Tag Archive: Stitchers

Review by C.J. Bunce

Let’s cut to the chase:  Daniel Godfrey’s new novel The Synapse Sequence is not just the leading contender for the best science fiction novel of 2018, it’s the most absorbing, riveting, and thrilling science fiction novel I’ve read since I was first blown away by Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park in 1990.  Hyperbole?  Maybe just a little, but when you are reading a new book and you’re taken aback by the twists, turns, and surprises as this book provides, it’s a bit like walking out of a big rock concert, wanting everyone else to witness what you just experienced.  Godfrey is relatively new to the genre, with two solid sci-fi books behind him, New Pompeii (reviewed here) and Empire of Time (reviewed here).  But this story is a completely different take on science fiction, and so deftly written, smartly paced, and completely believable in its speculative reach, Godfrey is worth comparison to some of the greats in the genre for it.

Anna Glover is an investigator with an unfortunately troubled and public past for her conclusions in investigating an airplane crash.  She lives in the somewhat distant future–bots serve man, taking on so many functions that personal freedom is limited.  As told from the alternating viewpoint of Glover in the present and looking back on her life, future London is very familiar and steeped in the world that technology is building right now with so much of life absorbed into the digital world.  When we meet our protagonist she is attempting to lie low conducting trials for a company with an emerging technology, a “synapse sequencer,” which allows a person to be tapped into the mind of another, like a witness to a crime, to experience vivid, shared memories as an observer.  She meets with her boss inside this world, where he lives out most of his life, a life better than he would experience in the real world.  The process requires the help of a monitor, and hers sees that she gets in and out of submersion safely.  But we learn there are risks for anyone who participates in this intermingling of brain activity.  If you’ve seen the 1980s sci-fi classic Dreamscape, the modern classic Source Code, the television series Stitchers, or the shared visions of iZombie, you’ll find no suspension of disbelief issue with the wild ride that awaits you.  The method for the journey isn’t as elaborate (or glitch-filled) as Connie Willis’s elaborate time travel tech, but Godfrey provides enough to submerge us into the stress and angst of Glover as she takes journey after journey to learn the who and why of a case involving a boy in a coma and a missing girl.

You can’t predict where Godfrey will take Glover from chapter to chapter in The Synapse Sequence Godfrey has been likened to an emerging Crichton, but Crichton rarely could craft as satisfying an ending as found here.  The story embraces that speculative futurism like many a Philip K. Dick story (Paycheck, Total Recall/We Can Remember It for You Wholesale, and Minority Report for starters), while weaving in a plausible future from the seeds of new tech today.  He combines the audacious duplicity of Vincent and Jerome in Andrew Niccol’s Gattaca with the foreboding and despair of The Man’s story in Chris Marker’s Le Jetée and Cole’s in Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys. 

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Tomorrow a summer full of new sci-fi begins with a new series on ABC Family.  In the series Stitchers, a woman is recruited into a secret government agency to be “stitched” into the minds of the recently deceased, using their memories to solve murders.  It sounds a bit like a sci-fi version of the story in the current CW Network series iZombie, where a woman eats brains to survive, and each brain passes the memories of the deceased along to help her solve murders.

But it’s not.  The pilot for Stitchers delves right in with just enough world building to entice but not bore.  Plenty of classic sci-fi tropes blend together nicely–so far–enough to prompt adding this series to our summer DVR recording profile.  The sci-fi elements flow from Minority Report and Source Code, with the crisp production quality of recent shows like Almost Human and Continuum.  Stitchers appears to have less hi-tech special effects, but maybe it won’t need it.  It also shares much with the vibe of Bones, Fringe, and Numbers–most of the cast looks young, too young to have these complex skills and careers, but it doesn’t detract much.

stitchers poster

Emma Ishta plays Kirsten, a woman with temporal dysplasia (a real malady that doesn’t quite jibe with how it’s used in the series).  Kirsten cannot recognize time–here it’s something like Asperger syndrome–Kirsten has trouble relating to others and apparently can’t feel emotions like others.  When she jumps into the memories of the recently deceased, she learns she can feel for the first time.  As with Lt. Commander Data and his new emotion chip, her first instinct is to walk away, but a piece of her past helps her to decide to forge ahead.  Her condition puts this character into a rare class of characters on TV.  Most shows with an odd lead follow the Sherlock Holmes model–a quirky male lead detective sleuths about with a more normal partner keeping him on the straight path.  Think Monk, Psych, Eleventh Hour, Doctor Who, Fringe, or Life.  Stitchers is like Bones–it places a woman in that quirky lead role.

After the break below, you can preview the entire first episode of the series–now.

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