Rating: 4.75 stars
Buy Link:
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Length: Novel


Fox loved his husband Gabe; all he wanted was for Gabe to finally, finally lower his walls and let Fox in. They even started seeing a marriage therapist–or more accurately, a “Life-Storyboard Consultant.” The idea was to get them to open up about their pasts in order to move forward. If that didn’t work, they could both take advantage of NIL/E’s services and literally edit out the parts of their history that they simply could not grapple with. After all, Fox edited other people’s memories every day; he was a bona fide genius at it and handpicked by NIL/E’s founder, Kadija, to head the company’s editing department. Gabe also knew how it worked; he literally put his memories into the bodies of his physical training clients every day so he “wore” their body to make sure the clients got the workouts needed to get results. But love, marriage, and the best counseling in New Thebes wasn’t enough to save Fox from the way he jealously wanted to possess Gabe. When Fox threw a verbal bomb towards one of Gabe’s clients, suggesting that there was more than just exercise taking place during Gabe’s appointments, it blew their marriage apart. Not long after, a physical bomb killed Gabe and left Fox at the Field of Reeds Center for Memory Recovery.

At Field of Reeds, Fox is a blank slate. He barely knows his name or how he got to the center. The staff and patients reassure him that everything will come back; it always does. For Fox, however, remembering also brings pain. As his memories slowly come back one fractured piece at a time, he realizes just how terrible a husband, how terrible a person he was. Nothing will bring Gabe back, but at least Fox is determined to learn from his mistakes. And the more Fox remembers, the less things make sense. There’s more in his memory than just all the ways he messed up with Gabe. There are memories of being the top editor at NIL/E, memories of being an orphan on a refugee island, memories of downloading his memories into a whole new body and trying to create a whole new existence without Gabe, memories of a psychotic break when even the best editing couldn’t excise the pain of losing Gabe entirely. The more Fox remembers, the less he knows. But he’s not alone. Fox discovers a small cell of so-called Scribes, other patients tasked with discovering how Field of Reeds works and devising a way to bust out. Only then can Fox really know what happened to his husband, his life, and his memory.

Welcome to Forever is an imaginative cyberpunk-esque, dystopian story. The book is organized into four “verses,” each containing several chapters. The verses are like mini-arcs through Fox’s life. The story is not exactly chronological, though that is probably the best fitting overall description of the organization. It’s an exciting story that breaks up the action into puzzle pieces for readers to fit together with helpful reminders, repeated imagery, and tantalizing snippets that point at a story much larger than just a lone man struggling to recover from a traumatic accident.

As noted in the summary, our main character lives in a world where people can and do edit their memories. For the reader, this means our narrator, Fox, is highly unreliable–and sometimes Fox knows that, sometimes he doesn’t. There is also a very fragmented quality to the story telling. A character named Kadija, for example, is a great many things: creator of the most powerful company on the planet, genius memory editor, Fox’s best friend with a savior-complex, figurative god, literal god (?). Kadija and Fox are inextricably linked, as we see through several of Fox’s memories, but there was always a question about which one of these (or how many of these) are true. Take that idea and multiply that times all Fox’s primary memories–of Gabe, of his job, of his dealing with losing Gabe–and you get an idea about the creativeness of this book.

One thing I loved about this story is how richly the world is described. Not only does the world borrow themes from ancient Egypt, but the way the characters’ experiences give life to the world and cultures in the story made Fox’s story all the more compelling. For example, it’s clear land agriculture has been replaced with aquaculture with whimsical products like “CowN’Cod nuggies.” Hurricanes have been renamed “furycanes.” This world has its own lexicon to pepper the dialogue with genre-appropriate phrases like “codedamned”(pretty obvious) and “mipper” (a derogatory term for people who use memory editing tech like recreational drugs). Then there’s the imagery. Early in the story, there was a tantalizing mention of purple glass and that it related to Fox and Gabe’s origin story and that kept me keyed into colors and materials looking for clues as to when the meaning behind “purple glass” would become clear. When it does, it’s both affirming and heartbreaking. The story seems loaded with small visual clues that help anchor the story and allowed me as a reader to connect or anticipate important events.

The romance element of the story was a delight as well. Fox and Gabe are established, at least in so far as we know at the start of the story. That dynamic changes several times throughout the book as we learn more about who Fox is and how his job as a memory editor has impacted his life. But all complexity aside, if there is one thing true about Fox, it’s that he loves Gabe and is willing to do whatever it takes to get him back. In addition to this complicated, present-day Fox and Gabe relationship, we get a good look into their past when the first meet that is sweet and very first-love. There’s also a good chunk of the book dedicated to exploring how Fox reacts when he tries to move on after losing Gabe. All of these different realities come together and, eventually, Fox has to make sense of them and I enjoyed seeing how Fox grows (and maybe doesn’t) over the myriad memories he swims through.

Anyone looking for an immersive, sweeping saga about a man obsessed with getting his husband back by any means necessary (even if it means becoming a better person) or readers who enjoy nuanced, layered stories that read like puzzle pieces to fit together, I think you’ll really enjoy this book.