Memory Wire by Robert Charles Wilson
Raymond is hard-wired to be an “angel” or a living recording device, and he served in this capacity in his combat unit in Brazil several years ago. The war erupted between the earth’s nations and centered on Brazil because some minerals were discovered there that came from outer space. These stones were encoded with the memories of a highly advanced, extraterrestrial civilization. Not only do they hold technological knowledge for the possessor, but they also function like a drug that enables individuals to enter and experience old memories.
The story opens with Raymond living in futuristic Los Angeles in the shadow of huge tidal dams built one mile offshore. Tormented with guilt over letting his lover die on a combat patrol back in Brazil, he struggles to maintain an angel’s detachment. To distract himself, he takes a freelance assignment to participate in, and record, a secret mission back to Brazil to steal one of these stones. An eccentric rich man is funding the mission, and the other participants are Byron (a friend of Raymond’s) and Teresa, an artist with whom both men fall in love. Pursuing them is a “black ops” psychopath!
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