Series: PERI REED CHRONICLES
Publisher and Titles: Gallery Books (Imprint of Simon & Schuster)
"Sideswiped" (introductory story, 8/2015)
The Drafter (novel, 9/2015)
Since the demise of Opti, Bill has been working for a group headed by a mysterious, wealthy woman named Helen Yeomon. Helen has had chemists working on a drug called the Accelerator that will "chemically destroy the synapses that cause you to forget a draft." In order to keep the drafters under her control, she and Bill have had the chemists concoct an addictive drug called Evocane that must be taken before the Accelerator. Since Helen and Bill control all access to both drugs, this means that any drafter who takes the Evocane becomes totally dependent on them for their next fix. Without regular and frequent doses of Evocane, the drafter would become permanently psychotic. "And that, of course, was the control. They had only to withhold the maintenance drug and she'd do whatever they wanted...She'd be a tool, a piece of ammo. Whoever held the source of that [Evocane] held the power, not her...They had a cure. It would make her perfect but would turn her into a slave."
Meanwhile, the government has its own covert group, the World Enumeration Federal Taskforce (aka WEFT), led by a cold-hearted man named Mr. Steiner. WEFT is rounding up drafters who are still not locked up in mental hospitals. Basically, that very small group comprises Michael Kord, who has hooked up with Bill and Helen, and Peri, who doesn't plan to hook up with anyone. Michael is a psychotic drafter who is determined to get rid of Peri so that he can be the first one to be injected with the Accelerator. Also in the mix are the other three men in Peri's life:
> Jack Twill, the betrayer who has survived Peri's attempt to kill him at the end of the first novel and who has joined up with Bill;
> Dr. Silas Denier, the chemist who loves Peri and for whom Peri realizes she has fond feelings—although she can't remember exactly what their relationship has been (because Jack erased so many of her memories); and
> Allen Swift, a friend who seems to be looking out for Peri, but who sometimes changes sides without warning.The plot follows Peri as Steiner and Bill make repeated attempts to capture her. Sometimes they succeed; sometimes they fail; and sometimes even when captured, she escapes. When she escapes, sometimes she is alone, sometimes she is with Jack, and sometimes she is with Silas. So...it's a run, run, run plot, with Peri in danger most of the time. Along the way, Peri picks up two people who start out as adversaries but become allies: Harmony Beam, a WEFT agent, and LD, an underworld drug dealer who discovers that he has a lot in common with Peri.
Just as in the first novel, Harrison delves deep into Peri's emotions as she ponders the possibilities of actually taking the drugs and being able—for the first time in her life—to remember everything. She thinks about the addiction and the consequences of being at either Steiner's or Bill's mercy and she knows that she doesn't want that life, but deep down, she truly wants to know what it feels like to have a real memory of her life. In addition to missing her memories, Peri also misses the wealthy lifestyle she was accustomed to living during her years with Opti. Selling coffee to rich businessmen and women was never part of her life plan. "Peri...still found herself breathing in the expensive cologne of the suits she served as if it were a drug. She eyed their leather briefcases and high-end purses, knowing their cars were as shiny as the fob resting beside their state-of-the-art phones and tablets...She knew the simplicity she'd built around herself was a lie as she lured in everything she missed, all the while pretending she'd made a clean break from what she didn't want to be, what she couldn't be."
The plot is suspenseful and action filled all the way through. Although we see most of the story from Peri's perspective, Harrison also includes a few chapters from the point of view of Jack, Bill, and Silas so we also get a peek into their mindsets as well.
One of the quirky bits is that Silas has programmed Peri to see a hologram of Jack to use when she drafts without an anchor: "a structured mental scaffold designed and implanted to keep her from going insane when two conflicting timelines had been left to fester in her mind." The illusion is so complex and so intricately tied to her intuition, that whenever fake Jack gets antsy, Peri knows that trouble is near. Even as an hallucination, Jack is as snarky and narcissistic as he is in real life—always looking out for number one—himself—and always trying to inveigle his way back into Peri's good graces.
This is another terrific chapter in a fascinating series. Peri is a strong and intelligent heroine who copes with her strange and dangerous lifestyle as best she can while dealing with heavy emotional stress from people who want to use her, control her, and—in Silas' case—love her. Although the whole concept of drafting and memory manipulation is complex, you soon learn to go with the flow of the story. But you MUST read the first novel before you read this one or you will be COMPLETELY lost. Trust me on this.
