Before I return to the format, I guess I should say something about the book. I almost feel like I should be doing a proper literary criticism, of the sort I haven't done since school: Synopsis, Themes, Characters, Style, Symbolism, Summary. That's because this feels like a proper bit of "literature". That's a word I use with some trepidation: usually "literature" means "stuff I feel like I ought to have read but probably won't actually enjoy" - whether it's modern lit or classic lit. And don't get me started on "chick lit". This isn't one of those bits of "literature", though. It's intelligent, thoughtful, and heavily character-based, yes, but it's also very easy to read and it's got a damn good story. That's because most of Roz's books are very different. She's written under a number of well-known names, including [REDACTED] and [CAN'T TELL YOU OR I'D HAVE TO KILL YOU], and she knows how to tell a rattling good yarn. She's not your usual literary novelist.
One of her other readers summed it up best - Memories is like John Fowles's The Magus. I loved that book when I was a teenager, and I'm now getting a hankering to read it again. It's the sort of literature I enjoy reading, combining a slightly unsettling plot with hints of more beyond. It's not the depressing realism of your typical Booker novelist or the light fluffiness of a slice of middle class city life.
Memories is about a pianist who can't play any more who goes to a hypnotist and starts channelling, not a past life, but a future life. Anything more would be a spoiler, so I'll stop right there. Roz's writing is some of the sharpest I've read in a while. She uses short, punchy sentences, punctuated by powerful metaphors and vivid descriptions. The result is some of the most readable prose I've come across in a while.
I will admit that after the first episode, I was slightly dubious about where it was going. I was enjoying it, but once she introduced characters who were regressing to past lives involving Jack the Ripper, there was a small part of me inwardly groaning and hoping it wasn't going to turn into some cheesy From Hell scenario. By the end of the second episode, I still wasn't much reassured. But I'm glad I stuck with it, because the end is an absolute rip-roarer. (Her husband Dave popped up on Twitter when I mentioned my concerns, and assured me I wouldn't anticipate the end. He was right. I should have known Roz wouldn't resort to cliche without good reason. She's better than that.)
Here's my one grouse. The release in instalments didn't work for me. I wanted to read the whole thing in one go. I didn't like waiting for the next episode to come out. In fact, after Episode 2, I decided to skip Episode 3 the following week and waited until the whole thing was published.
As a marketing technique, I hope it worked for Roz - self-publishing is a challenge at the best of times, and you have to do whatever you can to get attention. I certainly tweeted and facebooked about it much more than I would have done if I'd just bought the one book. But as a reading experience goes, I wish I'd waited and read it straight through. To be fair, I find the same with comics and television series - I enjoyed the anticipation of waiting for next week's Doctor Who or 2000 AD when I was a kid, but now I'd prefer to settle down for a long session whenever it's convenient for me.
However, none of this is a problem for anyone out there. It's all out now, and you can buy the complete novel for $9.99 on Kindle or $14.95 on paper. (You can still get all four episodes separately for $0.99, but not for much longer.)
So yes, I enjoyed this immensely. I'm torn between 4 and 5 stars, but that's only because I'm really, really picky when it comes to giving out 5-star ratings, and I'd have enjoyed it more without the enforced breaks in the middle. However, it's an easy four and a half. Memories is sharp, well-written, and a damn good read, and I'm looking forward to whatever Roz does next.