I really thought M.G. Vassanji’s Nostalgia would be right up my alley. Vassanji imagines a world where immortality is possible, and identities can be chosen as humans transfer their consciousness onto an entirely new body when they tire of their current one. Their memories are tucked away, providing the opportunity for a completely fresh start. The term “nostalgia” refers to what they call “Leaked Memory Syndrome,” when the memories belonging to one’s previous body “leak” into one’s current consciousness.
The concept is fantastic, a mix of science fiction and existentialism that tickled my geek bone. As well, I’ve long heard good things about Vassanji’s work, and thought this would be the perfect place to start. Unfortunately, this book just wasn’t for me. It’s a short read at barely over 250 pages, but it took me months to get through it, and I might have decided not to finish it if it hadn’t been such a short book and a review copy.
Nostalgia is the story of Frank Sina, a doctor who specializes in working with patients to generate their new identities. One of his patients, Presley, is suffering from nostalgia, odd flashes of memory of a lion. He escapes treatment and Frank is ordered to help authorities bring him back. Concurrent to this storyline is one about a less developed nation, where a reporter from a CNN-type media outlet is captured by rebels and presumed dead. The story explores questions of politics, inequality and immortality, and I’m sure it’ll be fascinating and thought-provoking for some readers. I just couldn’t get into it.
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.