Review: Cinco de Mayo

By Mike Griffiths

Martineck, Michael J. Cinco de Mayo. Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing (September 2010). US $14.95 /CA$18.95. ISBN: 978-1894063395.

I was not sure what to expect with a title like Cinco de Mayo and I ended up being pleasantly surprised. When it comes to this novel, there are two things to keep in mind right away. The first is that it has nothing to do with the Cinco de Mayo holiday, other than that the bizarre event that sets the story into motion happens to occur on May 5. The second is that it is not a true horror story. In fact, it falls into the cracks between genres and is hard to label.

The tale begins with everyone in the world suffering a horrible headache, all at the same moment. The pain doesn’t last long, but when it is over, no one’s life on Earth will ever be the same. Something unknown, a mysterious force, has caused every individual to share all of his or her memories with one other person. Americans share memories with people from across the globe. Men with women. Adults with children.

At first, it might have seemed like a small thing, but now, children know about sex and all sorts of other adult behaviours. People have learned multiple languages overnight, but more interesting of all are the changes in perspective that take place. How could you be the same person when you share another’s life?

Other, more sinister events happen, as well. What if your ‘Other’ was a child that was being tortured and now, you were the only person that could save him? What if your ‘Other’ was a criminal, guilty of several unsolved murders? He would know your memories, too. Is your family safe? Should you turn him in? These and other complex issues pound at the characters whose life Martineck helps us explore throughout the beginning of this phenomenon.

Other issues are more subtle, such as in Susan’s case. The President has put her in charge of the team that is attempting to determine the cause of this mysterious memory-swapping. Things become complicated when her scientific mind is shared with a Mayan shaman.

Alistair is even worse off, because he has switched memories with the leader of the Aryan Nation. He quickly goes from a devoted husband and father of two to a desperate man on the run, using his ‘Other’s’ memories before the villain’s fellow gangsters can stop him. Will he be able to outsmart these criminals, using all of his Other’s inside knowledge before they catch up to him or his family?

Sultan is another person whose life is instantly twisted. He goes from being a playboy to sharing thoughts with a boy that has been forced to do slave labour in India. The poor child’s memories of torture and abuse are more than Sultan can bear and he knows he must do his best to rescue him. But when you are but one man in a foreign country, trying to go up against a well-armed criminal underground, this is no easy task. Yet, with the child’s memories burning within his skull, does he really have a choice?

This is a unique book that goes off on an innovative idea. Besides the memory transfer, the rest of the world remains unchanged. The writer helps the reader to discover how even this one change could affect and deeply impact, not only individual lives, but the whole world.

The book focuses on many different characters and jumps between a number of point of views. Some readers will enjoy this, but others might wish there was a more linear tale. Another thing that could put some readers off is the lower level of action taking place. There are some high-tension moments, but overall, the book is more psychological than action-packed. Yet, if you enjoy untangling an unexplained mystery, this could be a book you would love to dive into.

Martineck uses Cinco de Mayo to put forth an fantastic idea and makes you believe it could happen. He uses fantasy, but places it in the real world with real people as protagonists. Thrills and insight abound as the characters try to decide whether they have become victims, or have been blessed.

Cinco de Mayo is available on