Famous Men Who Never Lived is a strikingly unique tale of alternate realities and the struggle to cope with losing your ties to the place you call home. It’s a character piece filled with emotional depth that rings true on every page. Chess has shown us the human side of technological advancement and how a life saved can alternatively become an identity lost.
The overall concept is a fascinating one. Chess reveals pieces of an apocalyptic origin story throughout, peppered between the current day experiences of our small group of characters. This technology was meant to save millions and, in the end, rescued thousands. There is no hard science or technical explanation, and that’s okay. The book isn’t about that. Instead, we see the aftermath of arriving as a stranger in your own city. It’s quite jarring to imagine. They left behind families, friends, jobs, homes – the list goes on and on. It makes you think about the things we take for granted. Your favorites books, art, or music most likely doesn’t exist. Cars, cell phones, even the cultural makeup of the world – it could all be different in another reality.
The inclusion of first-person accounts adds another human element to the story. They’re hurting deep inside, longing to return from a new world that’s different in every way that counts. Many of the survivors are unraveling in some way as they try to juggle their ties to both realities. They go about their lives, trying to hold down jobs, trying to find romantic partners who can deal with their otherness. Chess really drives home a feeling of longing, of trying to hold onto memories that are the only record of something you’ll never experience again.
I applaud Famous Men Who Never Lived for its originality and solid writing. Above all, it’s a reminder that home isn’t something to be taken for granted. Experience everything because one day, you might find yourself standing in a different reality having lost the people, places and things that define you.
NOTE: I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest, unbiased review.
Famous Men Who Never Lives
By K. Chess
Tin House Books
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