Never trust other people's memories, and watch out for your own
Sean Whittlesea was there when his wife was murdered. He saw the light leave her eyes. He held her dead body in his arms. He knows he wept, but he cannot recollect a single other detail. Tormented by the tragedy, Sean relives the horror over and over again. As he struggles to recall what really happened, his imagination serves up an endless chain of scenarios. The truth, however, remains hidden in the vault of his memory, and the key is nowhere to be found.
Nearly two decades later, Sean, now remarried and a father of two, wins a bizarre contest hosted by his eccentric boss. The prize is the Memory Palace, a state-of-the-art black box that purportedly allows its possessor to relive every moment he has ever experienced, playing out all the memories on a screen.
While the small machine at first appears to be the answer to the mystery surrounding the death of his wife, it instead upends Sean’s life. He pushes his family further and further away as the Memory Palace forces him to confront harsh realities and difficult questions that he lacks the strength to face or answer. Spiraling downward, Sean encounters increasingly harrowing challenges that force him to realize that his memory is not the only thing at stake. To recover the truth about his past, Sean must fight for his very life.
A Note From the Publisher
"With writing that's both sharp and dense, Michael Paul Kozlowsky's Scarecrow Has A Gun is a labyrinthine mystery that feels as if David Cronenberg and Don DeLillo had collaborated on a Philip K. Dick adaptation. It's a gut-punch meditation on the way our brains process mediation, memory, trauma, and grief."––Tex Gresham, author of Sunflower, Heck, Texas, and This Is Strange June
Average rating from 41 members
A Worthwhile Read about the Lies We Tell... Even to Ourselves
Disclosure: I received a ARC of this book in exchange for my thoughts and review.
TL;DR: If you like a good mystery with a steady build and don't need a lot of "crunch" in your sci-fi, this is worth diving into.
* Heavy on the mystery...
* Interesting narrative system
* Steady build to a satisfying end
* ... but light on the sci-fi
* Some secondary characters are very dislikable
* Sentence structure slows the pace of reading
Scarecrow Has a Gun is an interesting story. It examines the idea of memory and forgetting in a way that many sci-fi fans will appreciate. Whereas Philip K. Dick asked 'what would happen if we could provide you with new memories' in We Can Remember It for You Wholesale, Michael Paul Kozlowsky asks 'what would happen if we could provide you with all your old memories.' The uncomfortable truth that this story examines is that eyewitness accounts of events are highly unreliable - even the ones that exist solely in our own heads.
There is a great mystery at the heart of the story. You are dropped in, not quite in media res, but with the same questions and blanks as the narrator about his past and the truth of the Widower's Club. It is a very fun way to have both the reader and character try to uncover more about the plot. When I got to the end I was very happy with the way the book resolved the plot without feeling the need to put a bow on every little mystery and question. Interesting questions are far easier than satisfying answers, and Michael Paul Kozlowsky has the confidence in his primary plot to not gild the lily with forced resolutions of minor questions.
The style of the prose is both a major boon for the story and a serious limitation. The first-person narration helps to really drive the emotion of the story as you both learn and theorize. The entire book reads as a cleaned-up version of stream of consciousness. As the reader, you can truly feel as if you are in the mind of the character. The downside is that the sentence structure that permits this uses an absurd amount of commas and em dashes. It works wonderfully to sound like you are listening to someone's nascent thoughts, but it means that a large amount of the sentences and paragraphs need to be re-read in order to fully digest the idea presented. I found that it was a bit uncomfortable for the about the first chapter or so, then I settled in and accepted it as part of the conceit of the book without it getting in the way too much.
While the book is technically sci-fi, it feels as if the story never needs it to be. There is no hard examination of the math, physics, or engineering behind the items that help drive the plot. It is all what I refer to as "tomorrow tech" - things that are extrapolations of what we have now and would not feel too terribly out of place in a suspense book with the CIA as a major player. Really, this book could be written as an urban fantasy novel with the tech replaced by magic and it wouldn't change anything about the core story. So while it is a fun read, don't expect any "crunch" out of this.
Overall, this is a very good book that I highly enjoyed reading. As a first foray into non-YA fiction, Michael Paul Kozlowsky has made a very impressive showing. I personally will be watching for his next book to read!
Scarecrow Has a Gun
by: Michael Paul Kozlowsky
Pub. date: August 2, 2022
Review date: November 15, 2021
Many thanks to Imbrifex Books & NetGalley for allowing me access to this arc in exchange for my honest review.
This book is Worthy of a read, whether you’re a fan of sci-fi or not.. I know it’s implied that this is a sci-fi mystery but it’s Most Definitely more mystery than anything else. I recommend Scarecrow Has a Gun. I give three stars.
