‘Like Iain Banks …a gritty, grave place’

Under hypnosis, certain people have been ‘regressed’ to reveal what seem to be memories of past lives. But very rarely, they describe future lives.
Carol Lear, a classical pianist, is tortured by Repetitive Strain Injury. Musical rigour has always defined her life, and -now unable to play- her sense of self begins to unravel. Then a hypnotherapy session reveals details of a future life. On waking, Lear’s pain seems temporarily diminished. Desperate for a cure, Lear swallows her scepticism to undergo further sessions under the guidance of a mysterious doctor, Gene Winter. As the sessions progress the future life begins to invade her own in sinister ways. Coaxed to a remote town by Winter, Lear has no one to depend on when locals decide she is inviting a dangerous spirit into the world, and finds herself in a very dark place indeed.
The story keeps its feet on the ground, told in Lear’s pragmatic voice. I was reminded of Iain Banks; Lear’s London life is artfully drawn, a gritty, grave place, where to step off the treadmill can leave one quickly on the outside, looking in.
The question of identity runs throughout the book; Gene Winter is a shadowy figure who seemingly exerts effortless control over Lear’s subconscious, and clearly knows far more about her than she (or the reader) knows. At times, Lear’s identity issues result in a frustrating spinelessness. She ends up spending a lot of time waking or slipping into sleep and wondering what is going on. Meanwhile, Andreq, Lear’s future incarnation, becomes an increasingly solid figure. He too, is losing control of his life in a segregated, sub aquatic community in an apocalyptic future. The science of Andreq’s world is convincing, the glimpses of his life memorable and haunting, poetic yet stark. Here again, Iain Banks comes to mind (this time with his science fiction hat on); I rather wished that Lear had subjected herself to more hypno-sessions so I could see more of the place.
As Lear’s exploration of her future life progresses, the story gathers a hypnotic power of its own.
My Memories of a Future Life defies categorisation. Unusual and compelling.

F M Payne

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