Nostalgia by M.G. Vassanji

It’s midnight, the lion is out…

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They are spirits destined to live a second life
In body; they assemble to drink
From the brimming Lethe, and its water
Heals their anxieties and obliterates
All trace of memory.”
– AeneidBook VI

4/5 stars.
ebook, 272 pages.
February 22, 2017 to February 24, 2017.

Onwards! Book two of five for the Canada Reads 2017 debate.

Imagine that you are able to live forever and have whatever identity and persona you would like. Who would you be? Would you shed the memories of your previous life? And could you afford such a treatment?  Nostalgia is a story of these choices and possibilities.

It is the future and we have found a way to live forever. Well, at least if you are a wealthy Westerner. If you have the funds you can choose to live forever and make yourself whoever you wish to be. The sacrifice being that your old memories must be removed for these new identities to take place, with scripted fictitious memories being left in their place. As a result of this feat of technology, there has become a massive gap between poor and wealthy countries. The poor countries are war town and the people live in absolute poverty. Additionally, there is a rift between the two generations of people with eternal life: the older generation that has had numerous lives and identities, and the newer generation who currently have only ever lived one life and have one set of original memories. The newer generation, is extremely frustrated and resentful as they cannot find jobs because the older generation has not, nor will not, vacate any of them. Meaning that the newer generation has to scrape by or find someone of the older generation to rely on. Dr. Frank Sina is one from the fortunate older generation of eternals.

Frank is a doctor who specializes in treating those who have are troubled with memories resurfacing from previous lives/identities. Frank is immensely successful at his job, has a young lover, and has never questioned his purpose as a doctor or even his immortality. That is until he meets one of his new clients: Presley Smith. Presley is haunted with reoccurring thoughts and images from another time and place. While Presley’s case is not remarkable, Frank cannot seem to let go of it, even when Presley insists he can control it, and even when he is forbidden to interfere from the Department of Internal Security. Frank’s drive to help, and even protect Presley, is unknown to him but it will unravel the life that he believes he knows.

This novel is an example of a successful dystopia. It’s not too far fetched to be true science fiction and it holds enough truth in it to reflect the present. The author depicts a very real conflict between baby boomers and millennials with the new and old generations of those with eternal life as well as the disparity of wealth between have and have-not countries and the lack of understanding and general humanity that wealthier countries have on the issue.

The novel also discusses the morality and conflict of what it would be like to live forever. The major philosophical point however is that, deep down, we cannot truly change who we are and in the end we are all connected.

In terms of the question for Canada Reads: What is the one book Canadians need now? – This book is a great candidate for the winner. Despite the political differences and atmosphere currently this book serves to remind all Canadians that regardless of where you came from or what you believe, we cannot forget that we are all the same. Additionally it serves to remind people to help those in need. Perhaps it also goes to say, that in terms of science and technology, that just because we can, it does not mean we should.

This was an outstanding read. As it stands I am going to have a hard time deciding on who I think should win this year’s Canada Reads. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys dystopia, philosophy, science and the dynamics of human relationships and self.

Author: pluviophilereader2313

I am a dweeb with a dash of geek who has a BA in English and Awesomeness. I have an obsession with running and cats and I also love to read, write and listen to angry music. I value learning for the sake of learning, proper grammar and the touch and smell of a real book. I love to laugh and make my friends and family laugh, though I can't always say that I'm appropriate but I wouldn't be who I am today without them.

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