The series heroine, Peri Reed, is a drafter, a rare person who can alter time in very short intervals within a relatively small space: 10 to 60 seconds in an area no larger than a square mile or so, but usually much smaller—within a room or within the drafter's personal space. Peri's very first draft happened when she was five years old and broke her arm in a fall. In pain, she unknowingly went back in time a few seconds, replayed the scene, and kept herself from falling, thus preventing the broken arm.
The problem with drafting is that drafters remember what happened—the two timelines—only until time catches up with them. At that point, they cannot remember either the real past or the past they created to supersede the real past, so they become very confused. As a character explains in "Sideswiped," "They'd gone back twenty seconds, but every one of them would remember what had happened until time caught up and the drafters forgot."
In a podcast interview, Harrison explains the pros and cons of drafting: "Being able to manipulate time is a very strong gift, and there are strong drawbacks to balance that out. When Peri drafts, she loses not only the memory of the past she changes, but also the memory of the past she created, and if she’s unlucky, she’ll lose even more time—even weeks and months of her history...The anchors help the drafters remember the past they have forgotten." An anchor meshes his or her mind with the drafter's mind to manipulate and rebuild the drafter’s memory, and that's fine if the anchor is loyal to the drafter, but it's disastrous to the drafter if the anchor's loyalties lie elsewhere. The truth is, the anchor has complete control of the sanity of the drafter.
As soon as drafters are spotted in the general population, they are singled out for special training by Opti, a covert government-supported organization that trains and hires drafters and anchors to carry out a range of assignments across the globe, some paid for by various government agencies and some by private interest groups. "Opti agents tweaked the present to set the future, and they had their fingers in everything from the development of soft fusion, to the legalization of replacement organs, to making sure U.S.-financed Finland made a manned landing on Mars before Putin." Opti constantly reinforces the idea that drafters must always be with their anchor when they draft, or risk getting caught up in a memory knot that could drive them into catastrophic memory-eclipsed paranoia (MEP), which usually ends with the drafter's suicide. Keeping the drafters always connected to their anchors allows Opti to control precisely which memories the drafters are allowed to keep and which are erased.
For more of Harrison's thoughts about this series, here are some links to interviews and posts:
> Click HERE to read a conversation between Kim Harrison and Charlaine Harris about taking new fictional directions
For "Sideswiped": Click HERE and scroll down a bit to listen to an audio excerpt.
For The Drafters: Click HERE and scroll down to read the Prologue and the first two chapters on Harrison's web site. Click HERE to read chapter 3 on the RT Book Reviews blog.
And finally, here is a fun fact about Peri's name from an interview with Harrison: "Peri’s name actually comes from Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, who fought in the war of 1812 to secure the Great Lakes. After a mediocre career at sea, he valiantly won back from the British a small island chain in Lake Erie, Michigan. It allowed the American troops to retake Detroit, or Michigan might belong to Canada today….Using Commodore Perry’s name for my protagonist felt fitting. He’s the guy who said 'Don’t give up the ship!' and while that’s not Peri’s motto, she doesn’t give up anything, even a grudge."
And just one more thing: The erased memory element in this series reminds me of Devon Monk's ALLIE BECKSTROM series in which the titular heroine also finds herself missing big chunks of time and writes notes to herself to try to fill in the gaps. Like Peri, Allie was also betrayed by someone close to her. Click HERE to read my reviews of the books in that excellent series.
INTRODUCTORY STORY .5: "Sideswiped"
> Peri Reed: an elite, beautiful, highly talented drafter who is at the top of her profession, but then goes into a major skid
> Jack Twill: Peri's handsome, blond anchor, whom she loves dearly and trusts implicitly (at first)
> Bill Heddles: Peri's handler at Opti, who may or may not be corrupt
> Dr. Silas Denier: a tech genius we met in "Sideswiped," who now works for the alliance and who has a history with Peri
> Fran Jaquard: the head of the alliance (introduced at the very end of "Sideswiped")
> Allen Swift: Peri and Silas' college friend, an anchor who works for Opti (also a character in "Sideswiped")