Futureland: Nine Stories of an Imminent World

Overview

Projecting a near-future United States in which justice is blind in at least one eye and the ranks of the disenchanted have swollen to dangerous levels, Mosely offers nine interconnected stories whose characters appear and reappear in each others' lives. For all its denizens, from technocrats to terrorists, celebs to crooks, "Futureland" is an all-American nightmare just waiting to happen.

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Overview

Projecting a near-future United States in which justice is blind in at least one eye and the ranks of the disenchanted have swollen to dangerous levels, Mosely offers nine interconnected stories whose characters appear and reappear in each others' lives. For all its denizens, from technocrats to terrorists, celebs to crooks, "Futureland" is an all-American nightmare just waiting to happen.

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Editorial Reviews

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The Barnes & Noble Review
Throughout his literary career, Walter Mosley has demonstrated a breathtaking versatility, first making his name with hard-hitting mysteries exploring the modern African-American experience and then boldly delving into the world of science fiction with the dazzling Blue Light. Here he again ventures into the sci-fi arena to give us a splendid collection of nine loosely connected stories featuring a near-future America brimming with ultra-technology and insurrection. Political travails have escalated into fierce social disorder, and every institution in the nation is privatized, from prisons to schools to Eden-like retreats where hedonism and slavery go hand in hand. Mosley brings the talents he's already known for in the mystery field and sets them to work in a world where revolution is as prevalent as home computers.

The stories that make up Futureland deal with the likes of Vortex "Bits" Arnold, a convict on Angel's Island, where prisoners wear electronic snakes attached directly into their nerve centers, so that any inappropriate thought is immediately dealt with. We meet Fera Jones, the female heavyweight boxing champion who must follow either her own course or the one set for her by a feminist group bent on creating a new world order. There's also Ptolemy "Popo" Bent, a child genius trying to find God in radio waves, and his uncle, Chilly Bent, who makes the ultimate sacrifice to ensure his nephew's future.

Reminiscent of Paul Di Filippo's Ribofunk, Futureland is filled with thoughtful, edgy, and highly accessible storytelling. Mosley retains his high standards throughout, never growing lax with his plot or contrivances. Using some of the tropes of cyberpunk fiction, such as genetic engineering and high-tech psychological conditioning, the author adds to them a literate and mystical sensibility that will grab you by the throat. His characters are often less concerned with computer technology than with reaching the ear of God. They inhabit a world in which millions of famine victims are either saved or left to die, based on the results of a tennis game. Expatriates, zealots, and political prisoners abound, and it's certainly no fluke that these tales are described as "imminent." This is satire of the most biting and effective kind because it uses the social ills of today and ingeniously extrapolates them into a vision of tomorrow. (Tom Piccirilli)

From The Critics
This collection of nine stories that conjure up an alternate world represents Mosley's second excursion into science fiction, following 1998's Blue Light. Science concerns Mosley less than character does (his Easy Rawlins series of detective novels is likewise richer in character than complexity of plot). This new book probes the implications of class and race, crime and punishment, freedom and technology in a country that has perfected drugs worth dying for yet can't resolve the crippling cycle of poverty. The interlocking fables include tales of a child prodigy who finds that God is transmitting messages through radio waves, prison inmates forced to wear high-tech shackles and unemployed citizens confined to octagonal sleeping tubes beneath New York City. "The weight of poverty, the failure of justice, came down on the heads of dark people around the globe," writes Mosley. "Capitalism along with technology had assured a perpetual white upper class."
—Don McLeese

