Louisa Hall has taken our technology-driven world a step further in "Speak." The book begins with a truckload of babybots being driven deep into the desert. The reader soon learns the bots have been banished for being "illegally lifelike." The Turing Test measures the ability of a computer to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to that of a human. These bots were functioning at a 90% level.
Hall tells her story through the eyes of several characters living at different points in history (including the near future). We meet a woman obsessed with imbuing computers with memory in hopes of communicating with her family lost in the Holocaust. There's the programmer whose creations have landed him in prison for the Knowing Creation of Mechanical Life and Intent to Endanger the Morals of Children. And, perhaps most striking, there's a teen-ager suffering the effects of having her babybot taken from her.
|The "girlfriend" android with woman she was modeled after|
Medical advances have also affected our emotional lives. Anti-depressants that boost serotonin levels in our brains have become ubiquitous. Drug regimens that combat bipolar disease and personality disorders are available as well.
"All is Not Forgotten" by Wendy Walker thrusts us into a world in which traumatic memories can be erased. Jenny Kramer is a high school student who has been brutally raped. She is taken to the hospital where her parents are told about a drug that might eliminate her memories of the rape. The sooner it's administered, the more effective the memory repression. They elect to give Jenny "the treatment." Who wouldn't want to spare their child this agony?
While the treatment does prevent Jenny from remembering the details of the rape, it doesn't eliminate her body's knowledge that something bad has happened to it. And while she pretends that all is well, her emotional state is altered as well. Eventually--perhaps inevitably--she cries out for help.
My reaction to "All is Not Forgotten" was certainly affected--in a positive way--by actor Dylan Baker's narration. (If you've seen Baker on "The Good Wife" or "The Americans," you'll understand what I mean.) My attention never lagged as I wondered how things would turn out for Jenny. And Walker definitely achieved her presumed goal of making the reader consider the ethics and merits of eliminating traumatic memories rather than coming to terms with them.
The audio book included an interesting interview with the author. Among other things, Walker shared that the idea for "All is Not Forgotten" came from a 2010 article about memory science. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that veterans treated with morphine during resuscitation or trauma care were less likely to develop PTSD than those who weren't. (To read more about this discovery, click here.) Research on the topic continues.