Terminally ill salvage pilot Ash Jackson lost everything in the war with the alien Vai, but she’ll be damned if she loses her future. Her plan: to buy, beg, or lie her way out of corporate indenture and find a cure.
When her crew salvages a genocidal weapon from a ravaged starship above a dead colony, Ash uncovers a conspiracy of corporate intrigue and betrayal that threatens to turn her into a living weapon.
Architects of Memory is book 1 in The Memory War duology by Karen Osborne, and my first impression was that it gave me hardcore vibes of The Expanse. It is dark and mysterious and very spacey, plus it is heavy on sensory descriptions. Themes of power, war, colonization, and alien encounters persist, as well.
The story begins by throwing the main protagonist, Ash, right into the conflict when she runs into alien technology on a salvage mission in the first scene. No one knows exactly what it is, at first, or the effect the exposure may have on Ash. Osborne does not give the reader much time to build up to things in the beginning, and it is a really weighty start to the book. This is a positive for me, as grabbed me from the start and did a wonderful job of holding my attention. The narrative just gets deeper and darker from there as Ash and her crew begin to unravel the mystery of the alien technology and how it fits in with the current situation. The company they work for is at war with the Vai (their name for the alien species they have encountered), and solving this puzzle could be the key to winning.
As the plot unfolds, the secrets hidden beneath layers are unveiled, and the result is thrilling. It turns out there is so much more to this story than a war with aliens. There is indentured servitude and corporate greed. There are aliens and genocide and cultural clashes. There is new technology and viruses and forgotten memories. There are also forbidden relationships and those that would do anything to protect those they love. All of these components are elaborately intertwined, creating a big ball of tension that just gets bigger and more dense until it explodes in a satisfying spray of destruction. Every time I turned a page there was a new reveal, betrayal, or discovery. This story is deep and intense, and I was on the edge of my seat the entire time.
The author put a lot of work into the sensory descriptions in the story, as well. I get the feeling that if this book was not set in space maybe Osborne does not decide to describe things in so much detail. Due to the fact that there is a lot of alien stuff going on and death, especially death in space where the effects of gravity and anti-gravity and small spaces but also the vastness of space need to accounted for, the author feels the need to describe sights, smells, sounds, and how things feel in extreme detail (sometimes tastes, too, but that is not as prevalent). To me, this added to the overall tone of the book. I imagined being out in space and in all of these difficult situations, walking into a room where the crew of a space shuttle has been dead for weeks and BAM! it hits you in the senses. It really made me feel immersed in the setting.
Another interesting aspect of this book is the fact that most of the character set is female. Male characters are few, and I actually did not notice until I was more than halfway through the book. I love to see that, because I think there are not enough female leads in sci-fi, let alone books which have a female lead, as well as a second, third, and fourth. And Ash was a perfect main character. Her story was intimate and profound, and it was a really emotional journey; in fact, the book as a whole was incredibly emotive. This is a compliment to the author’s writing, as I would consider Architects of Memory to be rigorous sci-fi, and to be able to write a story such as this that contains both hard sci-fi concepts and to be able to hit me in the feels at the same time is not an easy task. Osborne accomplishes this with ease, and that is a big reason as to why I had trouble putting the book down.
Architects of Memory is such a good read. It is a smartly written, intricate story that combines hard sci-fi with emotional undertones to create a satisfactory result. I enjoyed the hell out of it, and I think most other science fiction readers will, as well, and for that reason I give it my recommendation. And the ending left me wanting more, for sure; luckily I have book 2 in the series (Engines of Oblivion) right next to me and ready to go.