This was a different type of book for me. This is one of those books where it starts out slow, picks up the pace and kind of goes slow again. It's about this guy who cannot remember the night of his first wives murder and he so badly wants to know. In comes his boss who says he can make that happen. This story was really full of surprises. My jaw literally fell when I read who the actually culprit was. The only thing negative that I could say about this book is that I could have done without all the descriptions of each character. I feel as though time was spent on characters who had nothing to do with the story. Without me giving away any spoilers, I'd say that I would recommend this book. It's kind of fantasy, mystery/thriller. If you're into these types of genres, give it a go.
Thank you Imbrifex Books and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. I really loved the theme of this book which delved into our memories and how they affect our lives. There was a good mystery as well that had a very satisfying resolution. Sometimes the story dragged a little. Most of the characters are unlikeable, even little Lucy. However, the idea that our memories are not always how it happened and that we forget so much of the mundane times of our lives really made me think about all MY memories. I was impressed with this book.
Scarecrow Has A Gun is Michael Paul Kozlowsky’s first adult novel. Set to publish on August 2, 2022, this novel is a perfect mix of multiple genre such as mystery, thriller, science fiction and fantasy.
Ever since the death of his wife, Gwen, Sean Whittlesea has been on a hopeless search for the killer. Sean had no recollection of what really happened that night but he was sure he was there. This lost memory of his won’t let his mind rest. A new woman and two kids later, Sean is finally ready to put the past behind him and move on.
After years of entering contest hosted by his boss, Mr. Ulger, by chance or coincidence, that year Sean had won the challenge. He took his prize home with him, the Memory Palace, a black box that’s magically relive his memories and playing it out on a screen. He soon find out that the answer to all of his questions were all in there.
This has been an entertaining read! It was kind of boring and slow at first but thankfully the story picked up pace as the more chapter in, proved to delve deeper into the plot. The mystery surrounding Gwen’s death and those unexpected humours were what kept me going.
This is a voluntary review in exchange for the e-ARC I received. This is also my first ARC novel by a male author. I’m truly grateful to the NetGalley team and the publisher for the chance. Thank you.
Scarecrow Has a Gun
by Michael Paul Kozlowsky
Pub Date 02 Aug 2022 | Archive Date Not
Never trust other people's memories, and watch out for your own
Makes one wonder about are memories of what you believe or are they less /more. It is definitely a mystery with sci-fi and some real thoughts to ponder. How our memory remembers grief, happiness and the black box has him confused. The ending is wild. Good, get you some of this deep read.
What an original and captivating sci fi read! Not only did it really make me think about memories and how they affect us, I was eager to see where it would all lead to and itching to get to the big reveal. I did crack a couple of the puzzles but I was only scratching the surface as there were reveals upon reveals. I totally loved the real life references and often found myself so intrigued I had to then go search for confirmation and further information. Things really ramped up towards the end and I was glued to the text. I enjoyed the dark undercurrent and found the ending deeply satisfying as well as super clever.
I received this arc from netgalley in exchange for my honest review.
A bit slow at first, but the story did pick up in pace in the second half of the book, going deeper and deeper into the plot. The main thing that mostly kept me going was Gwen's death. In a way, it reminded me of a scifi book in its way of examining memory and forgetting. I was quiet satisfied in the way everything wrapped up, without needing to answer EVERY LITTLE mystery posed. Overall, a great read!
“Our marks stick to no page. There is no reproduction, no correct translation.”
The story starts from the blank standpoint of Sean’s life. How his corporation works and what the Widower’s Club is all about. It plays out and we learn along side him as the story progresses. A bit of sci-fi, a bit of mystery, and a bit of deep thinking and put it all together and you have “Scarecrow Has A Gun”
Can we trust our own memories? The basis of the plot to this new YA book looking into our own memories and if we can’t trust them can we trust anything? Sean went through the horrible tragedy of losing his wife under traumatic circumstances, although he can’t remember anything about it. Since moving on and forward it still lives there in the back of his mind. What happened? Did he do enough? Who acted to change his life?
While reading this book my own mind wondered pondering how do we actually remember? Is it a picture for picture of a certain place, time, or event? Do we remember everything on our own or are most of our memories just influenced by others interpretations of those said events? Most of these questions are so open ended that they can’t rationally be answered easily. I love books that make you think and stop reading to think and then continue thinking and adapting those thoughts as you read. This is definitely a book I will continue to think of for a long time.
I would have liked more of the sci-fi aspect of the story and would love even a follow up into how things worked. Having said that it did not impact my experience at all while reading. I really did love this story and concept, it’s refreshing to read something with an original idea.
Thank you so much NetGalley and Imbrifex Books for sending me this ARC in exchange for my honest review.
A creative journey about memories and how they shape our current reality. The theme of memories and what is real vs what we create in our minds is so fascinating to unravel as the story follows Sean the main character through his life post trauma of his wife’s murder.
