Yesterday - Felicia Yap
Yesterday - Felicia Yap **
You tend to take memory for granted and trust it implicitly. How would it be however if you could only remember yesterday, or at most yesterday and the day before? Come to that, how much do you take for granted the importance of memory when it comes to solving crime? How effective could you be as a police detective if you could only remember the previous two days, or even only the previous day?
This is the world of Felicia Yap's Yesterday, a world of Monos and Duos, where people are able to retain full memory up to the age of 23, but after that, they need to rely on written diaries and special iDiaries developed by Apple (who else?) to recall anything important that has happened in their lives. Like a murder?
That's going to make life difficult. And yet, people seem to manage, even though the difference in ability has created certain prejudices and inequality between Monos who can only remember the last day before it is erased from their memory, and Duos, who can remember twice as much. There are some who claim to have full memories, but that is impossible, and anyone who thinks this is quickly locked away to prevent them doing any harm.
Like Sophia Alying. Released from one such institution, Sophia hasn't forgotten that one man has been responsible for making her life hell: a famous author called Mark Henry Evans. A Duo married to a Mono (a marriage between classes that is regarded with suspicion by most), Mark Evans is now planning to a career in politics, but the death of Sophia Ayling, with whom it is believed he once had an affair, points a finger of suspicion in his direction, and not only threatens his fledgling political career, but also his marriage to Clare.
Felicia Yap's premise for Yesterday holds out some interest and makes you think about memory and the burden of being able to remember EVERYTHING, and all the guilt and regret that comes with it. Really though you have to do most of that thinking yourself, because Yesterday doesn't explore it with any depth or conviction. Initially it also looks like it might explore issues relating to prejudice, class distinctions and inequality, but those are superficially and awkwardly handed as well.
Sadly, the only question of inequality that really comes out of Yesterday is how women are mistreated by men, who are all inevitably lying, cheating scumbags. Principally through Sophia Ayling's diary then, Yesterday descends into a sordid revenge thriller that scarcely misses an opportunity to exploit whatever bestseller ideas it can fit in, from When I Go To Sleep memory lapses to with 50 Shades of Grey sex scenes, with designer labels and products (and not just Apple) name-dropped at every opportunity.
Your tolerance of the idea however is likely to disappear faster than a Mono's memory however as the plot holes and absurdity of the concept will undoubtedly be bugging you long before the case really gets started. The idea of a world even being able to function is as preposterous as the idea that new scientific research and technology could be conducted by a society suffering from collective Alzheimer's. Who would even have the time to even do anything when you can only remember back to the day before yesterday and have to fill a substantial proportion of that day just updating and cross-referencing your iDiary?
I'd love to be able to tell you that Felicia Yap has thought all this through and comes up with a convincing and mind-blowing twist that accounts for all these perceived flaws, and that detective Hans Richardson solves the case in an ingenious fashion since he only has 24 hours to investigate, interview everyone and record his findings. And she might well do, but to find that out I would have to read the second half of the book, and to do that I would need to forget I've read the first half. That's one consequence of having full memory recall that the author didn't take into account, but there's a lot more wrong with Yesterday than that.
Yesterday by Felicia Yap is published by Wildfire on 10th August 2017