Publishers Weekly
After the qualified success of his first science fiction novel, Blue Light (1998), Mosley (best known for such mystery fiction as the Easy Rawlins series) returns with nine linked short stories set in a grim, cyberpunkish near-future. Unfortunately, heavy-handed plotting and unconvincing extrapolation weaken the collection's earnest social message. "Whispers in the Dark" introduces prodigy Ptolemy Bent, who will grow to be the smartest man in the world in spite of his poverty-ridden childhood. Ptolemy reappears in "Doctor Kismet" as an adviser to assassins trying to kill the richest, most corrupt man in the world and as the brains behind a series of global plots to overthrow the status quo in "En Masse" and "The Nig in Me." Champion boxer and much-hyped female role model Fera Jones steps away from the ring to take hands-on responsibility for the influence she wields in "The Greatest." With its easily befuddled talking computer justice system, "Little Brother" is more Star Trek than high-tech cyberpunk. In more familiar territory for Mosley, PI Folio Johnson investigates a series of murders linked to Doctor Kismet in "The Electric Eye." Although packaged as SF, this book is likely to disappoint readers of that genre who've already seen Mosley's themes of racial and economic rebellion more convincingly handled by authors like Octavia Butler. Mystery fans, on the other hand, are far more likely to embrace this latest example of Mosley's SF vision, with its comfortably familiar noirish tone and characters, than they did Blue Light. (Nov. 12) Forecast: With a five-city author tour and national print advertising, both mainstream and genre, this title book should be slated for solid sales.Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly
Although Allen brings a distinctly human touch to a cold world of computers and corporations, his relaxed style seems ill suited for these nine interconnected stories set in the near future. The frenetic material should be bristling with tension, but here it comes off as leaden. Agreeing with the sci-fi theme, the recording makes use of some effects, like giving Allen's voice a distant, tinny sound for a radio advertisement or a stentorian echoing effect for a ringside announcer. But even more would have been appropriate, such as background noise or music woven into the segues to heighten drama. While distracting in some recordings, such effects seem to be missing here amid the high-tech hullabaloo, especially given Allen's deadpan delivery. The stories themselves are intriguing and notable within science fiction for their focus on marginalized and underprivileged characters. But Allen's approach is simply too languid for the subject matter, and the dialogue in particular comes off as stilted and awkward. Simultaneous release with the Warner hardcover (Forecasts, Sept. 10, 2001). (Nov. 28, 2001) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Mosley projects a depressing view of life around the middle of the 21st century: individual, racial, and sexual repression are the order of the day. The wealthy few have extraordinary power; computing and medicine have progressed but are harnessed to evil ends. For example, computers simulate the justice system for the poor, and there's a more potent substitute for tobacco. Richard Allen does an excellent job replicating various African American dialects and manages to inject a sense of excitement and anticipation into a work where the individual rarely triumphs over the system. For high school students and adults. James L. Dudley, Westhampton, NY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Nine linked stories that continue Mosley's foray into science fiction that began in Blue Light (1998). Mystery fans eager for another outing with Easy Rawlins or Socrates Fortlow can find a version of Mosley's brand of socially stigmatized, African-American crime-solver in New York private detective Folio Johnson, a former bodyguard who nearly died saving his employer, the megalomaniacal MacroSoft Corp. head Dr. Ivan Kismet (owner of the world's richest, biggest corporation and head of a new religion that posits that God can be reached directly through technology), and was thus blessed by Dr. Kismet with a mechanical eye that can scan DNA and a chunk of computerized circuitry in his brain that links him with the Internet and every communications system in the dark, gritty, overwired, debauched mid-21st century. "Electric Eye," the central story here, comes close to being a cyberpunk parody of the hard-boiled genre, in which its tired cliches-winning a fallen woman's love, waking up next to a freshly murdered corpse, etc.-are given a futuristic gloss. As cyberpunk godfather William Gibson did in Count Zero and Burning Chrome, Mosley uses stylish characters and technobabble to navigate an intricate, grimy, technologically baroque urban landscape where the struggles of exploited, marginalized, unusually gifted individuals, most of whom are racial, technological, or genetic hybrids like Folio, make significant-if occasionally unintended-changes in the repressive, vindictive, cruelly depersonalized world around them. A vivid, exciting and, on the whole, well-executed take on cyberpunk that measures up to the work done 15 years ago by the Gibson and Bruce Sterling-but will Mosley's mysteryfans go for them?
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446610735
  • Publisher: Hachette Book Group
  • Publication date: 11/28/2002
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 402
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Meet the Author

Walter Mosley is the critically aclaimed and bestselling author of the Easy Rawlins series.

Biography

When President Bill Clinton announced that Walter Mosley was one of his favorite writers, Black Betty (1994), Mosley's third detective novel featuring African American P.I. Easy Rawlins, soared up the bestseller lists. It's little wonder Clinton is a fan: Mosley's writing, an edgy, atmospheric blend of literary and pulp fiction, is like nobody else's. Some of his books are detective fiction, some are sci-fi, and all defy easy categorization.

Mosley was born in Los Angeles, traveled east to college, and found his way into writing fiction by way of working as a computer programmer, caterer, and potter. His first Easy Rawlins book, Gone Fishin' didn't find a publisher, but the next, Devil in a Blue Dress (1990) most certainly did -- and the world was introduced to a startlingly different P.I.

Part of the success of the Easy Rawlins series is Mosley's gift for character development. Easy, who stumbles into detective work after being laid off by the aircraft industry, ages in real time in the novels, marries, and experiences believable financial troubles and successes. In addition, Mosley's ability to evoke atmosphere -- the dangers and complexities of life in the toughest neighborhoods of Los Angeles -- truly shines. His treatment of historic detail (the Rawlins books take place in Los Angeles from the 1940s to the mid-1960s) is impeccable, his dialogue fine-tuned and dead-on.

