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The Last Witness

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  654 ratings  ·  136 reviews

When you need a memory to be wiped, call me.

Transferring unwanted memories to my own mind is the only form of magic I've ever mastered. But now, I'm holding so many memories I'm not always sure which ones are actually mine, any more.

Some of them are sensitive; all of them are private. And there are those who are willing to kill to access the secrets I'm trying to bury...

Kindle Edition, 144 pages
Published October 6th 2015 by
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Average rating 3.84  · 
Rating details
 ·  654 ratings  ·  136 reviews

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Mogsy (MMOGC)
Jun 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

I know I can be quite picky when it comes to short stories and novellas, and in fact there was a time in my life where I simply avoided them all together. I’m big on the immersive reading experience which is something longer novels are in a better position to provide, not to mention characters are also very important to me but it’s less likely I can connect to them when the story is over in a blink of an eye.

But every once
Manuel Antão
Oct 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Unreliable Memories: "The Last Witness" by K. J. Parker/Tom Holt

“I’ve been told I have an unforgettable face. Ironic, really.
I have a gift; I can browse through the library of your mind and remove individual memories. You’ll never know I was there, and you’ll never miss what was taken. Useful for grieving widowers, more so for ambitious politicians.
But I’m holding so many memories I’m not always sure which ones are actually mine.
Apr 27, 2017 rated it liked it
I love KJ Parker's short stories.

They are beautifully written, fast paced and just the perfect length.

This one in particular had characters I really did not like, so spending a full novel with them may have been quite honestly torture, but this short, to the point story and powerful message was just about right.
Althea Ann
Feb 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What if someone had the ability to erase your unwanted memories? The collateral would be that that person would take on your memories as his own, absorbing them in such a way as to make them indistinguishable from his own past.

What kind of person would you have to be in order to agree to do such a thing? What kind of person would the agglomeration of these memories make you?

If you answered, "not a very nice person," you would most likely be correct, says K.J. Parker.

The marketing of this novella

A person who can erase memories, see your past and learn stuff from it? SIGN ME IN!

Psychic powers, I love books about them. However, combine them with realism and horror and my brain melts with pleasure! God, the way this is written is just brilliant! You will ask yourself - is this happening now, or is the protagonist experiencing a memory of someone else? Does the character know this person, or is it a familiar face from someone else's past. Which reminds me- You can't trust the
Jul 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, novella
Originally reviewed at Tenacious Reader

The Last Witness by K. J. Parker is dark and deceitful, yet addictive novella. These two aspects are spun together for a truly fascinating story and one hell of a protagonist that you might not like, but you can’t help but want to know more about. It’s a book that doesn’t shy away from the darker side of humanity, it actually relishes in it. I’ve only read one other book by Parker, but I feel this story was every bit as intriguing as The Folding Knife and
Jan 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-ebooks
3.5 stars. This is my first Parker, even if I have several novels of his in my TBR. As a lover of dark fantasy I wonder why I never tried him before, but here I am, on the last afternoon of the year, reading this beautiful and unsettling novella about the "broad rainbow spectrum of human maladjustment".

The narrative style is peculiar, since the whole story is the presentation of the protagonist’s reminiscences which also incorporate the memories of several other people and as such, not only it’s
like most of KJ Parker's first person short fiction (Blue and Gold, Maps, Bird, Room etc), an unreliable, fairly unlikable to start with, though always amusing narrator who is a multiple malefactor and a story-line where obviously one of his multiple past misdeeds will eventually catch with him (but which one?); however while his murders, thefts and other (mis)deeds are many, the deeds of the powerful in his society with whom he entangles are worse anyway...

overall well done and with the final
Oct 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
I love the way this novella takes the idea — that someone could perhaps look into your mind and take away your memories, at the cost of having to keep them themselves if there was anything distressing in them — and then develops it, runs with it, deals with what a character who could do that would be like, what they would be willing to do, what they’d feel about it. How they could profit from it, and what that might cost them.

The narrator is, of course, unreliable. He’s unreliable even to
Eon ♒Windrunner♒
An interesting little story that had lots of promise but didn’t quite do it for me.

