#ScifiMonth Book Review: Living Memory by David Walton
I received a review copy from the author This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Book 1
Publisher: Archaeopteryx Books (October 18, 2022)
Length: 243 pages
I always have a lot of fun with David Walton’s books. From battling deadly parasitic fungal diseases in The Genius Plague to surviving self-driving vehicles run amok in Three Laws Lethal, they’re always filled with fast-paced plots full of cinematic action, high-octane thrills and mind-blowing scientific concepts. So when I was offered a copy of Living Memory to review, I jumped at the chance. I mean, you couldn’t have possibly expected me to say no, could you, especially with a dinosaur on the cover?
Our story begins in Thailand, where the selling of dinosaur fossils on the black market has become a lucrative business. For two smugglers though, their latest find proves fatal as something else was discovered among the bones of a newly discovered miniraptor. Meanwhile, power is about to change hands in the Thai government, and a group of American-sponsored paleontologists are working around the clock to extract as many specimens as possible to ship back to the United States before they are kicked out of the country. Led by Samira and with help from local Thai paleontologist Kit, the team had made an extraordinary find of what appears to be a mass grave filled with the bones of many individual miniraptors arranged in neat rows—too neat to be the result of random chance. Their discovery suggests this to be some sort of ceremonial burial ground, which shouldn’t be possible.
But before any of the fossils can be transported, the Thai government seizes the shipment, and Samira and all the other foreign paleontologists are taken into custody for questioning and deportation. Kit is approached by the Thai military with an opportunity to lead his own dig at the mass burial site to uncover its mysteries. Among the dinosaur skeletons there, a green liquid substance had been found which, when inhaled, can cause a wide range of hallucinatory effects like visions to strong compulsions. The incoming regime suspects that Thailand’s biggest organized crime network may be using this substance to spread terror and gain influence across the countryside and wants Kit to find out as much as he can about it so they can put an end to all the gang activities. Back in the United States, Samira is surprised and uneasy to learn that her research in Thailand had been funded by the CIA all this time. They have known for a while about the strange substance and are plotting an operation to return to the dig site, ensuring its secrets won’t fall into the wrong hands.
There’s a lot to take in here, and I haven’t even gone into a major aspect of the book (and arguably it’s biggest hook) yet, though I’ve hinted at it. While I will not spoil the surprise, I will say this as a warning: it’s way off the plausibility charts and as someone with a bit of background in evolutionary ecology and paleobiology, I found the premise too farfetched to fully embrace. That said, by shutting up that part of my brain, I was able to enjoy the story and I think it’s possible to do so as long as you’re willing to suspend your disbelief and not ask too many questions.
The good news is, those who are drawn to Living Memory because of dinosaurs will not be disappointed. Yes, you will definitely get your dinosaur fix—though maybe not in the way you’d expect. In spite of myself, I enjoyed the ideas exploring miniraptor society, but even more fascinating to me were the present-day shenanigans such as the struggle between global powers, the rivalry between different science teams, or the race to stop the criminal network from unraveling the fabric of Thai society. Like I said, it’s a lot, but Walton still finds time to develop the characters and give them interesting backstories to make you care for them and feel invested in their goals.
I did have a moment of disappointment near the end when I thought things wrapped a little too quickly and anticlimactically before being hit with a cliffhanger ending, but then was very quickly mollified when I discovered Living Memory is only the opening volume to a planned series so there will be more. With the amount of fun I had, there’s no way I won’t return. Here’s to another action-packed dino adventure in the sequel!