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Pattie Palmer-Baker

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MALL, an engrossing dystopian tale with well-rounded lead characters! - Kirkus Review

Mall by Pattie Palmer-Baker, "a fascinating science-fiction novel about brilliant technology, strange societal norms, and what it means to be human.
Pattie was the recipient of the 2017 Del Sol Prize for Most Promising First Novel. Contest judge, Hallie Ephron, one of the most bestselling mystery authors, said, “It was the most original idea and kudos to the author for managing those dueling viewpoints. We can all relate to going to mall we've never been to and getting swept up in the flow... and then, where IS the exit?"! - Del Sol Press

Pattie Palmer-Baker has been deeply interested in close relationships all her life. As a counselor for twenty-five years, she has seen first hand that although relationships can be rewarding, how difficult they can be, how much suffering they can cause. For many years she explored the questions: are close friends and lovers worth the suffering? Or are appearance, pleasure and success more satisfying goals? More straightforward? The rules easier to follow? What if people lived in a society where these goals were not only easily attainable, but all the messiness of intimate friendships was eliminated? What if nonaddictive drugs could eliminate unpleasant, in fact any deep emotion, and violence was almost unheard of? What if employment was guaranteed, although your occupation was decided for you? What if the birth rate could be kept stable, although through controlled parental selection? To this end, she wrote the dystopian novel Mall.

Wait! How can this novel be labeled Dystopian when it’s set in a world filled with pleasure – a place with no unemployment and little or no suffering? Drugs are nonaddictive, entertainment endless. Almost everyone has a beautiful face, a beautiful body, and gorgeous clothes. The society is far from dark nightmarish society characteristic of a dystopia; however, there are ways to oppress a society that don’t involve poverty and squalor. In fact, most Mallites don’t feel oppressed at all. Yet there are a few dissatisfied with this sparkling, fairy-tale world, like the Junkers, a secret group plotting rebellion. Why, when this seems to be a wonderland for all? Consider these facts: Mallites cannot choose or change their professions nor can they marry or live with someone. Any form of love is forbidden. But aren't these necessary to happiness? Not so, according to Mall Fathers who devised the Code forbidding anything that would evoke strong or deep feelings; the roots, they believed of all suffering. What if any of these strictures bother a Mallite? Not to worry, he/she can "admin" (administer) any number of non-addictive" pharms" (pharmaceuticals). Or have sex, or participate in a virtual reality adventure or attend a lavish party and so on. Myriad distractions abound.

But not enough to divert the Junkers, a secret rebel group chafing under the rigid control of the Code who are causing increasingly dangerous "disturbances". They want more control or to get Outside, IF a world outside of Mall exists . And not enough for Nona, the most successful Mental Health Practitioner in Mall. To combat her growing sense of emptiness, she has been "adminning" stronger pharms on a regular basis. And then the hysterical Sara, a woman from our world who has somehow entered Mall, is assigned to Nona for treatment. As time goes on, each of them is changed in ways neither could have foretold. Nona will risk her livelihood, her status, even her freedom to help Sara. Sara will desperately try to find the portal out of this supposedly closed system but, as she gets some of her deeply desired wishes fulfilled such as beauty, clothes, male attention, and fulfilling employment, she find sherself increasingly tempted to stay put in this hedonistic society.

Both Sara and Nona come up against the Mall's rigid Code and both break a law. They are headed for trouble. What should they do? Is there an escape? Many of the Junkers believe so. For years they have struggled to discover an exit, based on rumors of those who made it Outside and were never heard from again. Through the Junkers, Sara and Nona meet Paul, someone who might help them escape. As a Junker-caused riot occurs, two of these three character will make an escape attempt. Which two? And why?

MALL Cover
SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY

MALL

BY Pattie Palmer-Baker • POSTED ON May 15, 2019

In Palmer-Baker’s debut fantasy, an elementary school teacher stumbles into an apparent other world rife with pleasures—but it’s a realm some people are trying to escape.

Sara is at a typical shopping mall with her generally indifferent husband, Carl. When Carl brazenly flirts with a female clerk, Sara, desperate to get away from him, leaves through an unmarked door. Though she still seems to be in a mall, she eventually learns it’s simply Mall, which is another world entirely. After Mall guards detain Sara for “amoking”—their variation on running amok—she gets an assigned “Mental Health Practitioner” in Nona. The MHP is shocked that Sara claims ignorance of Mall’s various regulations, such as administering drugs to neutralize negative feelings. Fascinated by the woman from Outside, Nona helps her avoid unwanted attention by securing for her an ID, customary flashy Mall attire, and employment. Sara, looking for a way home, zeroes in on Junkers, a group of people anonymously wreaking havoc, whose apparent goal is making it Outside. But with a loveless marriage awaiting, Sara may prefer staying right where she is. Nona, meanwhile, starts questioning some of what Mall’s Code forbids, like sex with certain people. There’s a discernible parallelism between Sara and Nona. While Nona ultimately sees Mall’s shortcomings, Sara sees its appeal, including that of a potential partner in lieu of Carl, who actively avoids sex with her. Despite abundant discussions on sex, both hypothetical and realized, there are no erotic scenes. Rather, Palmer-Baker showcases characters’ frosty attitude toward sex, one that Sara discovers has little to do with love. The frequent use of dialogue unfortunately comes at the expense of the particulars of the environment, like creepy “moving mannequins” that the narrative mentions only sporadically. Nevertheless, the author amps up the story with notable threats against Sara and Nona; if either has ties to Junkers, they could face Judgment (with a prisonlike sentence) or Mem-wipe, in which they’d lose some or all memories. 

A sparsely detailed but engrossing dystopian tale with well-rounded lead characters.

Pub Date: May 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9998425-5-3

Page count: 282pp

Publisher: Del Sol Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2020

Awards, Press & Interests

Hometown

Portland, Oregon

Favorite book

Southernmost by Silas House

Unexpected skill or talent

Calligraphy, Paste paper artist

Passion in life

writing, artwork

MALL: Del Sol Most Promising First Novel, 2017

Kirkus Interview with Pattie Palmer-Baker, 2020 Official Review on Online Book club, 2020 Review by Snowbear online book club, 2020