Somewhere out there is a secret society of people that have been able to archive their memories and personalities and transfer them to a new body, leaving them “immortal” and unbroken for 40,000 years. In theory, this is exciting and new, though it’s been done before with the Trill in Star Trek, the difference being that sometimes the old personality is dominant, and sometimes the new host takes over, so it’s a total crap shoot for the host. The garden of collective unconscious, where they “seed” their memories for others to peruse was inspired, and I liked the concept of finding out someone’s triggers and then being able to “meddle” with them through taste, scent, trigger words, and that the ruling committee was those with the longest unbroken dominant personality.
Unfortunately, the concepts are the only time this book nails it, the execution falls short. There are too many inconsistencies. After 40,000 years, only now is someone finding a loophole to tinker with the garden, or hide another copy of their personality? Halfway through we get an inkling that the Incrementalists view the normal populace with scorn and disdain, while still freshly remembering a life (lives) as human, immersing themselves in human civilization? We are told this, and never shown this, the actions and words of the characters never let in on this, quite the opposite. The garden scenes were confusing and not explained well, and for a concept with such potential, the book itself was claustrophobic and mostly spent in a living room or a hotel room, people bickering with each other. The romance between the new host and an old soul was front and center, the crux of the whole book, which I thought was also wasted potential, plus it was kind of skeezy considering the female lead was molded from a very young age to imprint on the man.
I wanted to like it more, but alas, two stars.