One of Us

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

As in his first novel, SPARES (1997), Michael Marshall Smith has created a world that is far in the future, but still very familiar. The year is 2017 and Hap Thomson, a small-time criminal, has found semi-legal work as a dream receiver. People pay REMtemps to have other people dream their dreams. Hap is unusually good at this and is offered work as a memory receiver. People who want to get rid of unwanted memories for a short period of time can have Hap hold their memories in his head. The money is good and its relatively safe until Laura Reynolds dumps her recent memory of murdering someone on Hap and then disappears. Now Hap must find the woman and force her memory back on her if he is to avoid being prosecuted for the murder. To make matters worse, the man killed was Lt. Ray Hammond of the Los Angeles Police Department.

To complicate matters there are the mysterious men in matching gray suits who are following both Hap and Laura with what looks like intent to kill. With the help of Hap’s loyal friend Deck, his trusty living alarm clock, the assassin Helena, a host of kitchen appliances, and God, Hap finds the real murderer and clears himself of all wrongdoing.

This is an amazingly fun story. Not only is it very imaginative, it is very real. Smith’s future, sometimes outlandish, is remarkably realistic. Hap Thomson is an everyman who would be as real fifty years ago as he is fifty years from now.