Narcotic flowers keep the masses placated in a decaying, dystopian, extraterrestrial colony in this ambitious but marginal sci-fi fantasy.
Debut novelist von Schlegell concocts a post-Earth benevolent dictatorship where, centuries after the home planet is rendered inhabitable, the population gathers en masse daily for “Feed.” Writes von Schlegell: “Like a castaway’s calendar carved in a piece of driftwood, Feed was a communal marking away of days.” Then a junk purveyor named Rogers Collectibles comes across a book of the colony’s secret early history, a time when humans did more than count the seconds until extinction. Soon Collectibles and his sort-of psychiatrist Sylvia Yang are skipping Feed and seeing their world as it really is. The expected run-in with authority ensues, involving a dwarf named Niftus Norrington, journalist Martha, funny-talking lizards and sentient (and sexy) plants. Von Schlegell’s kitchen-sink approach evokes the works of Neal Stephenson, Williams Burroughs and William Gibson—and, alas, much that feels snatched from a slush pile. The author has a knack for seeing profundity in the thunderously meaningless (“Homo Sapiens sees its real in the emptiness that its ‘real’ implies”). Disorientation may well be his aim, but it does not make for a satisfying narrative, as fidelity to storytelling gets lost in the muddle.
A shaky start to an already threatened series that can only improve.