Review – Karen Memory

Cover of Karen Memory by Elizabeth BearKaren Memory, Elizabeth Bear

I was in such a hurry to read this when it came out that I bought it on release day, started reading and — promptly got distracted, because I’d been reading it at clinic and then I didn’t go to clinic for a few weeks, and lost the thread, etc, etc. So I started it again today, and devoured it all in one go. I love the colloquial narration, which manages to skirt the line between feeling genuine and being annoying really well. I love the casual way characters of all colours and persuasions are a part of the story, and the way Karen describes the world around her, taking some things for granted and explaining others. For those with pet peeves about narrators, I promise there’s a reason for Karen to be telling the story the way she is, though that isn’t made explicit until the end.

Speaking of explicit, you’ve got to admire the way Bear manages to come up with euphemisms so that a story about “soiled doves” isn’t actually explicit at all, and bar some of the language, isn’t more than a PG rating.

When I started reading it, I had no idea it would actually be a lesbian love story, with a happy ending. But Priya and Karen are so darn adorable it’s worth saying up front: they never get beyond some kissing and holding hands, it’s all making eyes and getting fluttery feelings and figuring out how the heck to tell someone you care without making a mess of it. It works really well, without ever being a big crisis or the most important thing about the whole plot.

Which is a point: if you’re reading this for the steampunk, or the LGBT, or the Wild West, and you’re not so interested in the other aspects… it’s probably one to skip. It’s all of those things and a mystery story, but it’s all those things together, and not focusing just on any one thread. In fact, the mystery/thriller aspect is more prominent than the rest; the rest is background, colouring the story and shaping it, but not foregrounded as such.

I’m gonna need a hard copy of this at some point, because I just love the cover art. But my first priority is getting my sister a copy, ’cause I’m pretty sure she’ll love this one.

Rating: 5/5

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8 thoughts on “Review – Karen Memory

  1. I remember hearing about this a while before it was published, but it has fallen off my radar. I’m definitely going to check it out, thank you for reminding me! – ashley

      • Wow, slow? It just shows people can truly read entirely different books from the same text depending on their personality and circumstances. Because I agree, it seemed anything but slow to me. In fact one of the things I really liked about it was that it was fast moving and full of adventures! People are so varied in their responses to things, its kind of fascinating.

  2. Wait, what? No action in the first 50 pages? What book did they read? In the first 50 pages a fugitive shows up, armed thugs break down the door looking for her, there’s a gun fight… Uh, what?

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