Much of The Memory Box is a slow meander without discernible direction. It introduces several characters, and alternates chapters amongst them, largely focused on two in particular: Walter, an architect, and Angelica, a … well, it’s not clear, but dilettante perhaps comes closest.
The problem is over half the book is spent vaguely filling out these characters, but neither of the leads is particularly engaging. The town itself is mildly intriguing – or, more accurately, an abandoned hotel at the heart of it all – but I couldn’t bring myself to care much about the rest. Each chapter shifting to a new perspective brought a slight bump of renewed enthusiasm, but it flattened out quickly as the characters droned on about lives in which little happened.
The line-by-line writing was good, but the overall narrative tried hard to keep me from finishing the book. When I had, I felt more relief than satisfaction; the ending was flat and didn’t, to me, make much sense, or tie in some of the portentous peripheral characters that kept turning up in the interstices.
I’d love to say that this was a quiet, contemplative story in the style of Clifford Simak. In tone, it was. But Simak was generally successful in getting the reader involved with his characters, in having us see the beauty of the calm moments he describes. Caselberg hasn’t managed that here, and I’m afraid I found the result fairly monotonous – both in effect, and as a technical description of the low variability in feel.