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Futureland Mass Market Paperback – November 1, 2002
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Futureland is bestselling mystery author Walter Mosley's first science fiction book since Blue Light, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Futureland's nine linked stories will provide an accessible and intelligent introduction to written science fiction for mystery or mainstream fiction fans who do not normally read the genre.
Experienced science fiction readers, however, may be less than satisfied with Futureland. Reading it, you might decide Mr. Mosley grew up reading SF, respects the genre, and still watches SF movies, but has read little SF written during or after the New Wave of the 1960s. However, something more may be going on here than a genre newcomer making beginning-SF-writer mistakes. Mr. Mosley may be deliberately, and craftily, creating SF accessible to his large non-SF readership and to others who are strangers to this genre.
Some have labeled Futureland cyberpunk, and it does present a dark, infotech-saturated, corporation-controlled future; but it is in fact an inversion of cyberpunk. Instead of that subgenre's cliche of cool, cutting-edge, street-smart, but not very believable outlaws who out-hack and outwit powerful multinational corporations, this Dante-esque collection presents outlaws and outcasts who may be street-wise, but who have little chance of overcoming the corporations and governments that control, and sometimes take, their lives. Like shockingly few other SF works, Futureland directly examines the lives of the working and the nonworking classes, the poor and the marginalized, the criminal and the criminalized. In other words, Futureland is set in a world quite alien to many veteran SF readers, and is therefore a book they should try. --Cynthia Ward --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Although Allen brings a distinctly human touch to a cold world of computers and corporations, his relaxed style seems ill suited for these nine interconnected stories set in the near future. The frenetic material should be bristling with tension, but here it comes off as leaden. Agreeing with the sci-fi theme, the recording makes use of some effects, like giving Allen's voice a distant, tinny sound for a radio advertisement or a stentorian echoing effect for a ringside announcer. But even more would have been appropriate, such as background noise or music woven into the segues to heighten drama. While distracting in some recordings, such effects seem to be missing here amid the high-tech hullabaloo, especially given Allen's deadpan delivery. The stories themselves are intriguing and notable within science fiction for their focus on marginalized and underprivileged characters. But Allen's approach is simply too languid for the subject matter, and the dialogue in particular comes off as stilted and awkward. Simultaneous release with the Warner hardcover (Forecasts, Sept. 10, 2001).
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
Some characters recur in different stories. For the most part the recurring characters are cameo appearances (e.g. Folio Johnson, a detective and the lead in one story, commiserates at a bar in another). However, the character of Ptolemy “Popo” Bent is a critical character in both the first and penultimate chapters.
Race and politics aren’t subtle in this book. Given the [sad] proclivity of American readers to only read / enjoy politically-charged works with which they agree (unless the book in question is making fun of the opposition), it’s safe to say that—on the whole--those at the left-end of the political spectrum will find this book more palatable and on-point and those to the right-end will find it unbelievable and overbearing in its message.
Having said that, I’m of the persuasion that finds Mosley’s dystopian vision strains credulity, and yet I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of stories. This book’s dystopia is characterized by global domination by a corporation and a religion called the “Infochurch,” both led by the same man. The corporate control of the world storyline is a little hard to swallow. A monopoly can’t enslave people (or even enforce its monopoly status) unless it has a monopoly on force, and it’s hard to imagine a path by which a private business gets the people to give them a monopoly on force. That being said, Mosley’s stories are engrossing, creative, and readable.
The nine stories are as follows:
1.) Whispers in the Dark (6 Chapters): A man makes the ultimate sacrifice to help nurture a brilliant child’s special gift.
2.) The Greatest (9 Chapters): A female boxer becomes the world champion while seeking to help her father, whose addition to a drug called Pulse has left him in dire health. (The father’s story, Voices, appears later in the collection.)
3.) Dr. Kismet (4 Chapters): The man who is, for all intents and purposes, Emperor of the World tries to coopt the co-chair of the 6th Radical Congress—a leading member of his opposition.
4.) Angel’s Island (5 Chapters): A hacker, sent to prison for Antisocial Behavior, has a device called a snake-pack installed that can control him by administration of drugs and shocks. But the ultimate hacker might not be the most easily controlled using technology.
5.) Electric Eye (4 Chapters): Folio Johnson, a private eye with an electronic eye, is hired to find out why young International Socialists are dropping dead left and right. Johnson learns that any hardware, even his eye, can be hacked.
6.) Voices (8 Chapters): Professor Jones, father of the female boxer from The Greatest, undergoes a transplant of neural matter to repair damage from his Pulse addition. After having dreams and memories that are not his own, Jones discovers that his treatment is not all that it seemed.
7.) Little Brother (3 Chapters): Frendon Blythe is on trial before a computer that acts as both judge and prosecutor. He pleads his own case, and finds he was a pawn.
8.) En Masse (12 Chapters): A worker gets sent to a new division only to find that it’s nothing like his previous divisions. Instead of strict rules, GEE-PRO-9 has no rules. He wonders if it might be a test by the management. It turns out that it is a test--just not of the type he imagined.
9.) The Nig in Me (6 Chapters): After a plot to destroy certain races backfires, a surviving man finds himself missing those with whom he was closest.
There’re no stinkers among these stories. They are all intriguing and readable, but a few of them stood out as being particularly good. These were: Whispers in the Dark, Angel’s Island, Voices, and En Masse.
I’d recommend this for readers of soft science fiction.
In Futureland, Mosley creates a world only a couple of decades in the future, which looks a lot like our world. Computers play a much bigger role, and huge corporate conglomerates continue the expand their influence, but the world is recognizably ours.
In theory, equality between sexes and races is guaranteed, but in fact, the tensions continue unabated. New York now consists of three above ground layers, with the top layer (above 45 stories) reserved for the wealthiest. Unemployment has created an underclass, which literally lives underground in New York, provided meals and a place to sleep, but permanently barred from the workforce. Women regularly work in the sex trade (from which men are notably absent).
Mosley explores this world in a series of nine loosely connected stories, occasionally sharing characters, but always sharing what is recognizably the same world. Fascinating exposition, and well written (as one would expect from Mosley).
All the stories revolve around different characters, though in most of them characters from previous stories have a minor appearance and different levels of influence to the plot.