The murders who, what, why and how keeps you turning the pages to get to the truth of what happened and who killed her. The magic black box adds an element of suspense throughout. This is made to be a movie, the writing is really good and really creates visual scenes in your mind while reading. It’s as if you’re reading about a story you already know because the writing is so descriptive and encompassing. A page turner of mystery, suspense and thought provoking a story that keeps you guessing. I really loved the theme and the story overall the ending left me a little underwhelmed as I was wanting for something a little more dynamic less predictable. It’s a great read and can’t wait to see who picks up the option for the screen.
I did not connect title to story felt like the title could be reworked.
I really enjoyed this book. The plot was quick and the characters well developed. I would enjoy reading other works by this author in the future.
I had some reservations about this book when I looked at the cover. It didn't exactly knock my socks off, but the title was intriguing enough to make me want to know what lay between the covers.
It's true: don't judge a book by its cover. Once you start reading the book, you realise what the significance of the vague black object on the cover is, and also where the title 'Scarecrow Has A Gun" comes from.
Sean Whittlesea works at a boring job. What is interesting about his workplace, however, is that his boss has formed a Widower's Club that Sean is also a part of. Every year, there is a contest, or ceremony, if you will, where these men are given a task to complete, and whoever completes it first is made wealthy and successful beyond their imagination. This is facilitated by Sean's boss, Mr. Ulger, who provides the winners with technology from the future that changes their lives for the better.
Sean wins this contest one year and is given a gift to try out for a couple of weeks. This gift, The Memory Palace, enables Sean to re-live his memories and see whatever he had missed out on before.
Sean goes down the rabbit-hole of past memories, but they seem different somehow, not the way he remembers them. Are his memories of what happened faulty, or is the Memory Palace playing games with his mind?
In his quest to discover how his wife died (since he can't remember a thing), will he destroy everything that he has currently (a new partner and his kids) to uncover a mystery from the past? Will his obsession with the Memory Palace leave him a wreck, broken in mind and health?
Does Mr. Ulger have an ulterior motive for helping him out? What does he want in return? Once Sean discovers the truth about his wife's death, will it heal him or destroy him even further?
Even though it is pitched as Sci-Fi, it just skims the very surface of it. I believe it's more of a book about the nature of memory and the way we perceive and interpret it, and the importance we assign to certain memories, even letting some of them define who we are as individuals.
But what if the memories that you have and the truths that you believe in are actually not what happened? Does that mean that your whole life is a lie, and that you have been making decisions and looking at the world based on one particular version or interpretation of an event that may not have even occurred that exact way?
Sean was not exactly a firm and resolute character. He was too insecure and guilty after Gwen's (his wife) death, and not assertive enough as a father and as a partner. I found his fiancee, Hayley, absolutely dislikable. She was always upset and nagging and finding fault, so needy and insecure herself, such a nasty piece of work, and her treatment of his son was just not right.
Overall, I gave it 4 stars because, though I didn't buy the bit about Mr. Ulger tracking Sean for years and years of his life, it was an engrossing read (especially the beginning), it had an interesting premise without being too science-y, I found the reference to "Scarecrow Has a Gun" in the book (so interesting), and also, I LOVE PAYBACK! Take that, Mr. Ulger!
Thanks to Imbifrex Books and Netgalley who sent me an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.
This book is a total mind-f**k. It was brilliant, grabbed me from the first, and held me as I went on this helter skelter decent into the poor characters life. The ending was totally unexpected, and I found myself coming away totally satisfied (a rare thing at an end of a book.) It is a must read!
That was... weird. Really weird. And also really amazing and somewhat aggravating and full of some seriously odious characters.
The concept here is marvelous and there are a lot of absolutely brilliant insights and thought-provoking tidbits - including the explanation of the title. Memory and reality as concepts lend themselves to a stream-of-consciousness-ish style, and while it takes some getting used to as far as reading, it does produce some fantastic writing. There are intriguing trains of thought and a lot of meandering realizations that come out in dialogue and monologue, and I really enjoyed those.
The characters were a challenge for me, though... They were seriously unlikable on the whole and made it very difficult to empathize on nearly all fronts. They also felt oddly flat, given the topic. I could never quite tell if it was intentional and that made for an odd dissociation.
The book does drag a bit and I did skim some in the middle - it felt like it needed a strong-handed editor to tighten things up at several points - but I was curious enough throughout to want to see how it would all end. I found the ending an odd mix of satisfying and disappointing. It happened very quickly and a bit too tidily, but it (mostly) worked.
If you have the sudden urge to spend a couple of days hashing out the philosophical questions surrounding your memory, how it's perceived by you versus other people, and how a not quite accurate memory can affect you, you're in luck: there's tons of that in this book. If you prefer to have those questions asked, but not in a drill to the center of the earth way, and to read a science fiction novel (as this is also categorized) wrapped around this, you may be slightly disappointed. I was.
