South writes as though she has always been where we find ourselves now: looking back on a world where we believed we might gain personal agency over technology’s dominion, entering one where such agency is a luxury we might never again hope to afford ... stories of exceptional loss, spilling out at the point of conflict between the cool detachment of the technological world and the tender vulnerability of the users living within it ... This collection’s power, though, comes from South’s dark sensibility, her comfort with brutality, and her narrative insistence that, while the nightmare of tech capitalism won’t wholly eradicate the personal and the private, it will compress beyond recognition the spaces where personal, private moments can unfold ... South writes with the assurance of someone who knows she has no answers to give. But instead of resulting in a shrugging ambivalence, You Will Never Be Forgotten mounts an ever more effective critique of technology-amplified structural inequality ... [the] stories are united by South’s keen examination of the thrill and risk of human connection—between lovers, siblings, parent and child, care-giver and care-receiver, and digitally connected strangers—under increasingly cruel conditions ... Still, You Will Never Be Forgotten shows us there is still tenderness to be found, and protected, in the brave new world to come.
... self-contained, bleak and tightly wrought chapters ... South shows a comedic slickness with language ... That profound loneliness, though, becomes tiresome after so many chapters, and South’s fetishization of illness can be off-putting. The reader keeps hoping for something or someone to redeem the collection from despair, but that seems to be a little too much to ask for. If you’re looking for an escape from everything that is awful right now, it’s not this.
Not all is dreary—a lot of what’s set down is almost gonzo-like, infused with plenty of inventive fun ... There’s craziness at every turn in these yarns. A few pages recall science fiction and fantasy, others conjure up someone like Wes Anderson—a Wes Anderson in high gear ... Curiouser and curiouser—that’s the name of Mary South’s game ... Whatever might be dark about these stories may also be—since they’re reliably witty and frequently very funny—a welcome distraction and relief from current events.
... a collection of ten dark and crystalline stories that announces the arrival of a distinct voice in contemporary fiction ... mordant wit and biting irony ... [a] complex understanding of reality’s often cruel reversals ... Take the titular story, for example ... It’s one of the most harrowing stories I’ve read in years, a searingly honest look at a woman disconnected by the crime committed against her as well as the vast-reaching technologies—search engines, online dating services, the endless litany of apps—supposedly meant to make our lives more convenient ... Even in a story as bleak as this, South offers a sardonic humor that underscores the absurdity in the way we live ... there is value in a story collection that makes us stop and question just what these screens have wrought in our lives.
Mary South crafts characters exquisitely suspended in stasis, and—as she picks them apart—manages to simultaneously use them to explore how human feelings of inadequacy interact with technology. South delicately traps all of her protagonists in various sets of paralyzing circumstances: something stops them all from growing ... Rather than distracting the reader by showing off excessively technical sci fi writing, South zeroes in on how her characters are feeling. The lasting effect is something similar to the combined after effects of reading Miranda July while an episode of Black Mirror plays in the background.
South skillfully crafts narratives of emotional isolation. Both ominously bleak and shrewdly humorous, South constructs near-future worlds filled with sad and lonely characters ... South combines beautifully composed metaphors with wry wit ... The stories in the collection present an overwhelming melancholy ... South has written a dark collection by exploiting sarcasm, irony, and humor to confront the alienation and loneliness brought about by modernity. You Will Never Be Forgotten is a collection of stories reflecting the zeitgeist: melancholy dread in conflict with modernity. Her narrative voice is sharp, witty, and efficient.
Written with dark humor and a striking lack of sentimentality, these stories are vehicles for characters who each use tech to try to retrieve that which is irrevocably lost: the freedom of the pre-violated body, the child taken from the world prematurely, the normalcy that vanishes after the death of a loved one. Like episodes of Black Mirror, in which futuristic devices propel psychological unraveling, South’s stories explore tragedy as it flits uncomfortably between the digital and physical worlds ... they also double as aching reminders of forms of human coping that aren’t currently possible ... throughout the collection, South humanizes the compulsive behaviors associated with loss, eloquently rendering the experience of bereavement ... South’s precise, morally unburdened prose allows ample room for an exploration of the limitations of caregiving and the oft-futile human desire to rescue others ... a haunting reminder that grief, whether as a part of our current, sobering reality or as a constant condition of humanity, will thwart our attempts to control it.
In the hands of a lesser writer, the book could have turned into a preachy assessment of platforms and digital phenomena that have been explored ad nauseum in op-eds. Yet South’s vibrant collection is awash with zinging sentences, formal creativity, and conceptual verve. The writer both grounds her tales in precise contemporary detail and infuses her language with incredible imagination. ... Motherhood, in fact, emerges as one of South’s great obsessions and most nuanced motifs ... South demonstrates an adoration for ghost stories and Gothic literature throughout the book, creating her own rich atmospheres ... South’s compassionate, quirky tales give us characters who wrestle with such contradictions in the most interesting ways.
