STARRED REVIEW
September 08, 2020

Architects of Memory

By Karen Osborne
Review by
They left as suddenly as they’d come. The Vai, the alien race who’d destroyed countless human settlers and whose violence was second only to their efficiency, inexplicably retreated, leaving salvage-worthy weapons and other materials in their wake. For terminally ill pilot Ash Jackson, first contact with the Vai meant losing everything. But their retreat presents an opportunity: With hundreds of Vai weapons scattered throughout the system, her dream of buying her way out of her corporate indenture and into full citizenship (and possibly a cure) is within sight.
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They left as suddenly as they’d come. The Vai, the alien race who’d destroyed countless human settlers and whose violence was second only to their efficiency, inexplicably retreated, leaving salvage-worthy weapons and other materials in their wake. For terminally ill pilot Ash Jackson, first contact with the Vai meant losing everything. But their retreat presents an opportunity: With hundreds of Vai weapons scattered throughout the system, her dream of buying her way out of her corporate indenture and into full citizenship (and possibly a cure) is within sight. But when the salvage of a decimated warship produces the find of a lifetime, Ash is thrust into a web of intrigue that will shake not only her understanding of the Vai invasion but also the very balance of corporate power itself.

Karen Osborne’s debut, Architects of Memory, is a must-read for anyone who loves a good space romp. Part social commentary and part space opera, it is comfortable sitting between worlds. Osborne sets this first novel in her Memory War series in the aftermath of a horrifying first contact, but there are no aliens—only their remnants. The choice to show the Vai’s weapons and not the Vai themselves is a calculated one. Not only does it render the Vai as a shadowy, existential threat, but it also forces the action back into the realm of humanity. From predatory contracts that force uncitizens into near slavery conditions to the banal evil of corporate governance, there is plenty to horrify and excite within Osborne’s rich galaxy.

A word to the wise for readers not fond of spoilers: Read as little as you can about this book before you devour it. Avoid reading the back, or even the sentence on the cover (if you can) of this book. Architects of Memory is full of small surprises easily spoiled, and readers who like figuring out those little mysteries could easily be deprived of a few good ones. For readers who have already read too much, don’t worry—plenty more surprises lie in wait.

Architects of Memory is not “Firefly” or “Battlestar Galactica.” It is too grim to be the former and too hopeful to be the latter, although fans of both will likely love it. Rather, Architects of Memory is an exploration—not of new solar systems or of alien societies, but of human systems of power and the lengths to which corporations will go in order to gain and maintain just a little bit of market share, even in the face of certain destruction. A timely and powerful read, Architects of Memory will leave readers thinking for weeks to come.

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