I’m getting ready for the celebration
I’m bringing my imagination
Taking charge of my elevation
No fear, no trepidation
Register my affirmation
No doubt, no hesitation
People get ready for the embarkation.

– Jackson Browne

MOM (MAGIC CIRCLES BOOK 1) by Collin Piprell.

A Book Review

All aboard for an embarkation to MOM, a mad comic Science Fiction mystery/thriller taking place in the year 2057 AD, written by Collin Piprell. Earth is a planet where few real biological persons are truly alive, never mind awake, and those that are must be confined to gigantic malls located on two hemispheres – Eastern Seaboard SE Asia Mall (ESSEA) and United Securistats of America (ESUSA) Mall. (Africa has disappeared; no one knows exactly why). Inhabitants are called mallsters. They live in a state of quarantine from a nanobot superorganism, a plaguebot that has devoured much of the world. More bad news: the malls are crumbling and people get dissed or disassembled if they venture outside. It’s Piprell’s complex and vivid imagination coupled with a failed doomsday scenario known as the “grey goo”, where out of control, voracious self replicating nanobots attempt to consume all biomass on earth while building more of themselves. Enter MOM.

MOM is an acronym for Mall Operations Manager. The mall refugees are as dependent on her as, well, children are to their mom – everything they see is because of a loving MOM, or is she? Trust is also in limited supply in Piprell’s world. MOM is Artificial Intelligence perfected or she should have been had there not been some devious bugs left behind for the benefit of the few remaining humans. (Think of Hal singing, as Dave gets revenge in 2001 – A Space Odyssey). MOM has taken over the job from the previous and last human MOM, Brian the Evil Canadian. The power isn’t relinquished without a techo-fight and that’s just one of many places the fun begins in this bleak and at other times artificially induced happy futuristic tale. If it sounds like too much to handle, and it can be for some, there is the handy “op out” feature, where one can volunteer for psychonuerotherapeutic reconstruction or PR, for short. In the Worlds there is a trade off for happiness but most mallsters are willing to make that trade. In that regard, perhaps there hasn’t been much change to the planet.

Cisco Smith is our 22 year old protagonist among a sea of important and colorful human and scientifically created characters at any given time. Cisco is as real as his generation can be; the Tiger Woods of 4D gaming as a teenager, he’s now a test pilot with an identity crisis for Worlds UnLtd, one of only two remaining test pilots on what remains of pitiful planet earth. His sexual orientation is egalitarian omnitech hetero (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and his dietary preferences lean heavily toward peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

Dee Zu is Cisco’s best friend and main lover; she is the other surviving test pilot of ESSEA. Their job is to test the virtual worlds for safety and compatibility for others to enter. The Worlds, for logistic and scientific reasons, extend only a short distance in arc like fashion in what becomes one of many possibilities of circular virtual realities. To quote a well known American writer, “Oh, the places you’ll go!” Ebees are included or electronic beings and they prove to be good company more often than not.

Leary, a 113 year old baby boomer whom readers of Piprell’s fiction will recall from his past work, is a mentor to Cisco and the last surviving human in the Eastern Seaboard. Thankfully for this reader, this is science fiction more in the mold of Kurt Vonnegut than Paolo Bacigalupi of The Windup Girl fame. Satire, witty philosophy, psychology, and anthropology rule, along with the all powerful but flawed MOM. Hi ho.

An example of Piprell’s narrative voice, which has a hint of Woody Allen neurosis:

It’s funny when you think about it. Basically, human beings were merely devices for turning food into fertilizer. Call it man’s nature. But now we don’t have any plants left to feed, so what use are we?

There is a Bangkok connection woven into MOM allowing Thailand expatriates and visitors to the kingdom to get some value added reading in with references to familiar landmarks during trips to Old Handland, located on Soi Awol. Ebees are plentiful in Old Handland and take on the roll of “you buy me cola?” bar girls as just one example of a tribute to a real Bangkok long gone. This is one of the many virtual reality worlds available to mallsters when it is not Monday, which tend to get some people down. The trouble is, it frequently is Monday and the frequency is increasing thanks to MOM who is in and out of control.

It’s “Cisco the Kid” and medibots to the rescue but that’s all I can say in this review. You have to admire the imaginative Piprell for creating a futuristic world by writing a lengthy novel with no children, no books, no plants, no real animals (there are robotic ones) and no writers. MOM is a big bang of a novel with many big ideas layered in along with enough optimism to make you believe a second renaissance period for mankind is possible. Old Asia hands, Sci Fi fans, and readers of quality fiction who enjoy complex and entertaining yarns should enjoy MOM. There’s a handy glossary in the back that you may want to commit to memory before you dive in.

The ending lends itself well for a series. It’s Collin Piprell’s imagination running away and I can’t wait to read where it and his worlds run to next. One wont have to wait long as Genesis 2.0 is due for an October 2017 release.

MOM

By Collin Piprell

Published by Common Deer Press, 2017

Available at Amazon.com, US$4.99 (Bt171), $14.99 paperback

Click here to go to Collin Piprell’s blog: Collin Piprell, In Reality

Click here to go to Paul Dorsey’s excellent and more expansive review of MOM at The Nation