Review: The Last Witness
Yet another story that comes at a time just rife with new offerings from the fantasy author after a short hiatus. SAVAGES (EBR Review) and the serial novel THE TWO OF SWORDS (review forthcoming), are two full novels that were released just a few months apart from one another. This one is something more along the lines of a novella, but it’s also one that I didn’t expect given the recent outpouring of new material. Can’t say that I’m disappointed though. In fact, I was far from it.
THE LAST WITNESS by K.J. Parker is a story told from the first-person perspective of a character that has the ability to remove memories from a person’s mind. It’s probably the most direct use of “magic” that I’ve ever seen the author use. If you’re familiar with Parker’s work, you’ll know that he doesn’t even reference magic or magical abilities very often, if at all, in his books. So, I was pleasantly surprised to find this usage here, because I just like me some good magic.
The story itself is a simple one: the main character has a troubled past, growing up in a family with an abusive father, a submissive mother, and a younger sister. Although, we don’t learn much about that past until later on in the story. Instead, he’s grown up, and moved out, and trying to live on his own when he’s approached by a father and son duo of disreputable demeanor looking to help keep their embezzlement scheme afloat by removing the memory of an auditor who accidentally stumbled across their second set of cooked books. Of course, this single job evolves into more jobs, and soon he’s got a regular gig with them.
There’s only one catch to this whole memory-removal gig: the guy taking the memories absorbs them as if they were his own memories. Thus it’s not such an easy “power” to have. Especially if you’re dealing with particular kinds of people with particular kinds of memories, because taking a specific memory isn’t as easy as knowing which one it is and taking it. Oh no. He has to go searching. Peeking into several before finding the one. Eventually it all begins to take a toll and he decides to bail.
But getting out of the biz isn’t nearly so easy as it was getting in.
The ending on this one was brilliantly twisty and emotionally delicious. Absolutely LOVED it. Haven’t enjoyed the ending of one of Parker’s stories so much since PURPLE AND BLACK, and in general I think her his endings are, on the whole, pretty darn good. (Yes, I’m still having lingering issues with the author’s gender reveal…)
This is definitely not one of Parker’s shorter stories that you’ll want to miss, especially if you’re a fan of his work. Check it out.
- Recommended Age: 15+
- Language: Some, infrequent but strong
- Violence: Themes of death, but very little strong violence
- Sex: Nothing of note