Narrator: Gillian Burke
Published by Orbit on May 17, 2016
Length: 16 hrs 36 mins
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My name is Hope Arden, and you won't know who I am. But we've met before - a thousand times.
It started when I was sixteen years old. A father forgetting to drive me to school. A mother setting the table for three, not four. A friend who looks at me and sees a stranger. No matter what I do, the words I say, the crimes I commit, you will never remember who I am.
That makes my life difficult. It also makes me dangerous.
I discovered Claire North earlier this year with her Gameshouse trilogy and loved her style, so I had to pick up The Sudden Appearance of Hope. I was not disappointed. I like how North writes, her ways of describing things, of conveying her characters’ thoughts. She takes an idea, bases her story around it, and makes them amazing.
Hope can’t be remembered – that’s the idea in this one, the bit that the rest of the story revolves around. You could meet her, have dinner with her, and once she’s left your sight, your hearing for a minute or two, you forget and your mind fills in that blank with whatever’s most reasonable – you dined alone. Hope is many things – chief among them a thief. An interesting point – since she can’t have relationships, she isn’t a lover, a friend, an employee, she is free (cursed?) to define herself. Her ethnic backyard, dark skin and hair, have helped form her worldview, but North doesn’t let her become a stereotype. Since she isn’t bound by other people’s expectations, she has her own code, her own disciplines that allow her to live a pretty comfortable life. She’s a thief, but when we meet her, she’s a high-end jewel thief. She works on her own, with a bit of help from people on the darknet – her digital footprint isn’t forgotten.
Her latest score brings her into contact with Perfection, an app designed to make people “perfect,” and the people who own/designed it. Perfection is fascinating and disturbing, a look at how marketing and self-image can be/have been affected by the technology that has become an intrinsic part of most of our lives. (Where’s your phone right now?) And, even worse, the potentials when things are taken a stop or two further. I feel like with Perfection and some of the consequences, we just barely cross over into the land of sci-fi, the kind of sci-fi that could easily enough happen in the very near future.
The book is a bit slow in the middle, but I enjoyed the side trips into literature and history and all the knowledge Hope has acquired over time. I like the words and the spaces and her reflections. She really only has herself to talk to – yes, she can have conversations with people, but unless it’s recorded, they’ll forget. The story is told in the first person and Burke does an excellent job with the narration. She gets across Hope’s fears and triumphs and anxieties. Burke did a great job with the pauses and phrasing, with varying the speed depending on the situation.
The Sudden Appearance of Hope is like two stories that weave in and out of each other. In one we have hope and her daily life, her interactions, her musings, her near brushes with the law. The other is a suspenseful thriller involving Perfection and a woman who is bound and determined to destroy it with Hope’s help, whether given willingly or not.