First, the length. This book would have worked much better as a novella, in my opinion. There are pages in the book that could have easily been jettisoned, as they were a bit echo-ey of things already discussed, and it caused a drag in multiple places.
Second, the premise: our protagonist Sean works as a drone in a large, nameless company doing some kind of video/graphic production. Is this important? It could have been, if there was some exploration of how Sean, with a graphic-centered life at work, may have been able to remember things more accurately than someone without that focus. This was not explore, however.
The precise: There is a group of employees of this company called The Widowers Club, summoned once a year to the boss' office. All members of the group, as the name describes, are men. I'm not sure why Mr. Ulger, the boss, only selected men for his little games, where he would tell the group to perform some inane stunt - running through a glass window, for instance.
One year, Sean, who has been summoned for several years but who has never "won", actually does win. His prize is a box contraption with two lines that attach to the temples. This box then shows the memories of the person hooked to it. Sean has been trying his hardest to remember an attack that leaves his wife dead and Sean unable to recall the exact events surrounding the attack. Now is his chance, but he finds what he remembers doesn't jibe exactly with what the machine is telling him. My question: why does he simply assume that Ulger is telling him the truth and the machine is more accurate than what he himself remembers?
The rest of the book proceeds with Sean trying to get to the bottom of the attack, discovering along the way that nearly all his memories have that same unsettling wrongness about them. We also meet his fiancee Hayley is entirely unlikable, and his son not much better. There's also a female crossing guard with some serious issues. I get that she's meant as a sort of humor device, given the inappropriate things she says and the gossip she dishes, but she comes across as annoying and doesn't serve as much of a break from the overall rather dense story.
Eventually Sean makes it to the truth of his wife's death, and there's an ending that seems rather far-fetched, given Ulger's penchant for knowing absolutely everything Sean is doing.
There's a real lack of the science fiction component, as it isn't clear just how the box works, or really anything about it, other than it's the type of science fiction that exists just because. That is, it's like warp speed in virtually any science fiction: it is simply something that exists in this universe, and doesn't require many pages of explanation. I would have liked something, though, even just a little. A good example of how something exists in a universe without going on for many chapters about it is the Epstein drive in The Expanse books.
The philosophical question is interesting, but in this particular book it really brought things to a halt when I hit some of the denser pages of that discussion. I'd have liked to have seen some discussion of how Ulger saw this as a way to make whoever used the machine wealthy beyond belief - this wasn't really explained, since the machine only looks backwards, not forward (so one might invest in an invention or company one might remember reading news about, only to find with a forward-looking machine that said invention or company was a bonafide winner, and one might invest in the thing/company in their current moment in the timeline, for instance). It's easier to believe Ulger when he talks about mind control, as the machine could be programmed to serve up the memories Ulger wanted someone to believe about their past memories.
Overall, I'm rather neutral about the book, so it's three stars out of five from me.
Thanks to Imbifrex Books and NetGalley for the reading copy.
Expected publication date: August 2022.
As someone who has a terrible memory, this book was intriguing. I started it thinking I would LOVE to have a little black box that would show me all of my memories. There are so many moments in my life that I have no recollection of. Days I wish I could remember, even just fragments, but there's nothing.
Upon finishing this book, I decided that maybe ignorance is bliss.
Memory can be a tricky thing, and just because you remember something happening one way doesn't mean that's how it ACTUALLY happened. It's called the 'Mandala Effect' (google it, it's pretty interesting), and it affects most people.
While I found the subject matter of this book to be interesting, I didn't really like any of the characters, and that made reading this a bit of a chore. There's something about Sean, our protagonist, that rubbed me the wrong way. I can't put my finger on it, but I never took to him. His fiance, Haley, is a shrew, and even when Kozlowsky tries to paint her as a victim and garner some sympathy for her, I just didn't care. I was hoping Sean would leave her the whole time.
Mr. Ulger, Seans' mysterious boss, stays that way...mysterious. He felt unfinished as we're never told how he gained his wealth and all these amazing prototypes that he gives to the winners of the Widower competitions, or even why he holds these competitions in the first place! There's no rhyme or reason to them either. He may hold a challenge 3 times in one month, then nothing for 6 months. Why? What made him require a widower at those specific times? And what became of them all besides wealth, health, and power?
I found the mystery of the story (who killed Seans' first wife, Gwen), predictable and uninteresting, even though it should have been the most interesting part of the story. I correctly guessed who killed her, just not the how/why, which felt reaching. What was the motivation? Especially since
there was a 17-year gap between her murder and Sean finally winning the challenge!
Overall, while the memory aspect of the story was really interesting and thought-provoking, the characters were (IMO) unlikable and thinly characterized. While the ending was satisfactory, there are so many unanswered questions, the biggest of all being WHY. Why does any of this take place to begin with? What's in it for Ulger? How does he make these widowers rich and powerful, and WHY?
