Black Market Memories is a science fiction novel by David A Schramm.
From the third millenium the human race have spread to the stars and intergalactic space explorers have settled on worlds in distant solar systems. 250 light years from earth, the newly settled colony of Jamestown is still adjusting to this new life. While the government and its citizens work to establish an economy and stable politics, wrestling with technological, environmental and social challenges, a criminal underworld emerges, one that could threaten the very fabric of this new frontier.
Frustrated by science fiction that uses devices such as warp drives, faster than light travel, worm holes and star gates, David Schramm's novel describes a future where space travel is based on our current understanding of physics and engineering. The best example of this is the time it takes to travel to another star system, which in Black Market Memories can be hundreds of years. As this would be far too long for a human, space travel is largely performed by "Stellars", humans that have been digitally uploaded to a "Stellar unit" and no longer feel the constraints of mortality (they can still die but can live for thousands of years as a digital construct and even back themselves up).
The world building is built around this basic premise, with digital drugs, virus grenades and the highly illegal Simgame (a virtual world created for Stellars that's hopelessly addictive and has been outlawed decades ago). Each of these new technologies are described in good detail, however some of these aren't actually explained until later on in the story and so the reader is left wondering just what a Stellar is until it's described later on. While this approach isn't unique in the literary world, it does make the beginning of the novel harder to read and may put some readers off from persevering.
The story itself is both intriguing and intelligent but is somewhat let down by the lack of characterisation, I really struggled to connect with the main characters and felt that they were somewhat 2 dimensional, lacking any real depth. This is compounded by the fairly simplistic style of the writing and lack of descriptive narrative when dealing with emotional situations. Probably as a result of these issues and coupled with the extended timelines, the pace of the novel seems quite slow and lacked any real energy. This lack of emotional development in the characters is purposefully used by the author to show how digital constructs, essentially artificial intelligence lack the ability to portray full emotions, and while this can be applauded for realism, it doesn't help the reader to emotionally attach themselves to the characters. It this essential, no but it does make a novel easier to read.
Black Market Memories has some great ideas, good use of technology in a well described post-human-esque future and should be applauded for the realistic use of technology, but I can't help feeling it is let down somewhat by a lack of pace, fairly simplistic writing style and limited characterisation. It's worth a read for the ideas within, and if you want to see a novel that uses current understanding of technology in a future setting.
Written on Friday 12th November 2010 by Antony.
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