“My memories are like words piled on words on pages that are infinite in ink that is indelible. As sharp and fresh as the day they were written,” explains Samara Archiva, the eighteen-year-old protagonist of Sharon Cameron’s latest YA fantasy, The Knowing. Samara is one of “the Knowing,” people who remember everything they have ever experienced: “I saw [my brother] die, and I have lived that death a thousand times. I will live it ten thousand more. When you cannot forget, pain is a fire that never stops burning,” Sam says. “What have we done to be punished with this life?”
Sam lives on a planet colonized by Earth hundreds of years earlier through the Canaan Project, a mission designed to establish a society void of technology. The goal was “to regress rather than advance” as a way to restore harmony between humanity and the natural environment—a harmony mission leaders believed had been lost on Earth. But once they reached their destination, the colonists lost contact with Earth. A second ship sent to find them decades later was likewise lost. In The Knowing, eighteen-year-old Beckett Rodriguez has arrived, along with his anthropologist parents and other scientists and military leaders, to discover once and for all what has become of the lost colony. What Beck expects to find are ruins, pottery shards, and manuscripts.
What he finds instead is Sam, on a brave but foolhardy mission to balance the scales within her society. The Knowing are privileged but psychologically damaged cave-dwellers who inhabit the Underneath. They are served by a village full of oppressed and brutalized tradespeople who live Outside. If Sam can uncover the secret to Forgetting, she can end the emotional pain experienced by the Knowing—a pain that often leads the weakest members to suicide—and break their elitist stranglehold on society. But the rulers of the Knowing have no intention of Forgetting and will do anything to maintain the status quo.
The ensuing adventure story is as compelling and well-written as Cameron’s earlier volume in the series, the number-one New York Times bestseller, The Forgetting. By combining social commentary, political manifesto, world-building, and youthful idealism, Cameron illustrates how easily the pendulum can swing from a society that remembers too little to one that knows too much, and how those in power can manipulate either scenario to their own ends. All that’s required is patience, time, and the cold-blooded willingness to do whatever it takes, no matter who gets hurt.
The book is narrated in alternating chapters by Cameron’s two sympathetic young heroes, Sam and Beck. Although from different worlds, they share a similar sensibility. Trust comes slowly, but they eventually learn to work as a team. Sam provides the will and the knowledge from her vast internal stores of information: “[M]y mind is like the Archives of my city, a deep, forbidden place crammed with books no one wants or will ever use. I shuffle carefully through the volumes in my head,” she says. “What I’m looking for is the memory of a map.”
Beck provides the technology (including digitally enhanced eyeglasses), a love for his work, and a growing realization that the motives behind his own mission may be less than pure: “I feel my pulse pick up. I know this is going to be dangerous, maybe stupid. And that blinking light in the lenses tells me that this place is hiding more secrets than just a city Underneath. But I wanted to see history. Living and breathing. I wanted to see what became of Canaan. And here is what they built. Not a theory or a scientist’s speculation. Real. The answer to a lifelong dream.”
Despite all the danger, heartbreak, and chaos swirling around them, Sam and Beck begin to feel a powerful attraction, though for the Knowing, the greatest risk is to love. “Mother was right about one thing,” Sam thinks. “Love ruins you. And life is easier without it. Which is exactly what I had planned. To live without it. Until now.” Slowly, Beck begins to understand the nature of that risk: “If I were to forget her, like people tend to do, then her heart would be just as broken as mine. Only her pain would never fade, not until the end of time. She would still live it, because she would remember. To betray her now would be to devastate her. Like a knife to the gut.” Ultimately Beck will do whatever he must to protect Sam, even if it means helping her to forget—even if it means helping her to forget him.
A graduate of Auburn University, Tina Chambers has worked as a technical editor at an engineering firm and as an editorial assistant at Peachtree Publishers, where she worked on books by Erskine Caldwell, Will Campbell, and Ferrol Sams, to name a few. She lives in Chattanooga.
Tagged: Children & YA, Sharon Cameron