The Memory Librarian

Janelle Monáe. Harper Voyager, $28.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-06-307087-5

In this moving, triumphant collection, singer Monáe returns to the dystopian world of her Dirty Computer concept album and short film. These five sci-fi shorts, each written with a different coauthor, explore the consequences of a totalitarian regime that, in pursuit of a pure society, monitors its citizens’ identities, thoughts, and relationships and scrubs clean the memories and personhoods of those who are labeled deviant. In “Save Changes,” written with Yohanca Delgado, a young woman has one chance to change the past and worries how to use it. “Timebox,” written with Eve L. Ewing, sees a couple fight over how to use a pantry removed from time, while in “Timebox Altar(ed),” written with Sheree Renée Thomas, a gaggle of children get a glimpse into a solarpunk future. The longest entries are the standouts: the title story, written with Alaya Dawn Johnson, and “Nevermind,” written with Danny Lore, are both odes to queer Afrofuturism, illuminating the importance of love, community, and human connection in the darkest of times. Though a special treat for Dirty Computer fans, readers won’t need to be familiar with the album to marvel at the big ideas, riveting action, and hopeful message here. This is a knockout. Agents: Eve Atterman and Suzanne Gluck, WME. (Apr.)
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