is a wall or border that keeps undesirable elements out - in this case people from improvised, war torn countries.
Sound familiar?

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Feb 23, 2020

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