This is a book ostensibly about the nature of memory. An unamed protagonist tells
his story in a loose and louche first person, providing us with an insight into the lives
of those that sell Chemical for The Company. Chemical modifies peoples memory, makes
them forget. It’s legal, and the narrator tells his story from a near-future where
mood- (and mind-) enhancers are common place; a society where drugs with names like Sparkle
and Needles are taken every day and where memories are commodities, where it’s possible to
forget the night before, the week before, the month or the even the years before. Trading
on the fact that guilt only comes with the memory of the deed The Company sells you back a
clean conscience, regardless of your actions.
We follow the narrator through an undefined amount of time, through which he is constantly
sampling his own stock, making him a less and less reliable witness to the events that
unfold. Loriga deliberately creates a sense of confusion within his characters while also
creating the same for us, the readers. References are made to acronyms that have never been
defined and characters that have never been met in a seemingly deliberate attempt to get the
reader to question his or her own memory. All the way through we are left unsure as to what
really happened as the characters succumb to recreational drugs at the beginning of an episode
and memory erasing ones at the end ï¿½ leaving no single shred of evidence guaranteed to be true.
I don’t want you to think that this is some kind of literary
cheap tricks on the reader; but this is primarily a book about memory. It’s about the power of
memories. And the effect of memories. About how you remember the things you left unfinished better
than the things you completed. And it’s about love. How you remember love. How you remember those
that hurt you better than those that you hurt. It’s a book about how scars itch, even when they’re
fully healed. Over the course of the book we’re led through the narrator’s ever diminishing memory,
and yet we’re also slowly introduced to the fact that one memory sticks with him, regardless of the
damage he does. Alongside him the incidental characters weave their own unsteady way through their
own incomplete and slipping memories – grasping at some and desperatly trying to shake off others.
The thing that really struck me when reading this was the power of the mental state that it created.
Through the power of the prose and the little tricks used to confuse I frequently found myself inside
the narrator’s head ï¿½ involved not only in the book’s plot, but deeply involved in his plot (or lack
thereof)… It’s a tremendously powerful book. It’s also an extraordinarily emotive book. Anyone
who spent the 90s in a recreational chemical haze will know how this book makes you feel. It reminded
me of how I felt in the summer of 2000, when the last 10 years had finally worn off, when I realised
that the party that we’d started in 1990 had finally ended and it was time to go home. Reading this
book made me feel like my first month without an E for 10 years. Slowly coming round to realise that
I remembered only a few of the important things that had happened and that I wasn’t entirely clear who
I was anymore.
I’d venture to say that this is partly Loriga’s point. I’m not sure that this is only a novel about
memory. This is also a novel about how in the last 15 years, even more than ever, we have come to rely
on powerful chemicals to run our lives. Not just the obvious culprits like Ecstasy and Cocaine, but
all the legal ones as well, from Prozac through Caffeine and Booze.
How life is when you are defined by the chemicals you take. It’s a truly modern problem ï¿½ Coleridge,
De Quincy, Burroughs, Huxley and all the others may have had their time amongst the chemicals, but none
of them lived in a time when it was so difficult not to have one’s life run by them, recreational
or otherwise. A number of people have tackled this problem in the last few years ï¿½ Douglas Coupland’s
Life After God is a
fantastic book, while Prozac
Nation is a shit one (IMHO) ï¿½ but Tokyo
Doesnï¿½t Love Us Anymore is the first one I’ve read that has a 21st Century take on it.
This is seriously one of the best books I’ve read in a few years. Buy it. Enjoy it. I can’t
recommend it highly enough.