by Eric James Stone
Cover Artist: Kurt Miller
Review by Wes Breazeale
Baen Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781481482448
Date: 25 April 2017 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
[NOTE: This review originally appeared in our April 2016 issue where we reviewed the trade paperback edition.]
Unforgettable, by Eric James Stone, is an oddly titled book about a man who is actually unrememberable. Much like a headline written by a copy editor who didn't write the article, one wonders if someone else gave this book its title. It's but one mystery that comes up when reading Unforgettable, which while somewhat enjoyable, isn't exactly memorable.
In some odd quirk of nature, involving quantum states, Nat Morgan is in fact completely forgettable. Exactly one minute after someone last sees or hears Nat, they completely forget about him. No matter what the circumstances, he simply does not stick in their memory. As you can imagine, this isn't a bad ability to have if one works for the CIA. It certainly causes some problems on a personal level though, and even on a professional one. One of the entertaining aspects of the book is how Stone fleshes out the details of what it would be like if there was no one in the world who could remember who you are. Some of the most intriguing and poignant parts of the book focus on this aspect.
The plot itself is fairly straightforward, playing out like a network TV SF show--not exactly dwelling on the deeper aspects of the how, what, and why, but providing enough details to explain the premise satisfactorily. Unfortunately, the dialog also reads like a network SF show and is perhaps the weakest part of the book. Nat runs into a beautiful Russian agent on one mission, Yelena, and naturally falls for her. The relationship that develops is very clichéd, rather unbelievable, and comes across much like a "I just met you but can't be without you" relationship in a Young Adult novel.
That's not to say that it is all bad. Unforgettable has a fast paced plot and enough exploration of quantum physics to make it interesting. As with the exploration of Nat's life as someone who can't be remembered, the exploration of how he is able to use his power as a spy is fairly interesting. Stone does a great job of providing situations that let the reader understand how the power can be both an asset and a hindrance on the same mission, as well as exploring ways in which Nat might be selling himself short by relying on his power.
As the book moves along and Nat and Yelena dig deeper into the plans of a very Bondian supervillain, Unforgettable veers farther and farther into the land of unbelievable. And that's taking into consideration the very basic premise of the book itself! In an effort to use quantum mechanics and the nature of a multiverse, Stone goes down a road that simply is hard to accept, even with a heaping dose of suspension of disbelief. It doesn't completely ruin the reading experience, but certainly causes the reader great pause.
If Unforgettable was a movie, it would be one that friends would suggest is a rental, not worth going to see in a theater. As a book, Unforgettable simply does not rate as a must read. It might make for a diverting beach book if you have nothing else on your reading list, but shouldn't be bumped to the top of said list.