cover image Mem


Bethany C. Morrow. Unnamed (PGW, dist.), $25 (192p) ISBN 978-1-944700-55-3

In Morrow’s haunting debut novel, the year is 1925, and Dolores Extract No. 1 has been recalled to the Vault. Dolores Extract No. 1—or Elsie, self-named after a film character—is a Mem, physical beings that are part of a groundbreaking procedure developed to extract memories from humans. Mems store the traumatic or cherished memories that humans would like either to get rid of or preserve. Incapable of autonomous thought, Mems regurgitate an infinite loop of whatever memory they have absorbed until expiration, sometimes with horrifying results—except, somehow, Elsie, who has lived independently for 18 years. She is all too capable of understanding what her recall implies and what her continued lucid and corporeal existence must mean for her “Source,” the original Dolores. There is a flat romantic subplot involving scientist Harvey Parrish, and the revelation of Elsie’s existence might have been better left to the imagination. But Morrow’s debut is ambitious and insightful, raising questions about memory, trauma, and humanity. The novel is at its best when it presents Elsie at her most human, forcing the real ones around her to reckon with what her personhood means for theirs. (May)