Review – The Last Witness

Cover of The Last Witness by K.J. ParkerThe Last Witness, K.J. Parker

I love the way this novella takes the idea — that someone could perhaps look into your mind and take away your memories, at the cost of having to keep them themselves if there was anything distressing in them — and then develops it, runs with it, deals with what a character who could do that would be like, what they would be willing to do, what they’d feel about it. How they could profit from it, and what that might cost them.

The narrator is, of course, unreliable. He’s unreliable even to himself, because he doesn’t know which memories are his, and which memories might be missing. Truth is a malleable thing in this world, because it depends on what you believe, and he can change that. (It never really addresses what happens when someone has some kind of record of what he’s going to wipe.) Identity is malleable too — and his changes all the time as he takes on the memories of murderers and victims. It’s definitely a fertile ground for a story, and K.J. Parker makes great use of it.

This novella has convinced me I really need to get round to reading more of K.J. Parker’s work. He does an amazing job here of creating a character and a complex story from a simple seed — without it ever getting too tortuous.

Rating: 4/5

What are you reading Wednesday

What did you recently finish reading?
Let’s see… mostly comics. The Island of Doctor Moreau, by H.G. Wells, was the last novel — read it for my SF/F class, though I discovered I hadn’t actually read it before anyway. Comics-wise, Avengers: The Children’s Crusade, Avengers vs X-men: VS., and Young Avengers Presents. All Marvel comics.

What are you currently reading?
Actively, P.G. Wodehouse’s The Small Bachelor, Molly Beth Griffin’s Silhouette of a Sparrow and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland; the latter, is once again, for my SF/F class.

What do you think you’ll read next?
The plan is to read Captain America: Winter Soldier, I think. Then maybe I’ll get round to the acclaimed Ancillary Justice (Ann Leckie).

Books acquired:
Last book before I came here was Nicola Griffith’s Hild, I think. Then there was a little shopping spree in Brussels and Leuven: Helen of Troy: Beauty, Myth, Devastation (Ruby Blondell), The Book of Barely Imagined Beings (Caspar Henderson), The Prisoner (Thomas M. Disch), The Song of Troy (Colleen McCullough), In Search of Shakespeare (Michael Wood), The Folding Knife (K.J. Parker) and Alphabet of Thorn (Patricia A. McKillip). Some bought for me by my partner, eee. Also I bought her Fly By Night (Frances Hardinge).

There was also a library trip. I have to report that the library in Leuven is pretty good for English-language books. So my haul from there was Mockingbird (Walter Tevis), The Short Novels of John Steinbeck, The Lover’s Dictionary (David Levithan), and White as Snow (Tanith Lee).