Every day, Daniel Schroeder breaks his father's heart. While forgetting your problems won't solve them, it does seem like it would make life a heck of a lot easier. Daniel thought so once. Now he knows better. He and Big Dan have always been close, which makes it all the more difficult to break the daily news: the last five years were nothing like his father remembers. They're both professionals in the memory field - they even run their own memory palace. So shouldn't they be able to figure out a way to overwrite the persistent false memory that's wreaking havoc on both of their lives? Daniel thought he was holding it together, but the situation seems to be sliding out of control. Now even his own equipment has turned against him, reminding him he hasn't had a date in ages by taunting him with flashes of an elusive man in black that only he can see. Is it some quirk of the circuitry, or is Daniel headed down the same path to fantasy land as his old man?
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This is another great story from Jordan Castillo Price. Her writing, as always, is compelling. I love the fascinating and perfectly believable world she creates here. It’s urban fantasy; the events could almost be happening in our world today. Apart from the mnem experiences for leisure, everything else seems the same. It’s Total Recall with a difference. A world where people experience mnems—a temporary yet artificially induced memory under a controlled environment, with guides to safely lead them in and out of the experience. For many, it’s a way to get your rocks off in virtual reality and not be accused of cheating on your girlfriend. There are other experiences, but this seems to be the most popular. It’s as if the experience has happened without even leaving the comfort of the couch. Although the memory fades, the joyful, sexy, and confident feelings of the experience remain. Wow! It’s a perfectly feasible use of leisure time to provide temporary memories.
Daniel runs the mnem business his father created, but all the equipment is now in a poor state of repair and Daniel doesn’t have the cash to upgrade or fix it. He’s struggling to manage the venture efficiently or even afford to give his employees a Christmas bonus. He works another job for one of their competitors in the evenings just to make ends meet. His life is pretty dire. He broke up with his boyfriend months ago and his only friend appears to be the goofy guy he works with in the evenings. He comes across as sad and lonely. “My heartbeat stuttered. It’d been a long time since anyone touched me.”
Daniel lives with his father, Big Dan, who suffers from persistent memory—he thinks his wife is still around, even though she divorced him five years ago, and Daniel has to break the heart-wrenching news to him every day. What makes the situation worse is that Daniel designed the mnem that led to his father’s permanent delusional state and Daniel's fearful this might happen to his customers if he botches any fixes he makes to his out-of-date equipment.
It’s not all gloom and doom, though. While pegging someone out of a mnem, Daniel meets an intriguing and rather gorgeous man all dressed in black. And he keeps seeing him in other people's mnems, which shouldn’t have been possible. Both Daniel and the reader wonder if he is experiencing a mnem rather than what’s happening in real life. Is he losing his grip on reality like his father?
Although there is a romantic connection between Daniel and the mysterious man in black, it takes time for this to occur. Much of the story is setting up the unusual world, along with Daniel and his father’s rather sad life. The story may seem melancholic, yet it is enthralling and the dialogue is superbly written as Daniel tries to improve his business as well as find the intriguing man in black.
I love JCP’s older, slightly flawed yet wonderfully constructed characters. Daniel had my sympathy from the start. The workers at Adventuretech and the rival company add some humour. Larry, although annoying and goofy at times, turns out to be a great support for Daniel and some of his lines made me chuckle. Elijah was not what I was expecting and he certainly is a man of mystery and hidden depths. I can’t wait to see how his character develops.
This is the first book in the trilogy. The ending of this story is rather abrupt, and although it’s not really a cliffhanger, it does at least hint at a HFN. There’s still more in store for these guys. I’m definitely looking forward to listening to part two and three and hoping they finally get their HEA.
I usually associate the superb Gomez Pugh with JCP’s audiobooks. Choosing a different narrator for this series has certainly paid off. I’ve enjoyed Seth Clayton’s other works and his narration of this story is fabulous. He has a young voice, but it suits the forty-five year old character of Daniel. Seth skilfully brings all the characters and their conversations to life, giving each their own distinct personality. He also composed the introductory music to each part of the book. Great job!