We heard all about you, the old man said, the stuff you can do. Is it true? Depends what you’ve heard, I told him. Most of what people say about me is garbage.

I don’t know how I do it, I told them, and neither does anyone else. None of the professors at the Studium could explain it. According to them, it’s not possible. All I know is, I can see my way into someone’s head—literally, I stare at him hard, and the
Oct 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
I wasn't enjoying it, and then I was. The story features a thoroughly unlikable amoral main character who is deeply flawed, partly because of the ability that makes him so powerful.

The unnamed main character has the ability to take memories out of people's heads and place them in his own. He uses this ability to his advantage and profit. But he also has total recall, and many of the memories he gains this way are deeply traumatic. Murders, rapes and torture on both sides of the coin. He earns
4- stars

I'm not sure what I can say about this book without spoilers!

The narrator has a unique ability: he can go into someone else's head and take a memory out of it. He's made this his profession, so generally he's taking a memory someone has chosen to have removed. But not always.

The taken memories become part of him. And as time goes on and he collects more and more other people's memories, it’s not easy to remember what memories really belong to him, and which don’t.

And what if his
Ashley DiNorcia
Feb 23, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sff
Great premise, last few pages were juicy and dramatic but the overall experience was so meh.
Oct 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
A rather disturbing tale of memory & truth. An unlikeable main character narrates a twisting story of his life and his work as a professional memory remover. Tiny bit reminiscent of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

I admire Parker's writing style and his intellectual and philosophical escapades. That being said, The Last Witness didn't awe me.

The nameless narrator has a gift (or a curse) to remove and assimilate people’s memories. Because of the eidetic memory he possesses, he’s doomed to live with all the memories he takes away from others (including several awful crimes, rape, trauma).

As expected from Parker, the unreliable narrator uses his ability to hide his disgraceful past from both himself
Lis Carey
Jun 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks, f-sf
In a world that is recognizably not our 18th or early 19th century, the teller of this tale is a man with an interesting talent. He can take memories from your mind so neatly that you'll never know the stolen memory is gone. He's made a nice business of this. Some people will always have memories that are too painful and they wish to be free of. Others will have memories that it would make their lives easier to have someone else forget. Unfortunately, once he's removed a memory from your mind, ...more
Aug 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novella, 2015
If there is one thing you can be sure of when it comes to a KJ Parker novella, it's that it will stab you in the gut and twist the knife. They probably lose their effectiveness after a while but I don't think I have read enough of them yet. This one is built on a particularly strong conceit that allows for a perfectly logical and fair presentation of last-minute twists.

Also: still can't believe this guy is pun-lover Tom Holt.
Dec 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, favorites
Devoured this today. Awesome novella, with an awesome power that leaves you thinking. Some good philosophical bits as well.

Don't really have much else to say about it... or maybe I already forgot it, if you get what I'm saying.
May 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks

This is a fantastic and interesting little tale, which packs a LOT into it's relatively short format, while somehow not feeling rushed or crowded. The prose in this one is smooth, more in a full-novel format than many novellas, which makes it a fairly easy read, and the pages just fly by.

The premise is very interesting - the last witness has the power to enter someone's mind, and remove memories; unwanted in most cases, but this power is vast,
Aug 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
The summary tells you all you need to know before reading this short book, but some good reviews give more thoughts to consider after reading.

Thoroughly enjoyed this unusual, intriguing story. Although not listed yet on GR I listened to an audible version read very well indeed by P J Ochran. He became exactly how I imagined the chilling first person narrator would be and I believe in this instance the audible version is better than reading the book.

It has been suggested the main character was
Steve Kimmins
My third KJ Parker book, only 140 pages long and another standalone book, but the darkest and deepest so far. And stunning too.

A first person narration by an individual who has a strange ability - to be able to enter a person’s memory and extract components, small or large, from that memory as though they were scrolls in a library. After discovering this ‘gift’ he tries to make a living from it, extracting memories from people who willingly want to forget, and sometimes unwillingly from others.
Rachel (Kalanadi)
Nov 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novellas, publisher

I received an egalley of this novella from the publisher for review. Thank you to Publishing! This review is my honest opinion.

