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Futureland: Nine Stories of an Imminent World    by Walter Mosley order for
by Walter Mosley
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2001 (2001)
Hardcover, Audio

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In his second (following Blue Light) foray into the science fiction genre, prolific and popular mystery writer Mosley speculates brilliantly on the near future. His nine stories are set a few decades ahead of us, in a world which remains an unforgiving one for black people. These tales are told from the point of view of those who are marginalized; poor and criminal elements on the fringes of their society. Yet these are individuals whose basic integrity drives their stories forward, as they fight for better lives for themselves and for those they love.

Mosley predicts: an increase in militant feminism; pervasive gene manipulation; legalization of a debilitating and addictive drug; commonplace sale of body parts by the poor; automated lawyers; a plantation prison where inmates' every emotion is controlled by an armpack of chemicals; an all-powerful corporation run by a megalomaniac; and a PI (familiar territory for this author) with a synthetic eye which has a useful targeting system. The latter 'Watches out for trouble and then dives right in.' The author concludes this series with an account of the deliberate development of viral race killers gone awry.

While reading these short stories, their shared future world, and some of the individuals who inhabit them, begin to feel familiar. Tales are linked by characters like child prodigy Ptolemy Bent (who communicates with an intelligent ether); the six-foot-nine-inch female champion boxer Fera Jones with her illiterate but wise and loving boyfriend Pell and her addicted father the Professor; the mysterious and manipulative Dr. Kismet; and PI Johnston. They all appear more than once in the book.

The author lays out for us some of the negative repercussions of technological developments, while at the same time protesting against them. Though Mosley's take on the future is a little bleak and pessimistic for my usual taste in the genre, his tone will be familiar to fans of classic SF, in which short stories usually ended with a dark, ironic twist. PI Folio Johnston sums it up pretty well when he says 'Life is worth almost any price you have to pay. But that doesn't mean they have to charge you for it.'

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