Book Review: Nostalgia by M.G. Vassanji


Reviewed by: Savannah
Genre: Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Page count: 272 Pages
Rating: 2.5/5 stars
In stock: Yes

Well, looks like I’ve decided to attempt to read the whole Canada Reads 2017 Shortlist. Wish me luck. I’ll start off by giving you the Goodreads synopsis as per usual.

From one of Canada’s most celebrated writers, two-time Giller Prize winner Moyez Vassanji, comes a taut, ingenuous and dynamic novel about a future where eternal life is possible, and identities can be chosen. In the indeterminate future in an unnamed western city, physical impediments to immortality have been overcome. As society approaches the prospect of eternal life, a new problem must be confronted: with the threat of the brain’s storage capacity being overwhelmed, people want to move forward into the future free from redundant, unwanted and interfering memories. Rejuvenated bodies require rejuvenated identities–all traces of a person’s past are erased and new, complete fictions are implanted in their stead. On occasion, though, cracks emerge, and reminders of discarded lives seep through. Those afflicted suffer from Leaked Memory Syndrome, or Nostalgia, whereby thoughts from a previous existence burrow in the conscious mind threatening to pull sufferers into an internal abyss.
Doctor Frank Sina specializes in sealing these memory leaks. He is satisfied in his profession, more or less secure in the life he shares with his much younger lover, content with his own fiction–a happy childhood in the Yukon, an adulthood marked by the influence of a mathematician father and poet mother. But one day, Presley Smith arrives in Frank’s office. Persistent thoughts are torturing Presley, recurring images of another time and place. As he tries to save Presley from the onslaught of memory, Frank finds clues that suggest Presley’s past may be located in war-torn, nuclear-ravaged Maskinia, a territory located in the southern hemisphere, isolated from the north by fiercely guarded borders and policy barriers. Frank’s suspicions are only intensified when the Department of Internal Security takes an interest in Presley. They describe him as one of their own, meaning his new life was one they created for him, and they want him back. Who was Presley before the Department remade him, what secrets are buried in the memories that are encroaching upon him?
As Frank tries to save Presley from both internal and external threats, cracks emerge in his own fiction, and the thoughts that sneak through suggest a connection with the mysterious Presley that goes well beyond a doctor and his patient.”

Since I’ve been on a roll in my last few reviews of talking about the physical book I shall continue the trend. The actual book is just pretty average, typical hardcover and typical pages, nothing too noteworthy. The cover however, is amazing. It’s just so simplistic and wonderful and that lion head is so beautiful, I could be biased though because I love lions. Lastly, the metallic shine that the letters have is very aesthetically pleasing.

Okay, now on to the actual book review. This book took me a while to actually get into, I just wasn’t that attached to the plot or characters. I’m also not that big of a sci-fi fan and I found some of the ideas were there but I would have preferred some of them to be explained further. The concept of the book was very interesting and a pretty good idea. Making you question if you can ever really escape a past life or if it will all just come back to you in the end.

The one part of the book that was barely touched on but mentioned enough, that I find goes well with the news is the refugee situation. The world in the book is essentially divided in two with “The Long Border”, which I’m sure we have all heard references to happening currently. And refugees coming from the other side of the border in this book swim through oceans and put themselves in danger (very familiar). Yet, the refugee situation wasn’t really dealt with enough just briefly mentioned. So I can’t really say too much, but for a dystopian novel not too many elements were far out of range, which is kinda terrifying let’s be real.

The author also has really interesting thoughts on immortality, as it isn’t about your physical body living forever, which I think is the norm. But for your, as he call it, soul to live forever. Which is so different from the usual immortality ideas that I have heard before, I would definitely say it’s an intriguing concept.

All in all however, I found the book to feel very rushed and not very well developed for my tastes. There were just so many interesting ideas and concept introduced but none of them were really fully explained or planned out. Also, some of the ideas would be introduced and you would think they were important and then never get mentioned again or even be relevant to the story at all. It seemed like the author wanted to do a million things but never really focused on the on central idea enough. While I’m sure it is relevant and an important read, in reference to the Canada Reads theme of 2017 I do not think this book is the one that every Canadian should read. Feel free to fight me on this I just think there are more important themes…

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