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Memory-erasing drugs are the centerpiece of a bleak, absurdist vision of contemporary life.

Our narrator is a salesman with no name. His current territory is Arizona, where he sells a chemical product called STM (short-term memory eroder); he also peddles LTM. When he’s not working, he does drugs: some company product, which makes him the ultimate unreliable narrator, plus old favorites like cocaine. He also drinks, swims, and has sex. The sex may be with men or women, but it’s always casual (“fucking strangers is what everyone is doing these days”). Biographical fragments (childhood in Spain, divorced parents) don’t flesh him out. He may have a girlfriend in Tokyo, but she stays in the shadows, and his only relationship is with the Company that supplies him with product. The Company communicates through e-mails. Salesmen sometimes steal product and disappear, so they are frequently tested. When the narrator tests positive, he is suspended. His voice is deadpan and without affect. He will move from Arizona to Asia (Bangkok, Saigon, Tokyo), but he is still a man on a treadmill, going through the same motions; there is always a stranger to have sex with as planes fall out of the sky and suicides disturb hotel rooms. Spanish novelist Loriga (My Brother’s Gun, 1997) could have added the spice of confrontations (with the Company or with the Promise Keepers, white Americans who kill the “memory murderers”), but he prefers to document the anomie of listless consumers around the world, not exactly uncharted territory. The narrator winds up in a Berlin hospital with aphasia. After tests, he will be fired by the Company and branded SICA (suspected of illegal chemical activity). At the end, he’s back in Arizona listening to a German veteran of WWII and pioneer of memory elimination, K. L. Krumper, who exists only on a monitor; his brain has been transplanted into a young Mexican girl. The author seems less than fully engaged in these tired science fiction devices.

Sterile and lifeless.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-8021-4147-1
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Grove
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2004


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