Bibliophile: The Erasure Initiative is a thrilling ride

The Erasure Initiative
by Lili Wilkinson
Allen & Unwin

Day 1 and Cecily wakes up in a driverless bus. She knows that is her name as she has a nametag, but she doesn’t remember anything else about herself. Out of the window there is ocean to one side and tropical jungle to the other but she doesn’t even remember getting on the bus. When Cecily tries to access her memories, there’s only fog. She knows she can talk and read and what the capital of Bolivia is but she doesn’t know how she knows.

As the tyres continue to rumble on the bitumen, she looks around to find that there are six other people in the bus. There’s a middle-aged woman, an older woman who is sleeping and brown-skinned teenage girl with a shaved head. There’s also a shy Asian teenage boy with glasses, a hot guy with a chiseled jaw and a guy with short red hair and neck tattoos. Everyone is wearing the same t-shirt, but some are red and some are blue.

While trying to work out what is happening, the bus load of strangers are faced with the first in a series of psychological and ethical tests from computer screens on the back of the seats in front of them. “You are in a moving vehicle. Before you the road forks. Ahead, there are five pedestrians. On the side road there is one pedestrian. You can press a button and the bus will turn off onto the side road. The bus will not stop. Do you press the button?”

Each of the passengers must choose an outcome and the questions become more complicated over the next few days. Some information is found about the passengers as they try to piece together their past lives and work out who are the goodies and who are the baddies. There is edge-of-your-seat tension as the choices become ultra-real with the passengers standing on the road for the test … or so it seems.

With wristbands that not only tell the time but heat up if a participant tries to escape or refuses to cooperate, everyone is trapped and given only basic food and water. It is a mega-thrilling ride and not everyone will survive the experiment to find out if when episodic memory is erased, you can you become a different person.

Lezly Herbert

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