Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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How do people think of these things?

I remember once reading someone’s blog, and this person said something like, “How does Neumeier come up with these things?” And I laughed because I have that exact reaction all the time toward other authors’ books.

Well, I happened across a book review at The Book Smugglers that made me have that reaction in spades.

Set in a dangerous near future world, The Book of M tells the captivating story of a group of ordinary people caught in an extraordinary catastrophe who risk everything to save the ones they love. It is a sweeping debut that illuminates the power that memories have not only on the heart, but on the world itself.

One afternoon at an outdoor market in India, a man’s shadow disappears—an occurrence science cannot explain. He is only the first. The phenomenon spreads like a plague, and while those afflicted gain a strange new power, it comes at a horrible price: the loss of all their memories…

Well, THAT is a new mechanism to create a post-apocalyptic setting. Having read the review, I’m not sure I’ll read the book, but what an idea.

For post-apocalypse, I’m more accustomed to nuclear wars, super volcanoes, and weird, unexplained catastrophes involving the moon. (It blows up, it sudden assumes a much closer orbit to the Earth, whatever.)

Also zombies. Lots and lots of zombies.

And plagues.

A sudden tendency for people to lose their shadows . . . and then their memories . . . and then for civilization to collapse, that’s new. Obviously magic rather than sciency. This is the most unusual reason for a sudden apocalypse that I’ve ever seen.

The more common magical explanation for an apocalypse is much simpler: magic returns, poof, apocalypse. Like in Ilona Andrew’s Kate Daniels series, though there the apocalypse is long past and the world has reached a reasonable stability.

Another is Ariel by Boyett. Or similarly, tech just stops working, as in Dies the Fire by Stirling.  Neither of those is remotely as weird as disappearing shadows and memories.

Have I ever missed anything weirder? If you know of a stranger way to generate an apocalypse, drop it in the comments.

I like post-apocalyptic fiction, so long as it’s not too enormously grim. The adventure of the small, brave group of survivors, the rebuilding of civilization, or preferably both. Not the slow whittling down of the survivors en route to a dystopia, not that kind of post-apocalypse story. If I were trying to do a post-apocalypse story myself, I’d probably avoid realistic (huge earthquake involving the Cascadia fault, someone decides this would be a good time to take out North America and sets off an EMP weapon, poof, huge apocalypse) in favor of something magical or alien in nature. That would probably make it easier to do Apocalypse-Lite with a more optimistic feel to it.

But I never would have thought of making people’s shadows disappear.

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4 Comments How do people think of these things?

  1. Elaine T

    The connection between shadows and memories isn’t obvious, although the Teen has mentioned something in Egyptian myth that might be a foundation for it. (pauses to query Teen.) For them the soul had five parts, one of which controlled identity and somehow manifested as shadow.

    This doesn’t sound like a book I’d like, but I’ll send the review to the Teen.

  2. Elaine T

    And the Teen says, not interested, clearly using the same Egyptian idea the author of Yugi-oh used to better effect in his manga.

  3. Rachel

    The Teen is definitely more up with Egyptian mythology than I am. I thought I remembered two parts to the soul? Five seems like a lot, I must say.

    Has The Teen read Judith Tarr’s Lord of the Two Lands? If not, I wonder if she’d like it. Probably my favorite by Tarr.

  4. Elaine T

    Hasn’t and says not interested. We don’t have any by Tarr around anyway, as none of her have been keepers for me, and they aren’t to my husband’s taste.

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