How do you mix Senegalese tradition with science fiction? Our Memory Like Dust, Gavin Chaits – ARC Review

Fun fact, I thought I’d written this post, went back to look at it and realised I had completely forgotten to actually write a review? Appropriate for this book title? Most definitely.

Goodreads Summary: 

Why do we tell stories? To hold on to what has been loved and lost, to create new myths, to explain and teach in ways that seep into memory.
Shakiso Collard leads the evacuation from Benghazi as jihadis overwhelm the refugee camp where she works. On arrival in Paris, she is betrayed by her boss, Oktar Samboa, and watches in despair as those she illegally helped escape are deported back to the warzones of Libya.
Elsewhere, Farinata Uberti – strongman CEO of Rosneft, the world’s largest energy company – arrives in London after triggering a violent insurrection in Tanzania to destroy a potential rival in the oil market. In the Sahara, an air convoy on its way to deliver billions of dollars of drugs and weapons to Ansar Dine jihadis crashes and is lost.
A year later, having spent months in hiding, Shakiso travels to West Africa. She is there to lead the relief effort that are hoping to stop the 200 million refugees fleeing war and environmental collapse heading for a fortified and fragmented Europe.
As the myths of these millions seeking new lives across the Mediterranean intrude into reality, Shakiso is drawn into the brutal clandestine fight against Rosneft’s domination of European energy supplies being conducted by the mysterious Simon Adaro. And, deep within the disorienting Harmattan storms of the desert, a group of jihadis have gone in search of the crashed convoy of planes – and a terror that could overwhelm them all.

It’s alternative futures gone bezerk! I’ll start by saying that this book took me a while to fully understand. It’s a slow burn at first as you try to get a handle of who is telling what story and how it is ever all going to come together. Once you wrap your head around what’s actually going on and what the author is trying to do it starts to make a bit more sense and it’s smooth sailing from there on out.

This book is hugely topical with the way the world is now and I don’t know whether that favours it or not? Asylum seekers and conflict can be very tricky issues to deal with when you’re looking at facts, bring in an element of fiction and a mythology and you get an even more complex maze to navigate.

I will say, in the author’s notes at the end he apologises for any errors in his use of Senegalese folklore/mythology which I appreciated and which made me feel a little less awkward about someone not from Senegal using that tradition. I bow to the opinions of those who’s culture this is but to me this felt like it was handled well.

One of my main concerns was that the characters in this book would feel very ‘white saviour’-y but again I was pleasantly surprised by the way this was handled.

This is just about the right level of science fiction for me. It brings in tech and ideas that we don’t currently have but that are believable within the time frame. The solar farms, metal gel armour and other tech are all plausible and understandable for a laywoman such as myself. If you like hardcore science fiction this may be a bit light for you, but honestly in this case the characters and the story are far more significant than the setting anyway.

I have only given this book three stars (meaning that I liked it but didn’t love it) just because it darts about so much, across the world and in flashbacks etc. that it’s hard to ever feel like you’re in one coherent narrative. Once you get to the end you can sort of piece it all together and try to make something of it but until then I felt a little lost.

This is an incredibly interesting story and a good way of looking at contemporary issues through the lense of science fiction and fantasy. Our Memory Like Dust is one of those books that everyone is going to be told to read at some point in life, and they probably should.

My rating: 3/5 stars

Our Memory Like Dust releases on July 27th so you can preorder now or wait to nab it from your local bookshop if you think it’s something you might like!

By the way, I received a free digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Can’t wait to hear from you


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