The Last Witness is probably an excellent litmus test for whether you can enjoy a story even if the main character is an incredibly amoral, unlikable asshole. In my case, the answer is yes... I absolutely can enjoy that type of story, when done well!

A man discovers he can see into other people's heads, pluck memories from their mental library shelves, and

Jeremy Jackson
Apr 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Complexity is a detailed thing. It's difficult enough to write a many-layered story with the benefit of four or five hundred pages; Parker gives us a full-scale book, complete with twists and surprises, in under 150.

The Last Witness is the journal-style narrative of a man whose only natural skill is memory-thieving: he can look inside your head, take a memory from you and keep it for himself, remembering it as though it were his own. This practice serves to muddle an already-delicate
Belinda Lewis
Dec 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Its dark. Its messed up. And its somehow quite beautiful.
Video Review:

The Last Witness by K.J. Parker was an excellent novella that I absolutely loved. This is my first experience with K.J. Parker but it will not be my last as this is one of my favorite reads of 2017. It is a fantasy novella about a guy who can remove the memories of other people and gain those memories for himself. This can take a toll on him because he has a hard time distinguishing between what happened to him and what happened to other people. He
Jun 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing novella. I've never read anything quite like it. It's in first person, in the manner of someone telling their life story to the reader, which works perfectly for the unusual concept. The plot did not go at all where I expected, but everything seemed inevitable in the end, which made it very satisfying to read. It's also pretty tightly written, with very few extraneous details, like a classic short story.

A lot of the reviews mention how evil the main character is, and yeah, he's pretty
May 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
This was my first KJ Parker story, and I enjoyed it. It shared a lot of thematic elements with Claire North's books -- both The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August and Touch -- with lots of comments about stealing lives, living other people's lives, accumulating memories and skills, the mutable nature of reality and identity, and so on. For me, the most interesting part was actually when the MC mulls over the similarities between what he does and what Christ did -- willingly taking the sins and ...more
Sep 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, fantasy
Another marvellous K.J. Parker. Over the years, I found his shorter works are vastly superior to the trilogies.

The protagonist of this book, nameless, has the gift to take away memories and has made a business of it. In the course of the story, he philosophises on the impact of memory as the source of history as well as the nature of truth.

After all, what is truth but the consensus of memories of reliable witnesses

is only one of the many quotable phrases that make you really think about what
Oct 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 even.

What would it do to a man to have the ability to erase people's memories? To be able to pluck specific ones like plucking a lone feather from a peacock or to remove the totality of a person's memories leaving him a tabula rasa. But what is removed must be transferred somewhere. Whatever he takes, he takes into his own memories. Too many memories can get jumbled together, blurring the line between his own and those appropriated from others. I am fascinated by the concept of memory and
Oct 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is really interesting. It reminded me of a film where some guy steals memories but it's title had been stolen from my mind.
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K.J. Parker is a pseudonym for Tom Holt.

According to the biographical notes in some of Parker's books, Parker has previously worked in law, journalism, and numismatics, and now writes and makes things out of wood and metal. It is also claimed that Parker is married to a solicitor and now lives in southern England. According to an autobiographical note, Parker was raised in rural Vermont, a
“To try and rationalise all this in terms of right, wrong, good, evil, is just naive; the very worst things we do, after all, we do for love, and the very worst pain we feel comes from love. She was right about that. In my opinion, love is the greatest and most enduring enemy, because love gives rise to the memories that kill us, slowly, every day. I think a man who never encounters love might quite possibly live forever. He'd have to, because if he died, who the hell would ever remember him?” 3 likes
“Consider it this way. The present is a split second, so tiny and trivial as to be immaterial. Everything else, everything real and substantial, is a coral reef of dead split seconds, forming the islands and continents of our reality. Every moment is a brick in the wall of the past, building enormous structures that have identity and meaning, cities we live in. The future is wet shapeless clay, the present is so brief it barely exists, but the past houses and shelters us, gives us a home and a name; and the mortar that binds those bricks, that stops them from sliding apart into a nettle-shrouded ruin, is memory.” 0 likes
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