Seven tenuously linked short stories set in a futuristic society in which advanced technology perpetuates illusions of physical beauty and youth.
Rose offers short sci-fi narratives of various lengths centered on the “constructed universe” of BeautyWorld—a future Earth in which science and vanity intersect to cater to ideas of physical perfection. It goes beyond mere cosmetics and plastic surgery: people wear high-tech bodysuits that synchronize with neural implants so that everyone sees everyone else at their most alluring—as long as the hardware and software function. One ironic exception to the artifice is the fact that supermodels are expected to be as naturally flawless as possible; they’re consequently used up and discarded by their early 20s. The story “Supernova” concerns one such fashion tragedy, 20-year-old Mink, who manages to turn her descent into pill-popping and catty photo-shoot feuds into something more lasting due to the intercession of a macabre designer called “Skull.” “Clover Fields Forever” traces the downward spiral of Clover, 29, a vapid fashion-industry hanger-on whose selfish spending and careless job performance lead inexorably to her downfall—hardly atypical in a money-and-looks-are-everything culture. Some of these tales offer old news about beauty being only skin-deep. However, Rose still wrings a surprising amount of drama from what threatens to be a one-gimmick premise. For example, “Death Mask” tells the story of 90-year-old Beetle, a mortician with the delicate task of handling the dead in a society that desperately shies away from death; he finds new purpose when he meets the lonely daughter of a late fashion photographer. Overall, Rose delivers some unexpectedly profound character evolutions. Genre fans may be intrigued, or perhaps disappointed, that despite all the talk of pheromones, voluptuousness, and desire, the stories’ references to sex remain coy, barely reaching PG-13 levels.
An engaging sci-fi dystopia of the drop-dead gorgeous.