Memory Reborn by David Walton science fiction book reviewsMemory Reborn by David Walton science fiction book reviewsMemory Reborn by David Walton

2023’s Memory Reborn is the third book in David Walton’s LIVING MEMORY series, which started with Living Memory and introduced us to individuals from an advanced society living during the Cretaceous Period, and who happened to be dinosaurs (maniraptors to be precise). Reading Memory Reborn, we were both eager to see how Walton resolved the many, increasingly complex problems the modern-day characters, both human and dinosaur, faced. Neither of us expected the love story to be the plot line that grabbed us the hardest.

Prey is a member of the Cretaceous society. In his time, and his original life, he was a low-level astronomer in a highly hierarchical, gendered society. When he predicted the landfall of a deadly meteor, the political power structure believed him and sprang into action, but with a plan that was woefully inadequate. Prey, along with a few others, including his lover Rain (whose full name is Distant Rain Sweeping Towards Home as Night Falls—and now you know why we only call Prey “Prey”) set out on a second, more daring plan. Sixty-six million years later, give or take, Prey awakens to find himself the last of his species in a baffling world.

The discovery of Prey also led to the development of a domination compound that enforces obedience in any human (or maybe any animal) that smells it. The substance at the root of the compound is secreted by the scent glands of the dinosaurs, and is present in the substance they suspended themselves in. In Book Two, this deadly weapon is in the hands of Seriously Bad People. Several groups, like scientist Samira Shannon in the United States and Queen Mai of Thailand, are fighting to defeat the military and this new game-changing weapon. Meanwhile, an ancient virus is sweeping the world, with fatal results. At the end of the second book the reader learns that the People’s Republic of China also has a captive dinosaur —and it’s Rain.

When Prey came to consciousness, his experience was terrible. He was trapped with beings he could not understand, who could not understand him and were, by his standards, incapable of communicating. He was isolated and alone.

In Memory Reborn, Rain’s situation is much worse. Imprisoned and tortured to force her body to exude the glandular secretion, Rain’s sole desire is to kill the creatures who are holding her. Fortunately, one Chinese scientist, Ling, is willing to help her. As with the other books, the story moves between the struggles of Prey and Rain, and the battles the humans are fighting. Thailand is being invaded by the Chinese.

While Rain, with Ling’s help, plots an escape, military forces close in on Prey, Samira Shannon and her family in the USA. Samira’s father is dying of the Julian virus; an act of betrayal separates Prey from his human friends. Queen Mai launches a smart, desperate operation to save her country, but the odds are against her.

Marion: In this book, I was impatient with the military, high-action, double-and-triple-crosses of the story. There is a lot involved in the global-dominion plot, and in some cases, things seemed to reverse or resolve too quickly.

Bill: Thanks for doing that summary, Marion. I had the same response to the above aspect. I appreciated that we weren’t US-centric, and that we got to see good and bad characters on all sides rather that a simplistic binary with one side being “the good guys” and the other the “villains.” But I’m generally less captivated by running and shooting and chasing followed by more running and shooting and chasing, whether I’m reading a book or watching a film. And here too is where I think the book’s brevity works against it, because throwing in so much action across so many settings involving so many characters meant, as you said, that things had to get resolved so quickly as to feel somewhat contrived or implausible

Living Memory by David Walton (Author)Marion: Fortunately for me, Rain and Ling making their way to the freedom of the hill country, and the question of whether Rain would ever reunite with Prey, is a good chunk of the story. The part of these books that has always held my interest was Walton’s creation of believable non-human characters, from their society to their individual interactions.

I’m also interested in the type of technology the Cretaceous society chose to nurture; genetic changes rather than mechanical invention (which makes sense for beings without hands or the equivalent.)

Bill: Absolutely to both these thoughts. Walton’s dinosaurs were fantastic as individual characters while their society was utterly fascinating in all its details: its hierarchy, its gender system, its communication method, and, as you note, its science. In the first book we got to see a good amount of that world, but here we only see a few brief flashes and I oh so wanted more (in fact, if Walton wants to write a novel set solely in that civilization, I’m all there for that, hint, hint, nudge… )

Marion: Which he might be! Note that this is a “series,” not a “trilogy!”

But I digress. Ling is a good character who comes into the story with a different background and point of view than the original human characters, and she is a good addition—a nice foil for Rain. There is a bad-boyfriend or stalker plotline with her that I found distracting and didn’t really understand, but, after all, my real question always was, “Will Rain and Prey ever find each other?” Without spoilers, I will say that the book’s resolution in that regard was satisfying—and the general resolution was mind-blowing.

Bill: I also liked the addition of Ling and while she is her own person, I enjoyed how she echoed another character in the series as well. I also found the stalker plotline an unnecessary distraction, though I was wondering if perhaps it was a way to show on a smaller, more intimate scale (separate from the militaristic issues) how we humans try to dominate one another even without a direct method as the dinosaurs have via their scent glands.

Marion: Oh, that makes sense.

Bill: As Prey thinks at one point, musing on the similarities and difference between humans and maniraptors: “Social animals learns to manipulate one another in countless ways … Those manipulations could be performed for good or for evil.”

Marion: Memory Reborn leaves me thinking about intelligence and communication—and some other questions; how much of what we, as humans, do is from thought and how much from instinct? How do we even distinguish? Walton raises interesting ideas—Big Ideas—in high-action stories, and Memory Reborn ably resolves the issues laid out in this trilogy.

Bill: I agree. It’s an ambitious trilogy in a number of ways: its creation of an entirely different culture, the way it risks a reductive snicker at the idea of intelligent dinosaurs, the globetrotting, the non-Western focus. But it’s perhaps most ambitious in its exploration of those big ideas you mention. Including a pretty big “what if” scenario that comes at the end, which I wouldn’t have minded spending more time exploring but that I won’t go into detail on so as to avoid spoilers. As you say, it sets up some big concepts/conflicts, and does a solid job in resolving those across the span of the three novels–making it an easy recommendation for me (plus, did we mention intelligent dinosaurs?)

Memory Reborn by David Walton science fiction book reviewsPublished in November 2023. PAST AND FUTURE CLASH in the final book of this globe-spanning paleontology thriller trilogy. The threat of extinction by killer organism leads to world war as national powers vie to control the powerful technology uncovered in Thailand. Samira and her team are on the run from the United States government, even as a Chinese paleontologist mirrors their discoveries and resists her own government’s demands. Will the ancient creatures they found turn the tide and save humanity before it tears itself apart?


  • Marion Deeds

    Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town.

  • Bill Capossere

    BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.