In 2002, Mosley introduced a new series featuring Fearless Jones, an Army vet with a rigid moral compass, and his friend, a used-bookstore owner named Paris Minton. The series is set in the black neighborhoods of 1950s L.A. and captures the racial climate of the times. Mosley himself summed up the first book, 2002's Fearless Jones, as "comic noir with a fringe of social realism."

Despite the success of his bestselling crime series, Mosley is a writer who resolutely resists pigeonholing. He regularly pens literary fiction, short stories, essays, and sci-fi novels, and he has made bold forays into erotica, YA fiction, and political polemic. "I didn't start off being a mystery writer," he said in an interview with NPR. "There's many things that I am." Fans of this talented, genre-bending author could not agree more!

Good To Know

Mosley won a Grammy award in 2002 in the category of "Best Album Notes" for Richard Pryor.... And It's Deep, Too! The Complete Warner Bros. Recordings (1968-1992).

Mosley is an avid potter in his spare time.

In our 2004 interview, Mosley reveals:

"I was a computer programmer for 15 years before publishing my first book. I am an avid collector of comic books. And I believe that war is rarely the answer, especially not for its innocent victims."

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 12, 1952
    2. Place of Birth:
      Los Angeles, California
    1. Education:
      B.A., Johnson State College
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Whispers in the Dark

"Yeth he did too. Popo called me on the vid hithelf an' he wath on'y two year ole," Misty Bent said to her wide-eyed niece, Hazel Bernard. They were sitting out on the screened porch above the Tickle River. Misty's drooping left eyelid and gnarled, half-paralyzed hands did not mask her excitement. "You kiddin'?" Hazel exclaimed.

"Tole me hith mama wath thick on the flo', that he called the hothpital but he wanted me to know too." Misty shook her head,remembering Melba's death. "I beat the ambulanth but Death got there quicker thtill. Doctor Maynard called it a acthidental overdoth tho we could put her in the ground with a prietht and thome prayer beadth,but you know Melba had had all thee could take. You know it hurt me tho bad that the blood vethel broke in my head."

"Her life wasn't no harder than what we all have to go through," Hazel Bernard said. She shifted her girth looking for a comfortable perch in the cheap plastic chair,but there was none.

"But you cain't compare her an'uth, or you'n me for that matter. Ith all diff'rent."

"What's that crazy talk s 'posed to mean?" the big woman challenged. Hazel said she dropped by to see how Misty was coming along after the stroke but really she was there to see if Chill Bent, Misty's ex-convict son, had come back to live with her as she had heard.

"Ith juth what you thinkin'," Misty replied. "What you know 'bout what I'm thinkin'?" Hazel asked. She was thirty years younger than Misty, but she was also the eldest of thirteen. Hazel had been the ruler of the roost since the age of nine, and no old woman 's pretending was going to trick her.

"You thinkin 'that the tht'oke done methed wit' my mind, that I'm feeble in the head 'cuth my left thide ith parali'ed. You think I cain't take care'a Popo but you wrong."

"I do not think any such thing."

"Oh yeth you do too," Misty said.. "That'th why you heah. I know. And you wrong but you done anthered your own queth'ton in bein' wrong."

Hazel shifted again and grunted. This was a day taken away from her housework and her children.

She swallowed her anger and asked, "Are you tired,Auntie?"

Little Popo wandered onto the deck then. He was small for thirty months but his movements seemed more like those of an old man lost in memories than those of a child discovering the world.

"Hi, Popo," Hazel said. "Come here." "Huth," Misty hissed. "He thinkin'. He 'll talk when he want to."

"What? You don't call him to come sit on your lap?"

Popo went up to the edge of the deck and pressed his face against the loose screen.

"Don't fall, baby," Misty whispered.

The boy rocked back on his heels,his tiny black hands replacing his face upon the screen. He wore a white T-shirt and denim blue jeans with no shoes. His thick hair stood out long and wild but it wasn't matted.

"Rain's comin'," Popo said.

"That's right," Hazel said. "Weatherman said that a storm's gonna come outta the Gulf tonight. You're right, Aunt Misty. He is smart to hear that on ITV and remember it like that."

"No Internet in thith home," Misty proclaimed. "Not even no old TV or radio that work. Thill thay it would meth Popo up."

"Chill? No ITV?" Hazel didn't know which road to hell was worse. Both together tied her tongue.

"I smell it," Popo said,looking at the big visitor in the purple dress. "It smell like the knife an 'fo'k when they wet."

The boy climbed up onto Hazel's big thigh and sat like a tiny Buddha staring into her eyes. Beyond him Misty wheezed and doddered, grinning madly.

"He been readin 'though," Misty said. "Thometime he read in the paper an 'then he try an' fool uth,actin' like he got the thight."

"No uh-uh Gramma no. Not Popo. I smelt it. I did."

