Friday, August 19, 2016

Book Review: Rememory

Book Review: 'Rememory' by John Betancourt

3 / 5 Stars

‘Rememory’ (197 pp) was published in October, 1990 by Questar / Popular Library. The striking cover illustration is by Paul Youll.

[John Gregory Betancourt first began publishing sf novels in the 1980s; since the early 90s he has focused on writing series novels for the Star Trek, Hercules, and Amber licensed properties, among others.]

‘Rememory’ is a second-generation cyberpunk novel, one which uses many of the tropes of the initial William Gibson novels, as well as the movie ‘Bladerunner’. For example, the story takes place about one hundred years from now, in the East Coast megalopolis called the Sprawl. The main mode of personal transportation are flyers, and the federal government is at best a remote entity, whose functions often are carried out by private corporations – who have their own agendas.

In ‘Rememory’, advances in plastic surgery and body augmentation have let segments of the population transform themselves into ‘animen’, humans with the physical forms and features of animals. The first-person narrator, Slash, and his partners Hangman and Jeffy all are ‘catmen’, who reside in the catmen-only neighborhood of Fishtown. There, they and all the other catmen engage in a peculiar sort of permanent cosplay, one marked by the single-minded adoption of feline behaviors and mannerisms.

As the novel opens Slash, Hangman, and Jeffy – who are petty criminals - are looking to steal a shipment of goods from their hated animen rivals, the dogmen. The heist goes off as planned, but what Slash has stolen is no ordinary loot, but rather, a pair of super-sophisticated electronic devices called a ‘polyacteural encode / decoders’, or PEDs. When implanted in the user’s brain, the PEDs allow him or her to permanently record anything they have witnessed. These 'rememories' are read to a minidisc, which can be removed from the PED and accessed via computer.

Slash realizes that being in possession of the PEDs will draw the sort of attention that often ends badly for street-level hustlers, and looks to close a deal with his favorite fence. 

But the very act of fencing the PEDs alerts the Sprawl underground, and Slash learns that there are rememories on the stolen PEDs that the public is not meant to see………and soon Slash, Hangman, and Jeffy discover that they are have drawn the attention of one of the most powerful corporations in the nation………a corporation that is entirely at ease with using violence to retrieve its lost belongings…..

While derivative, ‘Rememory’ is a competently written second-gen cyberpunk novel. I can’t say it has the imaginative character of other second-gen novels, like George Alec Effinger’s ‘When Gravity Fails’ (1986). But if you’re looking for a readable cyberpunk story with a fast-moving plot, a suitably noir-ish atmosphere, and an ending that avoids being contrived or pat, then ‘Rememory’ is worth picking up.

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