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mallworldThis book is a collection of short stories playing in a 30k-long shopping Mall out in the Solar System, which itself is encased in an isolated pocket universe for humanity’s sake (or so the Selespridar say). The stories are linked by the Selespridar Auditor checking a sample of humans to see if humanity is ready to be released into the Galaxy and it’s civilization at large. But let’s start at the beginning...

Zoe McOmar is a ‘lonely unsatisfied Bible Belt Virgin’ as she puts it herself. She lives in Godzone, one of three Cylinder Worlds (plus the Vatican Asteroid) that make up the Bible Belt. Godzone is reserved for the reconstructionist Neo-Amish-Buddheo-krishna-ologism faithful (in contract to the recreationist and reformist strands), but not for Zoe anymore – she grabs her parents Toyochev (hurhur) and makes her way to Mallworld, the 30k long shopping mall and centre of the cilivized Solar System, obviously. Everything is on sale there, from babies at Storkways to your own death at the Way Out Suicide Parlors.

There she meets Zhangif, a 4-layered Selespridon, who is searching for the meaning of life, or enlightment, the ‘ug’unnieth’ concept doesn’t really translate into the crude human speech. And he needs it today, or he will be executed tomorrow. Some rather enlightening shenanigans ensue.

The 2nd story deals with Julian barJulian XIII, one of the heirs to the barJulian family who owns Mallworld. It follows his adventures of when he first falls in love, and the piece of Clavichrome artwork he creates from it. The artwork, on the side, starts with a simple blue line, and develops huge complexities and a story from there. Have you seen the ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ segment of the original Fantasia version? If not go watch it, now…

The various short stories, some of which were published before they were collected into this book, are linked by short segments, told in first person by Kluthorian, a 3-layered Selepridon, who is the current guardian of the human sphere. Ah, the human sphere. The human race was enclosed in an impenetrable forcefield just outside the orbit of Saturn, and then shunted into a parallel universe for safekeeping until fit to be released onto the galactic stage. All for our own good, of course. The stories are reviews by a visiting 50-layered Selespridon, who checks on humanity’s development by telepathically (machine assisted) checking on 7 representative humans.

The Selepridar are a humanoid race, .998 humanoid (at least in adult form – they have a complicated social and sexual life, and several metamorphic stages of development), with vividly blue skin and sparkling magenta hair. They also are unearthly beautiful, have an erotic, sensuous, alluring smell, and are generally very attractive to humans. Their layered-ness is visible through their tunics, which they wear in as many layers, comparable to the robes of Heian Period Japan, although they stopped at 12...

The main drive for the Selespridar seems to be to attain ‘ug’unnieth’, raise through the ranks, and to observe (and partake in) humanity’s many crazy endeavours and fashions. Childhood’s End it ain’t!

The world all this plays in is a happy Space Opera one, with simulacra, robots, transferral booths, a very very free interpretation of human history (most businesses don’t give a toss about accurate history anyway, as long as it sells it’s ok) comparable to Motel of the Mysteries, a very funny mix-and-mash attitude to religion indeed (just see Zoe’s above for an example. And that’s conservative.), and it’s own slang (remember the Toyochev? Hurhur).

There is a fair amount of duplication – each story establishes what Mallworld is, tells the history of the universe the humans are locked in, and explains the Selespridar and their relationship with humanity. Every story provides a different angle, but nevertheless, it becomes repetitive.

Overall this is a very entertaining read, even if most stories don’t have the kind of drive that makes them unputdownable (how I love that word), but it is well written, consistent, and a good laugh overall, even if the tag of ‘the most riotously funny book the universe has seen since the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy’ is marketing droid speak, and not correct. Light and entertaining Space Opera from a professional musician and conductor, who writes books (including some excellent ones, like Starship and Haiku)when things get too much in music. This was re-released, including a few more stories, as ‘Ultimate Mallworld’ in 2000, so if you want to have a read get this edition instead. Oh, the new one is by S.P. Somtow, which is what he calls himself for western audiences these days (why not Somtow Papinian Sucharitkul, his full name?), and it won’t have the wonderful Tom Kidd cover, which was also used for an edition of one of the Hitchhiker novels (although I suspect that it was done for this book). But have a go, it will be entertaining.

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Mallworld

Author: Somtow Sucharitkul

Author: S. P. Somtow

Reviewer: Markus

Reviewer URL: http://skating.thierstein.net

Publisher: Tor

Publication Date: June 1984

Review Date: 29 March 2007

ISBN: 0812555139

Price: USD2.95

Pages: 284

Format: Paperback

Topic: SF

Topic: Space Opera

 

Peter Watts – Maelstrom

 

Thomas Pynchon - Slow Learner

 

S.P. Somtow – I Wake from a Dream of a Drowned Star City

 

Iain Sinclair - Radon Daughters

 

Lavie Tidhar - Central Station

 

Doris Lessing – The Sirian Experiments

 

Thomas Pynchon – Gravity’s Rainbow

 

Ian Sales – Adrift on the Sea of Rains

 

Peter Watts - Blindsight


Andy Weir - The Martian

 

Ken MacLeod - Cosmonaut Keep

 

Doris Lessing - Shikasta

 

Liz Williams - Empire of Bones

 

Charles Stross - The Atrocity Archives

 

Somtow Sucharitul – Starship & Haiku

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