Anamnesis by Whitney H Murphy

Rating 6.0/10
A book whose opening chapters I loved but the story fell away as it progressed

Anamnesis was a book whose opening chapters I loved and while I felt the story fell away rather as it progressed I thought the author has obvious talent and would like to read more of her work.

As survivors in a ruined city, there are some realities we can’t escape. Or forget. Like the truth that our bodies don’t work anymore. We all know it—with every aching breath, we know it. Or the fact that few of us can recall our own names, let alone the name of our city, our land, or our people. The lack of answers rules our weary minds, flooding—like the fears in our hearts and the pains that crawl along our dying bodies. And the answers lie buried in the ruins that crumble all around us.

This was an interesting novel. It began wonderfully well, the first chapters were excellent and I liked the style of writing and the story that was being told. As Anamnesis begins we find survivors in a ruined city, survivors whose bodies don’t work anymore. They can’t even recall their own names, the name of the city, or of their land or people. They are looking for these answers which lie buried in the ruins that crumble all around them. The way in which Murphy described the city and the survivors was excellent, clear mental images formed of the ruined city and the hook of the story was: What has happened to the city and why do these survivors have no memories of went before? Were they once human, as the novel’s title might suggest? 

So what happened after the initial promising opening? Well, firstly, the narrative is structured in such a way as to show the main character Loreu in the present but also explore the past through flashbacks which are experienced through dreams when she visits new areas of the ruined city. The first issue I had was that the narrative moved from present to past without any clear indication, but I’m willing to accept that this could be due to the formatting on my NetGalley review copy (I’ve had this with a few books and the author is completely blameless). So this made it easy to become confused with the narrative. But the second issue was that when we entered these dream sequences, when Loreu awoke past memories, the naming conventions went into overdrive and reached a point where I spent more time trying to read and pronounce mentally names and places than I did reading the story itself. For example, characters named Kyvoike Sekynteo, Tekehldeth and Dredekoldn, further words like Eviskyoneh and Ts'ufi Afre. These all left me feeling a little bemused, and if I am to be honest a little disappointed after such a promising beginning. As a contrast the names initially were fine, with Loreu and Ekyan looking and sounding like real names. If the book had begun with names and places like those mentioned above I may have put is aside but due to the early promise of Anamnesis it deserved to be finished as I instinctively felt that Murphy was a writer who had real talent. Okay, so parts of the story weren’t working for me but the parts that were kept me reading. And I was still very interested in the story of the survivors and as previously mentioned, I wanted to know what had happened.

So that in a nutshell was my reading experience of Anamnesis. It is an offering from an author skilled at creating a setting, clearly evoking the dilapidation of the ruins. I suspect there may have been much hidden meaning, allegory perhaps, that completely passed me by. I am often a very literal person. I should perhaps read this book again as I may have missed stuff. All in all a book that was okay with parts that stood out for me as excellent. As always I would recommend it to anyone for whom the blurb appeals and see what they make of it.

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