Review | Remember Tomorrow, Tricia Merritt

A year after her brother Zach dies, Alannah Greer receives an email from his partner Benson inviting her to Hong Kong for Zach’s memorial service. The email ends with a cryptic assertion that Zach didn’t have to die. En route to Hong Kong, Alannah discovers that she has the ability to time travel, and you can probably figure out the rest of the story from there.

Tricia Merritt’s Remember Tomorrow has an interesting concept. Certainly, I can understand the desire to change history and save a loved one’s life. It turns out that the hit-and-run that killed Zach may have been orchestrated by a corporation studying genetic abnormalities, and so the story takes a thriller-ish turn. It was fast-paced, I liked Benson as a character, and the mystery about the corporation interested me, however, there were several major problems with the novel.

First and most glaring is the language. Merritt goes too far in attempting to make her words sound poetic. 5% in and I was already very frustrated.

…a bologna and ennui on dry rye [1%]

…the bland despair of white bread [1%]

…a little guilt-rodent poked its head up out of its gopher hole [1%]

A mosquito-cloud of distractions… [1%]

…before there’s nothing left but a scalding vortex of antimatter? [1%]

I’m not a big fan of super poetic narratives, but at times, I can see how it works. I am also generally understanding of the occasional unfortunate metaphor. However, so many clustered even just within the first few pages of the eARC, and it was driving me mental.

This is especially unfortunate because there are times when Merritt gives truly striking turns of phrase. For example, I loved the first few lines:

Sometimes, life’s all about cravings. My name is Alannah Greer, and until recently, I’d have killed for a nice tuna salad on sourdough. [1%]

Sharp, concise, intriguing. The tone is just quirky enough to hook the reader. Merritt follows that up with the “bologna and ennui” line that I hated as being overly poetic, but because the first couple of sentences were so striking, I was willing to give her a shot. Another passage I liked:

Benson was my brother’s partner. Was. As an English teacher, I understood the finality of the past tense more clearly than most, and thus I hated it more intensely.

Fucking was. [1%]

Again, concrete details, with a distinctive voice. We learn quite a bit in just a few lines.

For a splinter of a second, I felt sorry for her with her bad posture and her endless cups of lukewarm herbal tea. [2%]

“Splinter of a second” reminded me too much of the earlier-quoted “mosquito-cloud of distractions” — trying too hard to insert metaphor — but I absolutely, absolutely love the image of “endless cups of lukewarm herbal tea.” Amazing.

Merritt has some outstanding phrases, and it’s unfortunate that just when I see a line I absolutely love, I then see a series of lines I absolutely hate. The overall impression is of a young writer in love with her proficiency with language, yet still lacking the experience to know when to pull back.

Her attempts at humour are even less successful than her overly poetic descriptions. She does have some funny moments, but oftentimes, I’d read an offhand comment or a piece of dialogue and cringe, because it just felt too forced to be funny. There was also a truly awkward moment where Zach, teasing Alannah about a date, asks “Did you spit or swallow?” [69%] Merritt acknowledges the impropriety of the question with Benson turning pale and Alannah pertly replying, “That’s for me to know and you to wonder about.” [69%] To be honest, I’m not sure what the line was there for in the first place. Crude humour, perhaps, but it just felt pointless (people with brothers, would they really ask that?) and therefore horribly awkward.

Another issue that could have used a good editor is Merritt’s propensity to go off on tangents. Just when the mission to save Zach really kicks off, and Alannah realizes she now had to investigate who wanted Zach dead in the first place, Merritt pauses that storyline to take Alannah on a shopping trip. I understand Alannah’s need for new clothes at that point, but detailed, Becky Bloomwood-like descriptions of her trip around Hong Kong shops were completely unnecessary. Just as unnecessary was Alannah’s reflections, right after the shopping trip, on her lack of a love life. Again, I’m sure she was lonely and really in need of a sexual encounter at that point, but I just couldn’t care less. A bit later on, when teased about a date the night before, she reminds Benson and Zach about their investigation and tells them they should focus. All I could think was, about time.

I was also bothered by Merritt’s treatment of Alannah’s ability to time travel. After emphasizing how physically draining it is to travel through time, such that Alannah literally collapses after her trips, Merritt then turns time travel into a convenient plot device. Alannah’s plans to prevent Zach’s death involve her travelling through time and undoing whatever errors were in each attempt. It’s still physically draining, and we do see the toll it takes on Alannah to have to time travel after Plan A fails, then Plan B, Plan C and so on, but after a while, Alannah’s ability to time travel starts to feel like deus ex machina.

After all the build up and the random tangents, the ending was rushed. It felt like Merritt realized she had to end the novel and so decided on some action scenes to tie up loose ends. The villain gives a speech about his master plan, and Merritt tries to alleviate the cliche nature of this scene by having Alannah comment sarcastically on the fact that he’s giving a monologue, but it doesn’t help. Worse, even after we get the big reveal, nothing still makes sense to me. How did the villain get involved in the scheme in the first place? Who are the mysterious “they” he keeps alluding to? How did the villain pull all this off, and what does he hope to achieve? Alannah eventually acts like she’s figuring things out, but her explanations still leave many questions unanswered.

Then, in the last few pages, there’s another big reveal, a surprise twist that I saw coming from the beginning. Unfortunately, I only saw it coming because it seemed like a convenient point to add a surprise twist, and not because Merritt set it up well. There were no indications leading up to this twist, and even the reveal was handled in a couple of pages, and in a very anticlimactic way. This revelation had the potential to be huge, yet it was handled with barely a whimper.

Finally, after the big action scenes, there were still some minor threads left unexplained. The action scenes had their casualties, and I at least wondered what happened after that, considering other people in the corporation weren’t aware of the villain’s plot. Didn’t security cameras catch the action? Didn’t the characters have to deal with some kind of fallout afterwards? I was frustrated, and I felt like the author rushed me through the most pivotal moments in the book.

Overall, an interesting concept, and despite all the problems I pointed out, the plot still makes it worth a read. I just think the story deserved better editing.

+

Thank you to Signal 8 Press for an electronic ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This book was published under the Scarlet Storm Press Imprint of Typhoon Media in Hong Kong.

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