The Bearer Of Grievances by Joseph McKinley (book review).

March 18, 2016 | By | Reply More

This is a collection of eight short stories by Joseph McKinley paints a rather bleak picture of our future. The book, ‘The Bearer Of Grievances’, gets its title from the first story which is very good. Imagine a technology that can remove a segment of your memory. Not only remove it but preserve it, so it’s not forgotten. The company that has developed the technology is targeting it at people with grievances against others because they have been unfairly wronged. By getting rid of their grievances, they are able to live better, healthier lives. The company takes things one step further by implanting those grievances into the mind of another so that they can be set right. As this is the mind of a criminal, a level of violence ensues. ‘The Bearer Of Grievances’ is a very thought-provoking tale which I certainly hope doesn’t come to pass.


We stick with the theme of copying memory for the next story ‘A Man On A Bike’. An accomplished thief in rural China narrates the story which provides excerpts from his early life and how he came to share those memories. It’s an interesting tale of life in China but doesn’t really give us anything new other than memories can be bought and sold.

The third story, ‘Amazing Amy’, is however packed full of ideas. It’s a nice extrapolation of what could be given current research. Amy, the subject of the story, lives in a world which is largely virtual, although she herself insists on visiting the offices of her virtual doctor. To do this requires an exoskeleton and a self-driving car. Everything is networked and Amy is completely dependent on Anne Marie, the name for her own personal housemind. People have become insular and technology has replaced nature. Things get interesting for Amy when the power transformer to her house fails.

There are two very short stories; ‘Bitch’ and ‘The Professor And His Wife’” which I won’t discuss in detail as they are interesting but short. A longer piece is ‘I Died Before You Got Here’ and this really is a thought-provoking tale. Imagine being able to cut out the years of boring tedium you have to endure before reaching the dizzying heights of senior executive management. That’s the basic idea but for this story the subject wakes up early and he’s not happy about it.

The stories ‘The Geniuses’ and ‘Not Having Leads To Use’ explore bureaucracy and form filling. The characters of ‘The Geniuses’ are genetically modified to maintain and develop the bureaucratic system that created them. It makes you wonder where technology is leading or, at least it would, if you were permitted to wonder. To do that you would need to fill out the correct form to petition the relevant authority for permission.

The second of these stories ‘Not Having Leads To Use’ shows that any bureaucratic system is open to abuse if you know how. There’s a lot that can be done by submitting just the right forms at just the right time. The interesting and bone-chilling point is machines tend to us and not the other way round. Still we can always make mischief.

I must admit I enjoyed this collection of short stories by Joseph McKinley. They are thought-provoking but interesting in their own right. Well worth a read and cheap at the price.

Andy Whitaker

March 2016

(pub: Unsung Stories. 100 page ebook. Price: £ 1.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-907389-21-4)

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Category: Books, MEDIA, Scifi

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About AndyWhitaker

I live in deepest darkest Essex where I enjoy photography, real ales, walking my dog, cooking and a really good book. I own an e-book reader which goes with me everywhere but still enjoy the traditional paper based varieties.

My oriental studies have earned me a black belt in Suduko and I'm considered a master in deadly Bonsai (there are very few survivors).

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