Friday, 26 August 2011

Book Review: Technicolor Ultra Mall by Ryan Oakley

I haven't read something this red since 1984.  Speaking of, that's the way I described this book to a friend of mine: 1984 times a million.  Orwell approaches Dystopia through the eyes of a government employee, placing us in a bureaucratic and middle-aged environment where the politics are there, but the horror of the thing understated, at least at the beginning; Technicolor Ultra Mall, on the other hand, approaches the subject of societal corruption from a completely different level.  After setting the stage with a quote from Newton Minnow ("Theme Song") and a slew of ads ("Product Placement"), Technicolor Ultra Mall begins with a knife fight and the beautiful phrase "[his] stomach was a huge red mouth that vomited a rainbow of intestines" (5).  The language gets a lot more colourful.  Most of Ryan Oakley's novel takes place in the red levels, the lowest level of the mall in which everyone lives to escape the polluted outside.  The reds are where criminals, prostitutes, junkies, body snatchers, gangs, and gamblers live, a society defined by violence and powered by greed, the darkest superficiality imaginable.  Thankfully, we are immediately presented with a relatable character that becomes our link to the humanity still struggling to survive in the reds: Budgie.  Though his efforts to escape the reds to the middle level, the greens, are a theme throughout the book, it doesn't take centre stage - and I appreciate that.  This is not just another rising-above-the-circumstances, making-your-own-destiny, kind of novel.  Because at the core of this story is something more real and more important that raising your social status.

I won't give too much more away.  I thought it a strong piece of work with a lot going for it - a television feel with multiple plot lines woven together, strong world-building, vivid characters, incredibly disturbing visuals.  I did feel at some points that Oakley indulged a bit in exploring extraneous material, but altogether, quite brilliant, I loved it.  I do say that with slight hesitation, because this book doesn't shy away from demonstrating the full extent of depravity that the Mall society has fallen into.  Be prepared for gang violence, the objectification of women, swearing, sexual scenes and language, torture, dismemberment, drug usage, adverts, and Santa's name being used as a curse word.  Anyways, consider yourself warned, and enjoy the show.

1 comment:

  1. Huh...Brian was right...I don't think I'd like it :)