Stolen Lives examines the questions of self and free will. How do we become the person we are? What would happen if our memories; the details of our very identity were stripped away?
Matt Tyler is going to find out. He awakes to find no memories of who he was, in a strange place with others who also have a hole where the records of their lives should be. He finds a like-minded soul in Gwen who is determined to find out who she was, who she is. Trouble is every time anyone tries to remember who they were they suffer from agonising, crippling headaches (a bit like listening to Celine Dion songs). Strange dreams haunt their sleep offering tantalizing glimpses of who they may be; who they may become.
The idea of the protagonist with no memory trying to recover their past isn't a new one. It's been done countless times with varying degrees of success. It's also not an idea that is easy to get right on the page, at least without raising the hackles of the observant reader. This is made more difficult by the very nature of memory. While we live in a linear existence, memory isn't really all that linear and often not even entirely factual. Our brains fill in the blanks as best it can and memory can be skewed by our own feelings, emotions and senses. Our ability to access and recall such memories also varies greatly.
Anyway the point is, loss of memory is not an easy idea to convey, but Masterson nails it. There were very few moments when I thought "hang on how will he / she know that if they have no memory" - a real sign of of success. It's also important to remember that the whole memory loss thing is after all only a vehicle to explore the important messages within the book. The themes of free will and self are intelligently examined without judgement and yet with a clear sense of morality, leading the reader to form their own opinion.
The prose is eloquent and clever with a warm voice that speaks directly to the reader. It's an easy book to read too with a nice steady pace and like-able characters. On the subject of characters, Matt and Gwen make a great team and the interaction between the two is at times quite powerful. They are also people with a clear sense of morality, solid people who think carefully about doing the "right" thing.
I love the style of the prose, it's uncluttered and all the more convincing as a result. The book has a distinct literary feel about it too, the trappings of genre subtle and downplayed. As such I'd say this book should appeal to most readers regardless of them being fans of the genre.
Stolen Lives is an accomplished novel. It's deceptively easy to read - complete with like-able characters you may relate to - and yet beneath the surface are some well thought out ideas that really do make you think.
Written on Monday 25th August 2014 by Antony.
SFBook is entirely funded by Ant including hosting, development and any other costs.
If you enjoy the site please consider a small donation towards the cost of the upkeep and development of SFBook.