In Memory: A Tribute to Sir Terry Pratchett by Laura May (ed.) & Sorin Suciu (ed.)

In Memory: A Tribute to Sir Terry Pratchett by Laura May (ed.) & Sorin Suciu (ed.)Drawing on the literary legacy of Sir Terry Pratchett without being constrained by it, this anthology is filled with memorable speculative fiction (while avoiding that joke).

This review is based on an advanced review copy.

The anthology contains seventeen short stories in a variety of genres but united by the concept of memory.

  • ‘Thanks for the Memory Cards’ by Luke Kemp: in a world where memory storage is ubiquitous, Johnny documents his entire life in tedious detail from going shopping to every spadeful of dirt removed while installing his pond. But when a foul crime makes the footage useful, will even he be able to take the tedium of watching it all again?

  • ‘The Heart of the Labyrinth’ by DK Mok: the Devourer has lived in the heart of the Labyrinth of Varissen for decades, surrounded by the bones of adventurers drawn by rumours of great treasure. Until an adventurer arrives seeking not to defeat him but set him free.

  • ‘How Fell the Towers Three’ by Peter Knighton: preferring imagery to accuracy, Lawrence finds his ballads greeted with praise and rage in equal measure. But when he omits the entire fourth tower of a castle on the grounds that three is a better number, the knights who took the tower have had enough.

  • ‘Memoryarian’ by Scott A Butler: an agile and dextrous young man who values expediency over abstruse moral considerations, is offered a job by the Memoryarian, an immortal, magical, memory keeper. The job turns out to be easy enough it might be better than thievery, and why would someone steal memories anyway?

  • ‘There’s a Tattoo, But the Robes Hide It’ by Mike Reeves-McMillan: the Dark Lord’s consort is tired of a life of evil schemes and megalomaniacal cackling, but betraying him will only lead to the forces of good prosecuting her for her part in the schemes – unless she accepts the deal offered by the God of Tricksters.

  • ‘The Shells of Lethe’ by Laura May: when the townsfolk of Taomina discover seashells that can take away memories, they begin to edit out the worst ones. Then a few more that aren’t great. Then a few more.

  • ‘Ackerley’s Genuine Earth Antiques’ by Michael K Shaefer: when humanity fled Earth, most historical records were lost. Centuries later, common Earth items are highly collectible, but aren’t always understood. So, when Rupert acquires a machine that lets people experience the memories of genuine Earth dwellers the opportunity seems to good to be true.
    But is using a toothbrush really something you want to remember doing?

  • ‘The Chicken Gospel’ by Phil Elstob: Old Cuthbert, benevolent deity of the donkeys of the Used Mule Emporium, has disappeared. Each of the donkeys has a different story about Cuthbert’s appearance and habits; but with no way for the donkeys to leave the barn, it falls to a rooster to find a trail among the endless myths.

  • ‘Doris’ by Sorin Suciu: following a brief discussion of the morality of bar snack eating, an IT guy finds himself offered the answer to any question he wants by a man called Doris (not the girl’s name). Doris is happy to give him the lottery numbers, but suggests he asks something more adventurous.

  • ‘The Wonderous Land of Nib’ by Lyn Godfrey: at irregular intervals, random people with no memory of their past drop onto the top of the towering pile of junk; and some of them survive the tumble to the bottom. The man in the check shirt is certain he knows who and what everyone is, but his pronouncements sound a little unlikely, and not all the arrivals are willing to share the world.

  • ‘Strangers’ by Robert McKelvey: When Charles Rigby wakes up in a Low London alleyway, he discovers his memory of how he got there, and his shoes have been replaced by a splitting headache and an illegible receipt. Stumbling into a nearby office he discovers a private investigator so willing to help that even pointing out he can’t pay won’t shake the man.

  • ‘The Tale of the Storyteller’ by Caroline Friedel: magic is disappearing from the world, not in a gentle trickle but a stuttering on and off. And each time the magic disappears, only a few people remember it was ever there. With his comfortable life as the son of a sugar miner a memory either way, a boy decides to risk everything on a quest to find the source of magic.

  • ‘Bubble Trouble’ by Charlotte Slocombe: Emma finds the sudden arrival of Zach, the God of Memory, a welcome break from the tedium of IT consultancy; and it doesn’t hurt that he’s gorgeous. But what sort of god needs IT support, and what is bubble computing?

  • ‘The Vividarium’ by Steven McKinnon: two gods, one experienced and the other newly promoted, argue over the potential of storing all the memories that will have ever been. Leaving the fate of existence in the hands of the person least distracted by pictures of cats.

  • ‘The Archive of Lost Memories’ by Anna Mattaar: Struggling to recall the answer he needs to pass his psychology exam, Robert finds himself in an immense file room containing everything anyone ever forgot; including a section devoted to storing each time he has forgotten previously coming. With the help of the file clerk, he answer he needs should be easy to find, but the answer he wants, what sort of person would work here, might be harder to find.

  • ‘If Only I’d Known’ by Simon Evans: JoBeth, Margaret, and Prue have built a machine that sends the user into the future. Unfortunately, time travellers can’t bring back anything from the future, including any memory more detailed than a vague certainty they went into the future. So how can they prove it works?

  • ‘The Olivie Crowne Affair’ by Choong Jay Vee: When Olivie Crowne
    mistakes the Found Memories Bureau for a computer store, she ends up with entirely the wrong sort of memory upgrade. A situation only made worse by what sort of ram her computer now thinks it is.

While the anthology is dedicated to the memory of Sir Terry Pratchett, the stories are not pastiches of his works. Some of the humour, such as the eight-gig ram from ‘The Olivie Crowne Affair’ do echo Pratchett’s work, and echo it well. But not all the stories are filled with such jokes, or are even comedies at all. Therefore, the collection will not be without appeal to readers who prefer more serious speculative fiction.

As with any grouping of more than a few authors’ works, the breadth of styles, genres, and humours means it is likely that each reader will find some stories less engaging than others. However, each of the stories is both competent and tightly written, so the word lull is more apposite than low.

The editors have also balanced the mix well, so readers who do choose to skip a story are likely to favour the next one and readers who don’t will not feel glutted.

While all proceeds are being donated to charity, the collection does not display the ‘good enough’ mentality of some charity anthologies, so would be worth equal consideration were it not charitable.

Overall, I enjoyed this anthology immensely. I recommend it to readers seeking short speculative fiction with a light edge.

I received a free copy from one of the contributors in exchange for a fair review.

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