AUTHOR’S PREFACE: It’s fitting that my review of this book appears here, because it’s via this wonderful blog that I first became acquainted with Mr Ryan Oakley. After which I stalked friended him, and in the way of the Golden Age of the Internet, quickly formed a band groupblog (The Worldwide Culture Gonzo Squad) that went kinda nowhere, but formed a lasting and important friendship.
SHOP. EAT. REPEAT.
Little is widely known about Canada’s speculative super soldier program. Much was rumoured, little actually validated. Ryan Oakley was whispered to be the bastard mind-child of Anthony Burgess and Philip K. Dick, but this was only confirmed with the release of his debut novel TECHNICOLOR ULTRA MALL into the wild. Torn pages clutched by catatonic mall rats left to rot in the back rows of electronic superstores. Curious graffiti in bathroom stalls announcing “The Coming Revelation of the Great Chosen One, Teevee”. Russian squats full of lively debate driven by dot-matrix printed excerpts, mistranslated from German. Ultraviolent science fiction makes its heroic return; travelling through time, back to kill the future.
TECHNICOLOR ULTRA MALL (#TCUM) is a busted neon literary warning sign. Where cyberpunk failed, this must succeed in alerting us to hyper-capitalism’s end state: the mega-mall as polis. Born to shop, in death do we become commerce itself (“you could usually get more for a dead person than you could pull from their pockets”). Hyper-mediated, people are alienated from their own body, unable to feel anything without the right chemical compound. Corporate colonisation of emotion and sensation.
This is what comes of the “old people afraid of the sky” future, as Bruce Sterling has described it, written before he even uttered the words. Outside may as well be the surface of the Moon (or better yet, Mars); there is only the Mall. The adult version of Nausicaä Valley of the Wind, but with gigantic, hermetically sealed machinery instead of mutant bugs. The malls feed on the garbage of the past, as the book itself mines the midden heaps of the collective refuse of the decadent 20th century (that still lingers on like a dying fire-breathing dragon stumbling into a village, unaware it’s killing us all.) This is Demolition Man mutated and buried underground by the Umbrella Corporation. This is Plato’s three-souled corporate Republic with its Red (bronze-souled favella), Green (silver-souled bourgeoisie) and Blue (golden-souled ruling class) levels, and twice as sickening.