This is definitely a niche story that will appeal to a very specific kind of reader and, while I recommend it for those readers, just be aware that all your questions will not be answered at the end.
<b> Memory is a peculiar thing. </b>
I, for one, have wondered multiple time at how true and trustworthy our memories are. When I was younger, I kept having reocurring dreams, that came true in one form or another years later. I've also had various different and really weird or unexplainable déjà-vu's in my life too, which at the time freaked me out a lot.
This novel explores that very concept:
<i> "Are we the lives that we live, or are we our memories?" </i>
Maybe it was because I could relate to the protagonist's experiences and views on the ideas of what memory is, or maybe because of the ideas the author tried to convey, but I really liked this. The mystery was intriguing, and the writing style flowed really well. It didn't feel like a debut or drafted work at all.
This story kept me hooked, from beginning to end. And it made me think, about lots of things, but mainly about my sense of nostalgia when thinking about silly things from my past, and also my occasional existential dread.
The only thing that I would say was lacking, was the ending. It left me feeling a bit unsatisfied, and I think it all happened too fast and too easily, if that makes sense?
On the other hand, I can see why the author chose to end it this way, especially after reading the Author page. It feels more like a journey of acceptance for our main protagonist, rather than a thriller-mystery of who the bad guy is (Like what I expected at the beginning of the book)
I would say this is definitely worth to check out when it comes out in August 2022!
<b> PS </b> If you want to know what the title refers to, it's quite an interesting subject that has many theories around it. I suggest you read the book to find out ;)
<i> Huge thanks to Imbrifex Books and Netgalley for providing me with an arc in exchange for a honest review! </i>
Nothing is real. That was all I could think as I retreated from her room. Life could not be accurately reproduced. Not in photographs, not on video, not in memory. Real life came around once, and we had to catch it while it was taking place; otherwise, it was distorted. We were distorted. The only truth was in the box.”
This book had me hooked from the beginning. I thoroughly enjoyed following Sean and his memories through the black box, but I loved his character development by the end. Sean is a widow, newly engaged, with two children. Nick is an angsty teen who never met his biological mother, and Lucy is the sweetest five year old. Hayley is Lucy’s mother and Sean’s fiancée. Their family story is a whole other story of this book that is simply beautiful.
Sean wins a game hosted by his boss. He wins a black box that allows him to see his memories. This is where the book takes a really awesome turn. It bounces between Sean’s memories, the story’s plot line, and philosophy. I love the analysis of the fallacies of our memories throughout the book. I had to stop and contemplate what I read multiple times!
I LOVED every minute of it!!
Since reading, I keep wondering if I would want to relive memories clearly as they were and not just my perception at the time, or if perception and timing is a blessing of present life. Should the past be left there? Would it be cool to analyze your past?
This is a clever murder mystery dressed up with a bit of sci-fi and an interesting take on the unreliability of memory. It meanders a good deal and often drags on well after an intended plot point has been established. The characters are generally unlikable, which makes the draggy parts feel even draggier. All of that said, the premise and the progress of the story will keep a reader hooked, and the wrap up is satisfying.
First and foremost, I absolutely loved this book. Although as a general rule, sci-fi is out of my wheel house, Scarecrow Has a Gun is so well-written that it seemed a natural process to suspend any disbelieve. Author Michael Paul Kozlowsky takes a completely impossible premise, brings it to life as plausible and forces the reader to reassess everything they thought of as tangible and real.
The star of this show is main character Sean Whittlesea, a widower who lost his wife in a violent encounter when his son was still a toddler. Almost twenty years later, we find Sean with a second child and a new love. Although his mind refuses to unlock the details surrounding that fateful day his wife was murdered, he has managed to rebuild his life. It is on the job, however, that Sean is challenged to reassess his reality, as the author forces Sean and the reader to reconsider the accuracy and accountability of “memory”. An involuntary member of the “Widowers’ Club”, Sean is, on a regular basis, forced to participate in sadistic “competitions” from which only one member emerges victorious. While the losers trudge back to their everyday existence, the winner rises through the company ranks, bestowed with new life, new wealth and the ability to fulfill his wildest dreams. When Sean finally finds himself on the winning end of one of these mind-bending challenges, he is presented with a gift—a box that allows him to see, in real time, every moment of his life. What is at first seen as the answer to Sean’s relentless pursuit of the truth regarding his wife’s death quickly morphs into an existential crisis. How much of what we remember is based on reality and how much do we spackle over it, patching the holes with material that we mold to suit our needs?
