In the 1960s a scientist named James V. McConnell was researching memory and planarian worms. He know these worms could regenerate when injured. Cut one in half and the head grows a new tail while the tail grows a new head. The weird part is that the two new worms have the same memories. The tail-end worm is able to navigate a maze that the head end-worm learned before being cut in half. If memories are stored in the brain, how could this be possible? McConnell theorized that maybe memories aren’t stored in the brain; maybe they’re stored throughout the body in DNA or RNA or something.
His next step was obvious. See if memories could be transferred between worms. He taught some worms the maze, then chopped them up and fed them to other worms. What do you know? These guys could now get through the maze with no problem. Well, there was one little problem. No other scientists could really duplicate McConnell’s results. Even though it seemed cool, the science probably wasn’t very good.
Keith Thomas’ debut novel, The Clarity, has a similar problem.
Dementia runs in Matilda Deacon’s family. She spends her weekends at the Stonybrook Assisted Living Facility visiting her mother who is living with advanced Alzheimer’s. The rest of the time, she’s researching how memory works in an effort to stave off her own inevitable memory deterioration. Her work often takes her to the Marcy-Lansing Apartments where she offers medical assistance to low-income residents. It’s here that she meets Ashanique Walters.
Ashanique is an 11-year-old who has recently started experiencing the memories of a soldier killed in Word War One and more memories are coming all the time. Ashanique and her mother are in hiding, on the run from The Clarity, an illicit, CIA-backed, mind control experiment that has awakened, in some of its subjects, the ability to connect to humanity’s collective unconscious.
Now Matilda must protect Ashanique from The Clarity and its agent, Rade, a nearly unstoppable sociopath willing to do anything to catch Ashanique and take from her the memories needed to complete The Clarity’s experiments.
The Clarity is a book that moves. It wants to be read. Keith Thomas’ writing is crisp and clear and the chapters are short, encouraging you to read “just one more.” It seems designed to be adapted into a blockbuster action movie. And maybe it was. According to Thomas’ biography, he has “developed film and TV projects with 20th Century Fox, Warner Brothers, numerous production companies and a few Oscar winning filmmakers.”
But like James McConnell’s worm experiments, the science of The Clarity is probably nonsense. Just keep in mind that this book is pure fantasy and you’re likely to enjoy the ride.