Book Reviews

Review: The Memory Librarian by Janelle Monáe

Not going to lie, when I saw this premise and the guest list I was instantly intrigued. Talk about a collaboration that is star studded. If you’re a fan of Monáe’s music this is a must read. But also if you haven’t listened much, this is introspective and immersive. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.


Janelle Monáe and an incredible array of talented collaborating creators have written a collection of tales comprising the bold vision and powerful themes that have made Monáe such a compelling and celebrated storyteller. Dirty Computer introduced a world in which thoughts—as a means of self-conception—could be controlled or erased by a select few. And whether human, A.I., or other, your life and sentience was dictated by those who’d convinced themselves they had the right to decide your fate.

That was until Jane 57821 decided to remember and break free.

Expanding from that mythos, these stories fully explore what it’s like to live in such a totalitarian existence…and what it takes to get out of it. Building off the traditions of speculative writers such as Octavia Butler, Ted Chiang, Becky Chambers, and Nnedi Okorafor—and filled with the artistic genius and powerful themes that have made Monáe a worldwide icon in the first place—The Memory Librarian serves readers tales grounded in the human trials of identity expression, technology, and love, but also reaching through to the worlds of memory and time within, and the stakes and power that exists there.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

The Memory Librarian takes place in a high tech world. Monáe crafts a world that is not only full of technology, but also retains societal issues of racism and homophobia. Yes they look different in the future – this surveillance society – but this is no utopia. The Memory Librarian has one of those world building ideas that will stick with you even after finishing. While it has elements SF fans might have seen before – like a surveillance society, the power of memories, and illusion of control – it combines into an immersive and unique world.

Each of the stories felt a bit nebulous at the beginning, like being dropped into this story and world. But once you sink in, they captivate. I remember finishing the first story and just needing a moment. The action in The Memory Librarian is fascinating. It’s a story about what we will do for freedom. What we will accept for the illusion of a controlled society. All the ways safety can be used as a double edged sword, a weapon in disguise. If you love SF stories and worlds, this is a must read.

(Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links. For more information you can look at the Policy page. If you’re uncomfortable with that, know you can look up the book on any of the sites below to avoid the link)

I think if you’re a fan of Monáe this is a book you need. There are lyrics interwoven in the story and it gives you a much more comprehensive view of this world. This idea that Monáe has created. The Memory Librarian celebrates afrofuturism and queerness. This collection is thought provoking and asking questions about power and ethics, about desire and ambition, about hope and rebellion. Find The Memory Librarian on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, & The Book Depository.


Which musical artist would you want to write a book?

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