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Urban fantasy collaboration from Brust (The Lord of Castle Black, 2003, etc.) and White (In Dreams Begin, 2010, etc.).

Poker player Phil belongs to the Incrementalists, a small, secret society able to store memories in a common location called the Garden (but where is it and how does it work?); more, when one of them dies, they can transplant their memories into another person. The drawback is that, while both sets of memories persist, only one of the two personalities survives. Phil’s memories reach back to the earliest days of modern humans, and his dominant personality has persisted for 2,000 years. The group’s members are dedicated to improving the world, just a little at a time, and they do it by expertly reading people, finding their triggers (“switches”) and manipulating them (“meddling”). For 400 years, Phil has been obsessed with Celeste, though the feeling is far from mutual. Now Celeste is dead, so Phil must find a new body for her. Who would take a chance on immortality at the risk of losing their personality? Well, software designer Ren jumps at the chance. But once the memory implantation’s complete, it’s obvious that something has gone wrong: Ren is still Ren, yet she hasn’t acquired Celeste’s memories. Worse, it emerges that Celeste meddled with both Phil and Ren to produce exactly the situation that prevails—and her plan threatens not only the integrity of the Garden, but the Incrementalists’ entire raison d’être. Unfortunately, this sounds far more convincing in summary than in detail. Supposedly dominant, 2,000-year-old Phil’s personality is still easily duped and frequently succumbs to overwhelming emotional bouts; he’s mooned over Celeste for four centuries without him or anyone else gleaning any real insight into her true nature. And we’re offered few examples of how these expert manipulators actually operate.

The ideas are there; the execution leaves something to be desired.

Pub Date: Sept. 24th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-7653-3422-0
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Tor
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2013


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