#SciFiMonth YA Weekend Audio: Memento by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Series: Book 0.5 of The Illuminae Files
Publisher: Listening Library (October 20, 2020)
Length: 1 hr and 32 mins
Narrators: India Dupré, James Fouhey, Lincoln Hoppe, Emma Bering, Johnathan McClain, Ryan Gesell, full cast
If you’ve read the Illuminae Files trilogy by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, then you’ll no doubt be intimately familiar with a certain murderous artificial intelligence named AIDAN. Love him or hate him, no one can deny that he stole the show in his own way, and in recognition of the impact his role has had on the saga, the authors have written a story about AIDAN in a new prequel novella called Memento.
The book opens with an introduction to Emily Kline, a brilliant and promising young military specialist who is thrilled to have been assigned to a position aboard a stage-of-the-art starship to study its A.I. Throughout the story, she writes to her father about her experiences, gushing about her exciting opportunity to work with AIDAN, as well her growing feelings for her new supervisor, Major Ethan Wolf. Sociable and keen, Emily also makes quick friends with her roommate and fellow ranker, Stephanie.
But what no one realizes, is that while the scientists have been observing AIDAN, the A.I. has been observing them too. Over time, he begins to learn the ways of human thinking and interaction, making notes on Emily’s friendships and her developing romance with Ethan despite his inability to grasp their significance on an emotional level. And as we all know, the controls safeguarding AIDAN and his programming ultimately become compromised, leading to disastrous results. Following the attack on Kerenza IV, the fleet of desperate survivors looked to the powerful A.I. to protect them, only to discover too late he is not the savior they expected.
Essentially, Memento is the bridge story that gets us to that point. It is therefore a prerequisite to have read at least Illuminae in order to appreciate the story in this novella, otherwise it might seem pointless or confusing. Like the main trilogy, it is also written in an epistolary style, so that all the action is presented to us through personal communications, transcripts, and other forms of documentation.
As you might have guessed, the plot is extremely thin. Clocking in at around 80 pages or approximately an hour and a half for the audiobook, there really wasn’t much time to develop the story or the characters, especially given the limits of the format. As I said, this is also a story about AIDAN, and as such he is our main focus here, with all the human characters taking a backseat, which is great if that is what you’d been hoping for. The problem is though, from the way things turned out in the end, it was clear the authors had been gunning for an emotional punch, but sadly because of the lack of character and relationship development, it simply didn’t pan out that way at all.
Still, I hesitate to discount Memento completely, if for no other reason than the fact it felt great to return to the Illuminae Files world, and it’s all the more fun if you’re solely motivated by a background story about AIDAN and not too concerned with the human characters. Its short length also meant it made for a quick bite sized read, and while it’s true I didn’t go in expecting a deep story, I nevertheless found it entertaining. I was also fortunate enough to listen to the audiobook, and as you know, all the books in this series are narrated by a full cast. It makes a huge difference, especially with this talented group of voice actors, and I’m so glad they decided not to forgo that tradition with this novella.