Kozlowsky creates in Sean Whittlesea an “Everyman” of sorts. Although not all of us experience such profound tragedy, most of us have moments in our lives to which we wish we could return—to see those events again unfold with the benefit of hindsight. Just how accurate are those memories we retain? How much of the minutiae is simply “filled in” by details we remember not in reality but as a result of a need to soften the moment and make us appear more human—more compassionate—more altruistic? These are the questions with which Sean struggles, and in doing so, instills an element of unease in each of us as we examine the entire process of simply “remembering”. It is in author Kozlowsky’s ability to make us turn inward while accompanying Sean on his own journey that the absolute brilliance of this book is grounded.
Incredible character development, a unique and clever plot, and twists the reader won’t see coming make this an early contender for the Best of 2022. Five big gold stars and a thank you to NetGalley and Imbrifex Books for the ARC. The expected publication for this book is August of 2022.
This is a book of multiple genres including murder, thriller and sci fi. It is very different in so far as it explores and let's you re-live your memories.
Sean Whittlesea is a member of The Widowers Club run by his eccentric boss. Tasks are regularly set by his boss with the winner promised untold riches and promotion within the company. Whittlesea was ready to give up on it when it was his turn to win. His prize was a small black box called The Memory Palace. When attached to him via a couple of probes to his head he could sit and watch his life on a TV screen. Having previously witnessed the murder of his wife which he could not remember the details of, he hoped to go back to that day to see just what actually happened.
Personally I found this book quite slow as it brought up memories from his childhood through to more recent times. It did become intriguing when memories were shown that maybe he didn't want to see. It also showed how poor decisions could influence your life later.
Although slow this book did build to an interesting crescendo and an ending that I couldn't have predicted.
I was out of my comfort zone with this book although would still recommend it to anyone who leans more towards the sci-fi.
Having received an ARC of this book I've written an honest review
A thriller with time and memory at the center? Sign me UP.
The protagonist of Scarecrow Has a Gun, Sean, lost his wife in a home invasion that he can't remember. His employer, a mysterious rich guy with touches of your typical Jeff Bezos/Elon Musk type, hosts a Hunger Games style meeting called the Widow's Club where fellow employees can win new technology that will change their lives (typically, making them rich and powerful and giving them an automatic promotion to the top). When Sean wins a mysterious memory box (a bit like a low functionality apple TV) he gets addicted to seeing his life replayed and noticing new things (and, of course, solving the mystery of who killed his wife).
I struggled with this book because it's very light on the murder mystery and heavy on Sean's memories. There are some interesting takes on memory and the role it plays in our self identity, but there's a lot of missing development and motivation for the other characters that makes them feel more like tropes and less like people. The ending was quite good and redemptive, although I would've felt more invested in it if we'd learned more about the motivations behind Mr. Ulger's actions.
With thanks to NetGalley for the ARC. My opinions are my own, yada yada.
Scarecrow Has A Gun is packed with intrigue and philosophical exploration, diving into the differences between truth and memory. It poses questions like ‘how much does the past shape us?’ Or ‘what if you discovered your past wasn’t what you thought?’ And the answers come in the form of a little black box.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more complete analysis in fiction of the role our memories play. One of the book’s greatest strengths is how much speculation it draws from such a small item as a device which replays memories. At times, it reads like a hybrid of speculative thriller and family drama, but really, it’s a character study of one man’s struggle to come to terms with his past.
The tone is grounded, which is impressive, because some of these characters could step off the pages of the Bond-villain playbook. Yet, the story never strays from the believable.
The prose is clean and easy to read. It’s introspective, delving into the minutiae of life, and at times, the pace can be slow, but this allows room for the book to tackle ambitious themes. There are no laser-battles or explosions to be found here. It’s the relationships between the characters where the fireworks lie. Descriptions linger in the details, but deliberately so, as this feeds into the book’s questions. It succeeds in making you feel like you’re living through things along with Sean, and actually adds a layer of depth here that would be missing otherwise.
Don’t expect the mystery of the book to form its central conflict. You’ll have to wait for the answers, just like Sean. But when they come, they’re worth the wait.
Like the Memory Palace itself, Scarecrow Has A Gun dives deep into the past, searching for truth. For fans of speculative fiction who prefer a contemplative, thoughtful read, this is one to remember.
This book was just- wow. This book is so well written that it had me thinking about what if we actually had a device/devices like this how much would our life’s change and how much our memories affect our every day life’s. The ending was also very unexpected but in a good way. Overall this book is a 5 star and a must read!
this book covers so much more than i even thought it would from the synopsis, it’s such an interesting dive into how we as humans perceive the world, and while there is the sci fi element to the story i think it captures really well how much we can forget the mundane aspects of life or even reform our own memories to fit the idea we have of a situation years later. such an interesting and thought-provoking book that covers so many areas, genres, and themes and would probably be even better on a reread.
