The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories from Dirty Computer

Harper Voyager. . ed. Apr. 2022. 336p. ISBN 9780063070875. $28.99. SF
DEBUT In the Afrofuturistic world of musician/actor Monáe’s Dirty Computer (inspired by her album of the same title), people are computing machines, and tyrannical “thought police” control dirty memories—eliminating all recollections of desires or behaviors that are believed to be deviant or aberrant. It’s totalitarianism that maintains itself by eliminating any memory of being different, as a way of creating a kind of utopia. Monáe’s collection of stories revolves around one queer woman, Jane 57821, who escapes the world of Dirty Computer and looks for a place where she can be who she wants. Jane 57821 becomes an inspirational figure whom the “clean” computers of New Dawn must capture, cleanse, and rehabilitate before others question the sanitized version of the greater good.
VERDICT Monáe’s collection speaks to both the sf tradition of mind-control tyranny and the way that the powerful marginalize individuals in order to control the whole. Highly recommended for readers of conspiracy and thought-control sf or of Afrofuturist works by the likes of Octavia Butler, Nalo Hopkinson, N. K. Jemisin, and Nnedi Okorafor.
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