Level 2 (Memory Chronicles, Book 1)
Allen & Unwin (AU: 1st January 2013); Simon & Schuster (US & CA: 15th January 2013); Usborne (UK: 15th January 2013)
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I was sceptical upon hearing that a fair chunk of this novel is reliving memories. Sounded like there isn’t much going on in the present. But as an avid Family Guy viewer, I’m accustomed to cutaways.
Knowing the author is a fan, and because of the setting based on beehives with drones, Tori Amos’ “The Beekeeper” song soundtracks Lenore Appelhans’ debut novel for me. Have no idea if that was intended. (She says, “I’m the one who taps you on the shoulder when it’s your time…” Can’t remember other lyrics.)
Still, I find the structure of Level Two very confusing. Is it one massive hive, or lots of hives somewhat connected? Are the memory chambers the “holes” of the hive? When the great escape happens, where do the characters go? The problem with a metaphysical world, in which things can be “materialised”, is my bearings are to find. A map/diagram would’ve been helpful.
I also don’t understand the “chosen one” situation. Why Felicia Ward? With Earth’s massive population, was hers the only soul “reaching out” at that time? And I don’t quite get the Morati and the rebels’ motives. Further still, I don’t comprehend the endgame scene, though it is rather cool. (You know I love mad science.)
Then there are times when things are over-explained. In case you didn’t pick up on Level Two’s hive-like setting, there’s an actual beekeeping scene in Felicia’s memory bank. And one of my pet peeves is when a well-known novel or play mentioned/quoted in a story is relevant to what the protag’s going through. (That never happened in my teen year.) In this case, it’s the play Our Town. Subtlety is not a strong point.
A unique, if bewildering, location lifts Level 2 above its competitors with intriguing technology and questioning the values placed on certain memories. Lenore Appelhans’ debut is both fascinating and frustrating, and not to be taken lying down. Come for the weird world where answers elude, but stay for the musical goats.