The Memory Chamber is a novel that I first heard about late last year, and is one that I was instantly intrigued by, so I was delighted when my request to review this novel via Netgalley was approved.
True death is a thing of the past. Now you can spend the rest of eternity re-living your happiest memories: that first kiss, falling in love, the birth of your children, enjoyed on loop for ever and ever.
Isobel is a Heaven Architect, and she helps dying people create afterlives from these memories. So when she falls for Jarek, one of her terminal – and married – clients, she knows that while she cannot save him, she can create the most beautiful of heavens, just for him.
But when Jarek’s wife is found dead, Isobel uncovers a darker side of the world she works within, and she can trust no one with what she finds…
The Memory Chamber is set in a slightly futuristic world where many technological advancements and scientific breakthroughs have been made. Many diseases, including malaria, have been eradicated, and everyone has a chip implanted which allows for the payment of goods and services, allows for communication with others etc.. The development of Heaven Architecture is another way in which technology is utilised – the idea being that at the point of death, a small number of cells, which take a little longer to die than the rest of you, are kept alive and “plugged in” to your personally designed heaven, allowing you to live out a selection of handpicked memories forever. Now, if you’re not hugely into science fiction, don’t let this put you off. The idea is presented simply, and the how behind all of this is touched upon, but there’s no heavy science to get your head around.
Isobel is the novel’s protagonist, and one the best Heaven Architects that there is. The novel opens as she first meets her latest client, Jarek, and in this way Cave can deftly explain the concept of the bespoke heavens, explaining to both Jarek and the reader at the same time. Isobel is an interesting character – slightly neurotic but likeable, and entirely believable. From their very first meeting, Isobel is attracted to Jarek – a feeling that is clearly mutual. It’s unusual for Isobel to have a client that is so young – heavens tend to be created when the end is nigh, and Jarek, terminally ill with a brain tumour, is in his prime. I think that her feelings are enhanced by the sympathy she has for Jarek and his situation:
The unfairness of death is something I’ve thought more about, lately.
Whilst Isobel loves her job, she is aware that the system is flawed, and I enjoyed the moral debate surrounding Heaven Architecture, from the protesters camped outside of the building Isobel works in, to Isobel’s own views on what she does. Building a heaven for someone isn’t cheap and is therefore exclusively available to those that can afford to pay for the service. And whilst the use of a person’s memories may seem straightforward, there’s the question of whether other people involved in a memory should have to consent to appear in someone else’s heaven. The inclusion of the moral dilemma makes this a thought-provoking read, and I think that book groups will get a lot out of The Memory Chamber.
I don’t want to discuss the plot in any detail – I think that the blurb above gives sufficient detail, and to say more would give away too much. But whilst it’s not a fast-paced novel, I didn’t want to put The Memory Chamber down. The writing is sumptuous, and if it was more of a slow-burner than some novels, there is an underlying tension from the expectation of something about to happen, and this is a thoroughly compelling read that I’d recommend to those looking for something a little different, as this is utterly unique.
The Memory Chamber will be published on 22 February by Quercus. Many thanks to the publisher for approving my request to read and review this title via Netgalley.
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