Nelson’s (Target Audience, 2013) dark satire takes readers into the world of the Wrongboys, a confederation of freethinkers who rebel against a dystopia in which reality is embellished and controlled by computer applications plugged into one’s brain.
Busted for his addiction to black market “think-apps,” disgraced investigator Parish Jeppa is given a chance to regain his job and his beloved apps; but first he must infiltrate the mysterious and flamboyant Wrongboys, those “arrogant, zipster Luddites,” according to Lt. Duglass Deen. The Wrongboys’ outrageous dress resembles something like Kesey’s Merry Pranksters, and while they might be considered innocuous, self-indulgent hedonists, the authorities think otherwise. Commentary on today’s device-addicted culture abounds when, deprived of his dictionary think-app, Jeppa can’t figure out what a Luddite is. One can’t blame him for his addiction; think-apps enable users to experience nearly any emotion or sensation and to enter virtual worlds. Unfortunately, Jeppa never describes any place of interest to which think-apps have taken him, nor is reality portrayed as something so insipid that it needs spicing up. Yet, without think-apps at his disposal, Jeppa feels he’s “thinking into a void,” and as he goes through withdrawal, he sees the world as a “giant, elaborate toy with no batteries.” Since the Wrongboys eschew their MindPlant and communicate offline, Jeppa must go analog and do some old-school gumshoeing. He dons a lion tamer’s outfit, bones up on their “dippy lingo,” and pounds the pavement until he’s accepted and admitted to the inner circle. Once Jeppa gets a taste of Wrongboy culture and the people who inhabit it, it’ll take no enhanced vision to see that Jeppa discovers that unadorned reality might be more stimulating than he imagined. Confident and well-plotted, this brief story could have benefited from added plot and character development, and readers will be ready and waiting for more from Nelson.
Intriguing and with plenty of room to grow.