by Eric James Stone
Reviewed by Scott T. Barnes
I have been following Eric James Stone since his collection of short stories Rejiggering the Thingamajig appeared in 2011. And so I was very excited when I learned he was about to release his first novel, Unforgettable, from Baen Science Fiction.
As in much of Stone's work, the premise here is unique and thought-provoking. Nat Morgan is a CIA field agent with a special talent: No one can remember him if he disappears from their perception for more than a minute. Even computers and other digital devices "forget" that Nat exists after a minute.
The story is a sort of near-future science fiction thriller. As in many such tales, two stories are developed in parallel: the action story and the love story. Both of these plots come together in a thoroughly satisfying conclusion.
Rather than being some sort of magical gimmick—which would have been perfectly acceptable to me—Stone came up with a quantum explanation for Nat's unique talent. After explaining the talent, Stone then went a lot further, integrating quantum theory and the idea of "selecting" between alternate universes as the entire premise of the novel.
Essentially, the bad guy, one Kazem Jamshidi, with the unwilling help of a kidnapped scientist, develops a supercomputer that can consciously select between alternate universes. Since these parallel universes are essentially infinite, this computer can "choose" its own future--a future in which Kazen Jamshidi is ruler absolute.
The hero, Nat Morgan, is a quantum anomaly. Once Nat leaves the room, the universe somehow "selects" a reality in which Nat did not exist. He is forgotten. Nevertheless, the results of his actions remain, somehow "remembered" as events achieved through other means.
Stone is a master of explaining the unexplainable, not to mention the inexplicable. You will be as fascinated by the quantum mechanics of it all as you are with the story.
Due to his unique power, Nat may be the only person capable of stopping Jamshidi
However, think about this for a minute. If no one could remember you after you left the room, how would you ever develop relationships? Friends? Romance?
Nat's life is one of constant loneliness. Not that he dwells on it; he's rather a jovial chap. But it's there, beneath the surface. (I'm a little reminded of James Bond's pain, as played by Daniel Craig in his best moments, though Nat is no action hero.)
Until one day Nat becomes "entangled" (a quantum term) with a Russian spy who may or may not have gone freelance. Naturally, Nat falls in love.
But can he trust her?
The conclusion has many twists and turns, the tension ratchets up, and every obstacle you think you saw coming gets doubled in the process.
I can hardly recommend this book enough. If you have given any thought to reading a science fiction book, pick up Unforgettable. You won't regret it.
Books We Are Reading >