The Clarity

Keith Thomas's debut novel, The Clarity, mixes high-concept science fiction with ultra-violent action scenes. Thomas was a clinical researcher before writing for film and television, and his expertise shows.

Matilda Deacon is a psychologist obsessed with the biochemical properties of memory. Her mother is dying of Alzheimer's, and Matilda wants to find a way to reverse memory destruction before the disease claims her own mind. Her goals are thrown into disarray when she meets Ashanique, a young African American girl who experiences the memories of people from the past. Skeptical but intrigued, Matilda discovers that not only is Ashanique telling the truth about past lives, but that she's hiding from a shadowy group of scientists called "Night Doctors," who want the secrets buried in her memories. Matilda and a detective named Kojo take Ashanique into hiding as they're stalked by Rade, a ruthless assassin who plans to unlock past lives and become a super being.

Thomas proves himself a fine writer of speculative fiction, though not without shortcomings. Rade, for example, starts off as a convincingly bizarre villain but slowly becomes a generic psychopath bent toward excessive gore. The novel's most thrilling parts occur when Thomas lines up the narratives of past lives with present-day action. He weaves the perspectives of characters from World War I as well as prehistoric times into a compelling continuum. These parallel tales are all the more fascinating for the science fiction behind them; the novel analyzes the nature of memory and how memories could be embedded in DNA, passed from one generation to the next. The Clarity is a thriller that raises interesting questions about consciousness. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset

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