What an interesting and unique concept based on psychological notions of memory! Suppose you could go back and revisit events that were critical in your life and really know what happened, would you? Sean Whittlesea, the protagonist, has that opportunity and goes back to see what happened in the death of his first wife. A “box” has been developed that allows one to see life as it really happened, not as we remember it. I was very intrigued about the notion of memories and how they change with time and whether or not we can ever really know our own pasts. As a psychologist, I’ve done some teaching on memory and it is intriguing how memories vary in the telling over time. Many people remember “flashbulb” memories like where they were when they first heard about 9/11, but what happens to those more ordinary day-to-day events? Would you want to replay your “true” past? Or would you find out that the past is different than you think? Read this book to see how Sean Whittlesea copes with unexpected truths.
CW: abuse, suicide, murder, self harm
This book is really dark - and I may have missed some content warnings. So if you need CW look into them before starting this.
This book is incredibly engaging. I requested the ARC on a whim late in 2021 and got approved pretty fast but put off reading it. But once I picked it up I was immediately hooked and read it in two sittings because I had to know what was going to happen.
The opening is reminiscent of Squid Game, the powerful preying on the weak promising a grandiose prize for the survivor. I was immediately gripped. The action toned down a bit after that but I never stopped needing answers.
What follows is watching Sean compete in one final “game” before he plans to get married to his second wife in hopes of being one of the elite. The stakes may be terrifying but the results are proven - everyone who wins has been incredibly successful and happy. Something a widower like Sean absolutely dreams of.
However winning the Game has a cost - and being enlightened isn’t always what you want.
This book asks the question: can you trust your own memory? And If you had the chance to relive your memories in perfect clarity - would you want your illusions to be shattered?
I loved the reality of Sean’s obsession with the box. Not only does it touch on the reality of our dependence with technology but also our obsession with the past. And now we view everything with rose colored glasses. How we paint the past with white lies here and there that eventually become our reality. It’s easy to convince yourself you did the right thing in the moment, or tell someone you did the right thing when you didn’t and eventually believing the lord yourself.
Being faced with the untainted truth can shake your very identity and I think this book handles the topic incredibly well.
The ending wasn’t exactly what I wanted - I can appreciate how and why it led to that to point but I think the very last few pages were a little too Easy/Clean. But, I admit I don’t know how I wanted it to end either that I don’t think the ending is BAD. It just wasn’t the one I wanted.
My thanks to Imbrifex books, Michael Paul Kozlowsky, and Netgalley.
I've no review.for this book. I suggest going in blind.
I mostly enjoyed it. The middle was a bit draggy, but wowsers, that finish!
I did have to Google the Scarecrow with a gun part!
The story line was captivating but I didn't enjoy all the flash backs and didn't think they were all relevant to the storyline. Definitely a depressing read in many ways. Not as captivating from the start as it could have been.
Several years ago, Sean Whittlesea’s wife was murdered and ever since he has repressed the memory, the specific circumstances of her death a mystery. Although he has settled down in a new relationship with Hayley, with whom he raises their daughter and his son, he lives on the edge of depression as he tries constantly to recall what happened that night.
Sean works for a man named Ulger, who periodically offers widowed men the chance to compete in challenges to win an unnamed prize; all that is known about the prize is that every man who has ever won has gone on to become rich and famous beyond their wildest dreams. This year, Sean finds himself the lucky winner and his prize is a small, black box-like contraption which attaches to his temples via two cords, and recalls to him in vivid detail all of his past memories, both notable and mundane. Believing that this box might be the key to remembering what occurred on the night of his wife’s death, Sean becomes obsessed with discovering how it works and how to navigate it to find that moment in time.
Scarecrow Has a Gun has a fantastic premise but doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be, so unfortunately I was disappointed and my expectations were not met. There were a lot of little unanswered questions and it all added up to not making a great deal of sense, which while in a SFF book might be excusable, this felt more like it just couldn’t be bothered to make itself make sense. For the most part, the science fiction element isn’t explored much at all, there is no real explanation about how the box works, what it is or how it would have served to make Sean rich and famous, as the memories only go backwards and provide no indication as to the future. It just exists as something that ‘is’ within this universe, which might work had this been established as common technology within the universe but it remains a mystery to almost everyone involved. While I generally enjoyed his writing style from the get-go, Kozlowsky’s prose is kept simple and easy to move through, this just felt uninspired, like he wanted to include a cool item without putting thought into it.
I did love the depiction of Sean’s growing obsession with the box, how it touched on the reality of how we become so focused on our past choices and how we paint ourselves in a better light when we look back to avoid the guilt that comes with knowing we are not perfect. It certainly left me questioning the moments in my own past that I don’t often think back to, and how honest I am with myself about what kind of person I have been and am right now.
