Note: This review is part of the 2016 Summer Reading Diversity Spotlight.
From the author of The Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest, and Death’s End comes a story about unborn memories.
Whoa. I am still reeling over what I just read. That was quite an experience. I don’t think anything I say will do it justice, you really need to to just dive in and read this one for yourself. Just. Wow.
When I first scrolled down to read this at Tor.com, I was immediately jarred by the story structure, which is basically all dialogue between a mother, her unborn baby who can talk from the womb, and the mother’s doctor. If you rolled your eyes at a talking baby and of course the expected motherly dialogue given she is talking to a baby, you’re not alone. I almost gave up there for a second. But. I didn’t. If you can hold on and get over that hump, there’s something really special here, I promise.
Through the conversation that these three have, we are hit with some incredibly thought provoking points, one of which being that memories are not all that we are. And yet. The weight of memories can destroy us and conquer us if we choose to surrender to them and let them.
But wait, I know you’re still wondering how a baby is talking in the womb. I know. I’m not going to explain it here, just read the story, it’s super short. Too short, really. But without giving much away on the how, I will add that through replication, the story experiments with the notions of giving ourselves, our lives a do-over and pushing our hopes and dreams and insecurities and expectations on our children, their future. It’s a frightening look at what happens when we know too much or too little for our own good, the unpredictability of life, and the hope and fear that comes with it. This is a startling, dare I say slightly terrifying story about self preservation that will be on my mind for a very long time.
The Weight of Memories (perfect title, by the way) is absolutely chilling. I highly recommend this short story even though I think we could have gotten another 2,000 words of depth and ironing out all around and been even more satisfied. As is though, it’s just fluid enough and the messages are certainly alarming enough to have this story be a story you can’t help but bring up in conversation to the next person you talk to. So read this and then send the story to everyone you know for a great water cooler discussion. You’ll certainly want to once you get to the end.
The Weight of Memories by Cixin Liu translated by Ken Liu is available today.