... sharp ... A mix of surrealism, science fiction, realism and magical realism, these stories remain grounded in human experience regardless of their genre-blurring tendencies. You Will Never Be Forgotten holds firmly together as an exploration of a modern moment defined by cutting-edge science and technology but nevertheless essentially comprised of human emotion. The writing, like the worlds in which South's characters live, is cool, hard-edged and sterile, but full of feeling ... South delivers these poignant, darkly funny tales with a clinical precision that reveals, rather than obscures, her constant reminder that we are all still, despite everything, alive.
... beautifully-flawed characters ... We encounter situations that are entertaining and eccentric yet also manage to be relatable and cutting ... South’s stories blend sci-fi and speculative fiction, horror, and satire ... Like Atwood, South brings to life an unsettling world that may seem distant when expounded but actually exists in the present ... At the same time, the cutting cultural critique of selfies, superficiality, and performative social media reminds one of the popular Netflix show You and Sam Lipsyte’s satire Hark, which follows a fake guru who tries to save the country. One of this collection’s strengths is its cohesive, circular organization of the stories and how the stories build upon one another ... In a collection teeming with darkness, absurdity, and the grotesque, I was amazed to find myself comforted by the glimmers of hope and the nods toward recovery that South offers in her conclusions. South ends with the confidence that these complex characters are ready to begin the grueling process of healing and putting their lives back together, and she does so without coming off as cliché or sentimental. During this uncertain time of global pandemic, collective grieving, and adapting to socializing mainly through screens, we need exactly the kind of inspiration South offers in You Will Never Be Forgotten, in stories that serve as testaments to our ability to hope, heal, and love again.
The recognition or ignorance of mortality is a source of weird and wondrous humor throughout these stories as South throws different generations onstage and watches them wrestle it out ... insisted-upon emptiness, if anything...gives a slight sag to the middle of what is otherwise a reliably solid collection. We have heard about our overreliance on the superficial reflections of the digital world, the swift and appeasing arrival of our own sardonic wit. But what propels each of these stories is the quest for a more authentic moment, a shared vulnerability that can’t be quashed, whether by physical death or bullying mantra ... This may explain why the collection’s penultimate story emerges so satisfyingly, bringing to mind other masterful writers of the short story that share Mary’s name.
South’s inventive stories are funny and sad ... Most of the 10 stories follow a pattern. An irreverent narrator jokes about humanoids or about goings-on in the Butternut Wing. Complications arise. Then, finally, the heartbreaking end to the story ... South’s hip narrators are sometimes overly interested in sex and bodily functions ... Ghosts of loss and sorrow appear in almost every story.
South’s stories are zeitgeisty, but there are segments that we almost cannot bear to read ... 'Keith Prime' is a little worn by the obvious parallels with its forerunner Never Let Me Go, other stories blossom from their location within a tradition of difficult technology and deep bodily discomfort. South finds a fresh and poignant language to tell the tale of contemporary internet-laden society ... With a touch of humour, South brings contemporary youth-speak...to bear in this recognisably bland universe. Her dual agenda is illustrated by some particularly nice turns of phrase, which jostle against the sparse language of technological modernity ... That said, South’s stories lack the roundness we might expect from really expert short fiction ... Although South’s writing delves into the uncanny realms of the technological psyche and hazards a portrayal of the harm the internet has done to language, the counterbalance to this nightmarish world is the fresh power of writing ... Despite a few weak tail-offs and a difficulty in starting originally, it is this smooth merging of the technological and the literary that is the achievement of this debut collection.
... odd and wondrous short stories ... in each case the very thing meant to help actually creates more problems. This has the effect of keeping character[s]'s humanness at the center of each story; appearing at first to be about the double-edged sword of technology, the collection is actually about people confronting their all-too-human emotions. While occasionally uneven, at her best, South is reminiscent of George Saunders, replete with strangeness and dark humor. This intriguing collection should put South on readers’ radars and is perfect for fans of Black Mirror.
South debuts with a playful, astute collection about modern alienation ... South’s stories are both funny and profound, often on the same page, but perhaps her best skill is plumbing the intricacies of loneliness, expertly dissecting what that term means in a technology-driven world. This is an electric jolt from a very talented writer.
Sometimes their coping mechanisms are so extreme it's hard to care ... But in the standout pieces, the characters' pain is deeply human and affecting. 'Frequently Asked Questions About Your Craniotomy,' an FAQ that goes off the rails, reveals that none of us is immune to loss, not even an accomplished neurosurgeon who opens skulls and faces death on a daily basis. And in 'You Will Never Be Forgotten'...[the] story takes many brilliant twists and turns and culminates in an ending so surprising and inevitable Flannery O'Connor would surely approve. Stories more harrowing than your newsfeed on Facebook.