Memoria, by Adam Pepper

memoria-by-adam-pepper coverGenre: Horror
Publisher: Medium Rare Books
Published: 2003
Reviewer Rating: four and a half stars
Book Review by Paul Goat Allen

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Memoria, Adam Pepper’s debut novel, is an addictive and disturbing story that is equal parts Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Thea Alexander’s 2150 A.D. with a generous sprinkling of Daniel Keye’s classic Flowers for Algernon.

The novel — that can be categorized as either horror, medical thriller or science fiction — centers on Doctor Lawrence Osias, a demented genius with more than a few skeletons in his closet who is obsessed with finishing his father’s work: not only to find a way to utilize 100 percent of the brain’s potential but to unlock the secrets of the soul. The doctor’s research has uncovered Memoria, an otherworldly realm “where every memory comes to rest eventually.” Inhabiting the plane are predators who feast on the memories of the dead and dying. Osias wants to open up a portal to Memoria in hopes of discovering the secrets — and the power — of the afterlife. But those beings trapped in Memoria — which include a temptress/necrobabe named Desiree — are yearning to break free into the Earthly realm where they can suck an infinite number of tasty memories out of people’s consciousness.

Dave Wagner is an unemployed accountant who answers a want ad in the paper looking for subjects for experiments at the Osias Foundation. Over the objections of his wife, who thinks Osias is a dangerous quack, Dave is tempted by the supposedly easy money and becomes a human guinea pig. At first, Dave is impressed with Osias’ findings: by focusing his brain, Dave cures himself of bronchitis and later even regenerates a finger after having it cut off. But the experiments have a dark side. Dave’s accomplishments have brought him dangerously close to Memoria and its seductive and horrifying predators. Others around Osias are experiencing the same nightmares. Ed, the doctor’s alcoholic truck driver, and Job, the son of a religious zealot protesting in the front of Foundation, are both drawn into Memoria’s inescapable web…

Horror is arguably one of the hardest genres to write well. When a horror novel fails, the expected feelings of fear (check under the bed and in the closet before going to bed) and psychological torment frequently turns to laugh-out-loud comedy (watch Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan for a visual example). Pepper’s Memoria is one of those rare novels that will not only scare the bejezus out of readers but will haunt them for a long time afterwards. Spooky, explicit, twisted and eerily poignant, this surprisingly complex novel competently deals with sensitive hot-button topics like religion vs. science, the soul and the afterlife, and intelligence enhancement. Here’s one new Adam Pepper fan who can’t wait to see what this guy comes out with next.

Paul Goat Allen is the editor of Barnes & Noble’s Explorations science fiction/fantasy book review and is the author of Burning Sticks, Old Winding Way and Warlock Dreams.

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