Hazel was a little disconcerted by the steady stare of the toddler. She was used to children his age having wandering, slightly amazed eyes. She shifted him to the crook of her left arm and bent over to snag the edge of the newspaper from the dinner tray between her and Misty. Popo giggled at the sudden movement. When Hazel sat back he hugged her big breast.

"Read to me from this," she commanded,handing him the Thaliaville Sparrow.

Popo took the paper from his aunt and looked at it as if it were some sort of foreign document that he had to study before he could even tell which way it was meant to be read.

"Hm," Hazel grunted. Misty grinned and drooled just a bit. Popo shifted the paper around and finally held it sideways.

"'Jacksonville, Mississippi,'" he said, pronouncing each syllable as if it were its own word, "'was rewarded yesterday by one of its native sons, Lyle Crandal. Today that son of a carpenter performed a miracle by breaking the four zero second bar-I-er on the four zero zero met-er at the two zero two four Oil-Im-pics.'"

"No," Hazel said on an intake of air. "Uh-huh," Popo squeaked indignantly. "This is amazin'," Hazel said to Misty.

"You thee," Misty replied. "You cain't compare yo'thelf to Melba'th mind or mine or hith. I got a blood clot and Melba had the blueth tho bad that thee couldn't breathe right half the time. Popo got thomethin' in hith head that thmell thunderthtormth an' read before he potty trained. Tho Melba could die if thee want to and that don't make her leth than you. Ith on'y God can make a judgment. On'y God can thave uth or no."

"On'y God," Popo said,staring deeply into Hazel's eyes. "You got to get him tested," Hazel said over the child's head. "You got to get him registered and trained by the Elite Education Group in Houston or San Francisco."

"No." At the sound of the masculine voice Popo's head jerked around.

"Chilly!" the boy shouted excitedly.

Popo jumped out of Hazel's lap, tumbled down her shins and hit the floor. His tiny lips trembled near tears from the fall but his eyes stayed focused on the powerful man in the denim overalls.

"Hey, baby boy," Chill said. He bent over and scooped Popo off the floor with one hand. In his other arm he cradled a colorful box and a big red book. "You got to stay up off' a the flo'. It's dirty down there."

"Sorry," the boy said as he snatched the book from the crook in his uncle's arm.

"My first shimistree set," the boy read out loud. "It's got all kinds'a experiments you could do with chemicals," Chill said. "They got ones for electricity and computers too."

Popo giggled and bounced on Chill's arm to indicate that he wanted to be put down. Chill leaned over again, allowing Popo to sit in an empty plastic chair. The clear-eyed child was already deep into the words of the book.

"What you mean no?" Hazel said.

"I mean we not sendin 'Popo away to some white man's idea of what smart and good is. All they do is wanna turn him against hisself. He's my nephew an 'he belongs with his family."

"But you can't help him, Chill," Hazel argued. "He needs computers and tests and teachers smart enough so he cain't fool 'em."

"He ain't gonna fool me," Chill said dismissively. The pale and jagged scar along his black jawline spoke of the violence and rage in the young man's life. "An' the books all say that he just needs to keep his mind busy learnin'. First books and things to keep his hands and mind busy, and then later he can be taught by teaching computers. That's what the experts say."

Chill put the bag down next to his nephew,who was already halfway through the children's chemistry primer.

"Look," Hazel said,pointing. "He almost finished with that book already."

"Naw. He just read the words. He have to go through it five or six times 'fore he be through with it. It'a be more than a week 'fore he gets through all those experiments."

"And you gonna buy him a chemistry set or whatever every week? Where you gonna get money like that? Do you even have a job?"

"I'm workin 'for the catfish farms and doin 'some work around here and there."

"That's gonna pay for a boy like Popo's education?" "I got other plans." "Like the plans put you on Angola Farm?" "Prison," Popo said even as he turned a page.

Chill stared at Hazel. He clenched his fists hard enough to make his sinewy forearms tremble.

"Thtop!" Misty Bent commanded.

Popo sat up in his Buddha position and Hazel flinched.

Misty had pulled herself to her feet by holding on to her plastic walker.

"Aunt Misty, sit down," Hazel said.

"You go," the elder woman replied. "You go and don't meth with uth. Thilly want to do right. Popo jutht lotht hith mama an' he never knew hith daddy. That Johnny Delight wath juth a hit'n run with hith mama. We ain't thendin' him nowhere."

Copyright (c) 2001 Walter Mosley

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2002

    Excellent Book! Walter Mosley Rocks!

    I love this book! I just happened to see this book in a local library, and I thought it was written by a white guy. I was pleasantly surprised. It was written by an excellent black author. There aren't many of my people writing science fiction. I think that is sad. It is hard enough writing any genre of fiction, but sci-fi has a steep curve that has to be maintained. Walter Mosely's efforts should be applauded.

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