There Is No Antimemetics Division – You Never Read This Review

It’s your first day on the job. The building has a familiar feeling to it, despite its incongruity. Your co-workers defer to you on all matters, though you are completely new to the scene. A crisis has erupted, and though everyone seems to know what they are doing, you are the last puzzle piece that brings it altogether. Then you write a report, store it in a special file case within a secret room, take a pill, and forget it ever happened. It’s not long before it’s your first day again, with a different crisis, but you wouldn’t know this. After all, you’re new here. This is life in the Antimemetics Division of the Foundation. You’re here to Secure, Contain, and Protect at all costs, even if it’s your memory. But don’t worry, it’s like that for everyone at the Antimemetics Division.

There Is No Antimemetics Division (TINAD for brevity) by qtnm is a modern cosmic horror that engages the reader’s anxiety through an intense crescendo of short stories into a larger whole. Following in the tradition of internet SCP (Secure, Contain, Protect) storytelling, TINAD tells the story of Marion Wheeler, chief of Site 41 within The Foundation and her war against SCP2135, an entity that kills you just by you knowing about it. So how does one fight such an enemy? Well with memory drugs, secret labs, and a dwindling supply of manpower that has been sacrificed in the name of science.

I’ve never really engaged with SCP prior to TINAD. I have read a few entries here and there, and while interested in the concept, I was never totally drawn in. I love monsters, but sometimes, making them “real” kills the magic for me. But qntm’s foray into the genre latched its hooks into me easily with its story centered on entities that affected memory. Putting amnesia at the forefront of the story as a part of the world, and an explicit character choice in some instances, heightened its utility and my interest.

The shifting perspectives in the beginning of the story are a pleasant introduction to the horrors that await in the latter parts of the book. Readers are shown the ways in which humans are blind to specific entities because their very nature camouflages them from our awareness. They are antimemetic, unable to be committed to memory. The shorter stories show how such entities can be dealt with through rigorous control and various memory altering drugs. The people in the stories are, however, more capable of withstanding the effects these entities produce, putting them on the frontlines. Each story is horrifying as various people are essentially fed to these entities as the division determines how to handle them through trial and error. It’s a bit of gruesome fun that sets the stage for how to read the rest of the book.

TINAD is special because even in its short 220 pages, qntm takes their time building the atmosphere and dread. There is a dense efficiency to the endeavor that builds its intensity the further the story takes you. Each beginning story has a callback later, adding to the sensation that the latest threat is bigger and tougher to engage. Characters are forced to tinker with their own minds in order to protect themselves, weighing the balance of what needs to be retained to keep up the good fight. So much gets sacrificed in order to win the day, and often the victory has to be forgotten. Everything feels as triumphant as it does pyrrhic, and it adds to the horror.

This feeling is enhanced by the cold and detached point of view the story is written from. You feel like you’re reading a report from an outside perspective. Sure, you are privy to the emotions and thoughts the characters are going through, but they are remarked on as if it’s a nature documentary. Words, and sometimes entire paragraphs or pages, are redacted from the story, inflicting a censorship on the viewer to prevent them from succumbing to the madness. qntm’s choices of what to redact and not creates a sort of confusion. Sometimes it feels like something important is missing, and other times I swear it felt like “and” or “it” was the redacted information which only adds to the mystery and intrigue of why was this important? Sentences can be found in the remaining words in the longer sections, drawn like a guiding light through the dark abyss of the cosmos. It brings the reader into the experience as if you are a member of The Foundation following the final paper trail of someone’s long tenure.

And at the end of it all, a bittersweet examination on humanity’s ability to forget. Yes, we can forget the terrible things we do to each other and find ways to heal, and keep on keeping on. It’s a survival mechanism, whether it’s for personal or species-wide crimes against one another. Our inability to retain everything allows us to look at ourselves in the mirror and see not a monster, but a human, flaws and all, and a future in which to do better. But on the flip side, we are doomed to repeat ourselves in new and horrifying ways. Forgetting is not a conscious act, it is something that slips by and becomes the new normal. Forgetting is not forgiveness, and it doesn’t always need forgiveness to occur.

There Is No Antimemetics Division is cosmic horror pushing at the confined boundaries genre puts around it. It has monsters that are intangible and inhuman that sap the reader’s sanity. It is a winding story that confuses, delights and horrifies in varying degrees. At the end of it, I felt satiated, though melancholy. There are things that just can’t be known, no matter how hard you look. Who knows if we’re better off, but it is what it is, and that’s the true horror behind it all.

Rating: There Is No Antimemetic Division – Report directly to your division chief for these classified documents

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