I didn’t particularly like or find any of the characters compelling either, but I did get the impression a few times that this might have been deliberate. Sean was neglectful of his family, and spends far too much time mulling over his mundane memories. Frustratingly, we learn very little about Ulger, despite his potential to harness quite a unique position in this universe. There is also little to no mention of any of the previous winners of Ulger’s competitions, although I took this in part to be a representation of how the box consumes Sean, so too are we consumed in his story alone, forsaking the outside world as he does for so long.
This is definitely an interesting take on the idea of memories and how accurate our recollections are, and I did enjoy it for the most part, but I came out of it feeling like something was missing. I think it would have either done better as a shorter novella or as a longer novel that properly set up the world and the characters, because there was just too much filler and too many threads left loose.
Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for allowing to read an ARC of Scarecrow Has a Gun!
I really enjoyed this book! It was an idea I have never seen before in a book and I could really feel for the main character Sean as he went through the story. I thought I had the ending figured out and I was right, but for the wrong reason, if that makes sense. I have no complaints about this book.
Sean Whittlesea, who as a reward for winning a perverse contest organized by his boss, is gifted a black box that allows him to relive all of his past memories. With it, he hopes to uncover the truth of his wife's murder, which he witnessed, but of which he has no recollection. He risks what little stability he's found since his wife's death to discover what really happened, but how much of the truth does he really want to remember?
<i>Scarecrow Has a Gun</i> is a fast-paced read reminiscent of Blake Crouch, in that the sci-fi tech is the premise or locus of the story, but the events that unfold revolve around relationships and the consequences of the main character's actions. In my opinion, none of the characters were thoroughly developed, but the tension was strong and the story perfectly paced. I had a great time reading it and was able to finish it in just a couple of sittings.
I throughly enjoyed this book (also read it in one sitting) very well written and there were so many elements that left me speechless . The plot was very straightforward, although towards the middle it felt very slow paced and repetitive, I still very much enjoyed this read!! thank you Netgalley
Thank you Netgalley for this ARC. Scarecrow Has a Gun by Michael Paul Kozlowsky is such a strange story. It follows Sean, who witnesses his wife's murder. While he continues to relive the trauma over and over, he cannot recall any detail surrounding it. Twenty years pass and Sean has moved on, he is married with children and wins a contest at work. His prize? A box called The Memory Palace, which ables a person to relive every memory. This sounds like it would be the answers Sean couldn't grasp all those years ago. But, The Memory Palace is all of his memories, is it too much reality? This book really has me thinking, which I loved. An interesting, yet decently realistic sci-fi story. I do recommend this book.
This book was very interesting with the way everything played out. It’s different from a lot of stories and that’s what drew me into it. There was a mysterious element of wondering what really happened in real situations versus how your brain remembers things, watching it all back and having a struggle of second guessing everything you know and have gone through. Seeing it all in a new light. You become very immersed alongside Sean and wanting to know what really happened in the past but also how he is going to move forward in his future.
I received a ARC of this book in exchange for my thoughts and review.
★★★★ 4 nothing is real stars!
“... Know this! Nothing is how we remember it.”
From the very moment this book opened with the Widower's Club and the mind games of Mr. Ulger I was hooked. My curiosity got the best of me and finished this in one sitting. I love a good misery, and even better I love a good emotionally-charged memory reliving.
Sean Whittlesea won his last Widower's Club game. It's no secret that every victor from the games seemed to have progressed in some way, either by company ranking or fame or fortune, they've come ahead of the rest. The reward was promise to be life-changing. Sean's is the Memory Palace, a cutting edge futuristic black box that allow its holder to relive every moment of his/her life by displaying all of his memories on a screen. He has now in his very hands the answers to the big mysteries in his life, but the more he get his answers the more he questions everything.
Scarecrow Has A Gun came off as unexpectedly smart and very insightful read. I had not expect the thought-provoking undertone this one has. More to the point, it really made me think and question myself about my own memories and recollections. While I do believe that human memories are not reliable, this still makes me wonder about the extent in which our memories can be tainted. I must say though, the lengthy monologues of some of the characters can come off preachy at times but it was well-received on my end.
Just a few points:
1. Hayley - I can't feel her. I feel so little love between Sean and Hayley;
2. the mystery wasn't too hard guess but still it was satisfying when everything unraveled;
3. what even is the point of the widower's club? it'll be interesting to know the rest of the victors, how they turned out and things this club made possible;
4. I need more of Auntie Josie the hippie.
I'm not the biggest sci-fi reader however I do have a soft spot for memory reliving, live-overs, and time-loops. There is something about those that makes me sentimental and emotional. Suffice to say this hit me heavily.
Thanks so much to Netgalley, Imbrifex Books, and Imbrifex Audio for the copy! I enjoyed this immensely. I was fortunate to be granted both the eARC and ALC so it's simultaneous reading and listening for me! Eh, that's just how I roll, lol.
In other news, holy hellmuffin! First time listening to David Doersch, and this certainly won't be the last!
Narrated by: David Doersch