The Book of M by Peng Shepherd


Published by Harper Collins

4 stars


Set in a dangerous near future world, The Book of M tells the captivating story of a group of ordinary people caught in an extraordinary catastrophe who risk everything to save the ones they love. It is a sweeping debut that illuminates the power that memories have not only on the heart, but on the world itself.

One afternoon at an outdoor market in India, a man’s shadow disappears—an occurrence science cannot explain. He is only the first. The phenomenon spreads like a plague, and while those afflicted gain a strange new power, it comes at a horrible price: the loss of all their memories.

Ory and his wife Max have escaped the Forgetting so far by hiding in an abandoned hotel deep in the woods. Their new life feels almost normal, until one day Max’s shadow disappears too.

Knowing that the more she forgets, the more dangerous she will become to Ory, Max runs away. But Ory refuses to give up the time they have left together. Desperate to find Max before her memory disappears completely, he follows her trail across a perilous, unrecognizable world, braving the threat of roaming bandits, the call to a new war being waged on the ruins of the capital, and the rise of a sinister cult that worships the shadowless.

As they journey, each searches for answers: for Ory, about love, about survival, about hope; and for Max, about a new force growing in the south that may hold the cure.

This is a beautiful book whose concept will stay with me a long time – one by one, peoples’ shadows disappear and over the course of a few days or weeks, they lose all their memories.

It defies genre to be honest, but it contains a blend of sci-fi and fantasy, where magic and science meet – people are investigating this impossible occurrence with scientific minds, but find themselves no closer to answers as the world falls apart around them.

The chapters alternate through the perspectives of four different characters. Each one heart wrenching in its own right as they try to survive and make sense of everything going on around them. Each character spends a lot of time considering the nature of memories and how to make sure they remember the important things. They’re all well written and complex characters, their relationships with one another change over time and it’s a compelling read.

There’s a beautiful and poetic feel to this book, and should be experienced by everyone. I did find my attention wandering a bit during the narrative, largely because I’m a fan of concise writing styles but sometimes it’s great to kick back with something more leisurely like this book. It’s certainly not without action, because there’s the inevitable conflict that rises when something as terrifying and confusing memory loss can strike at any time and only affects some of the population.

There’s a wonderful blend of characters from different nationalities in this book, all of whom fit in seamlessly – which adds to the scope of the novel knowing that the entire world has been afflicted with the Forgetting.

This is a book that needs to be bought in hardback so you can remember the story every time you see it on your shelf.

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