We all love a well-written book with some magic in it that would collect our minds into its pages and let us soar beyond imagination...
The intellectual calibre of the Crystals seems to know no bounds. Hilary Crystal's techno-fantasy novel The Memors targeting tweenagers has just been published as an e-book. With a title that promptly throws you into a linguistic guesswork, this is an arresting read.
Two teenage children - the sister aged 11, the brother aged 13 - with a typical childlike thirst for magic and fantasy, discover an envelope with five photos of people in it in the house the family have just moved into. Their initial disappointment in the mundane find soon turns into an adventure that is incredible, exciting and dangerous at the same time.
The vivid imagery and descriptions throughout the book draw characters that are like real people.
Jess stood up slowly, and paused to check out her reflection in the mirror hanging between the windows. Long, skinny legs in just-too-short jeans. Thin, freckled face. Wide mouth. Greeny-blue eyes. Wild, red hair tumbling down her back. Ears poking through her hair. Ears, Jess thought, that always made her look as though she'd been hung up by them to dry. Unfair.
Zach had the same red hair, but his always fell neatly into place. Her eyelashes were short and stubby, but not Zach's. It was so unfair! Why did a thirteen-year-old boy need long eyelashes? And why couldn't he have had the freckles?
The most ingeniously sculpted character is perhaps Bob Holpweed. With a name that stumbles upon the tongue, this is a clumsy comical man of no good omen. But he is a good man, whenever he allows himself to be good.
Holpweed was an odd job man. Not an odd-job man, the useful sort of person who does the things other people can't - or don't want - to do themselves. No. The jobs Holpweed did were usually so odd, and he made such a mess of them, that he had to move to a different town once he'd finished.
Holpweed submissively obeys the rude and aggressive photographer of a boss and in general hates his job of having to take photos of people unnoticed, with a device called Collector. But there is more to taking photos of strangers than a bored pastime or training in professional photography. Slewstone, the slim and slimy scientist is putting his dreams and theories into practice as he patiently and diligently collects human energy from the photos. His initial experiments are carried out on rats but nothing will stop him from pushing his own employee, the useless Holpweed, onto the experimental chair. His plans are ambitious, almost of the murderer who collects human smell to make the most desirable perfume...
'Once the trials are complete, it will be my turn. I shall use only the choicest energy, from the best subjects. And when this is added to my own, natural gifts,' Slewstone smiled a modest smile, 'my natural, superior gifts, I'll be so powerful, so intelligent, no one will be able to stop me!'
'When my Energy App has taken off, and people are dependent on it, then I'll have fun! I'll collect from one species, and give the energy to another! Snake energy into mice,' he sniggered. 'Mice into cats, cats into people! One day I will be the only true human being, with pure human energy!'
But his plans are not to be realised. Jess and Zach, together with their friend Rob, discover the truth hidden in the pictures. The talking and moving people in the photographs turn out to be part of real people's thoughts. The anxious and intrigued teenagers will need to find a way to have them reunite with their selves.
'When these pictures were taken, something weird happened to the people. Bits of their memories were pulled away and trapped in these photos. And they want us to help because they're getting weaker. And if they don't go back to their real selves they might die! They call themselves Memors, that's because Mikey - he's the little boy, this one,' Jess waved Mikey's photo in the air, 'he can't say "memories", Sophie says.'
Crystal's explorations of human scruples in Holpweed and Slewstone are remarkable. The evolvement of their characters - one reined by his conscience, the other by his own device - and the brave determination and intelligence of the children, make it a truly enthralling story. Jess is especially the one to take to, with her admirable sense of compassion and considerateness. The author is very attentive to detail - mundane trifles are put onto paper in an exquisite language. The style of writing is refined, engrossing and keeps you on tenterhooks throughout.
You do not have to be a tweenager to enjoy a good fantasy story. Indeed, what's the ideal age group for Harry Potter or Doctor Who! The Memors has no Hogwarts or Tardis in it, nor does it need one - your mind shall be collected by Bob Holpweed and kept stretched till the last page of the book...