Reviewer: Jake Beal

Author: Collin Piprell

Published: 2009

Reviewed: 2009-08-10

Publisher: CreateSpace

"MOM", "MOM", "MOM"... what to make of this strange book? Well, first
things first, let's note that despite being published by a vanity
press, it's actually fairly good. I'm really not sure why Mr. Piprell
has had to go with CreateSpace rather than getting picked up by some
bigger and better press. He's also got a nice turn of prose,
reminding me strangely enough of the late and great Hunter
S. Thompson. This comes through especially well in the portions of
the book told from the perspective of Leary, a very old man who's
never quite left his 1960s roots behind him, as he dictates the
observations of the last truly literate man on Earth, for nobody in
particular to read.

Superficially, the book is fairly straightforward: in the wake of a
nanotech catastrophe, humanity has retreated into sealed environments
known as "Malls," only as time goes by there are less and less people
left, and by the time our story opens, there are only apparently a
handful, swaddled by an all-protective AI known as "MOM" and
frittering away their time playing God in virtual worlds. Except, of
course, that things are slowly falling apart, and not all is as it

After noodling around in a pleasant slow reveal, the book plunges down
the rat-hole of quest and a battle of wills for the final fate of the
world. Portions come straight from the hero's journey, particularly
where the evolution of Cisco is concerned, and yet... and yet... I
feel it all could have been done much better. Around halfway through,
the book feels to me like it gets stuck in a loop, and though I enjoy
a BOFH as much as the next programmer, it felt like things just
stagnated for a while. The first chapters grabbed me and dragged me
forward. Then things got somewhat trite, then bogged down, and
finally ended in a reasonable but hackneyed conclusion. At least the
philosophical baggage that accompanies novels heavy in virtual worlds
was treated well and with an appropriate level of humor.

Did I like it? Yes, I suppose I did. From the author's obvious love
of Bangkok to the depredations of Brian the Evil Canadian to the
nattering vacuity of the Mallsters left alive, I did enjoy this novel.
But I think it could have been better, much better, mostly through
tightening things up, and getting better control of the relationship
between the parts of the novel so it holds more together as a unified
whole and less a collection of individually interesting parts. Not
bad though, and I'd recommend it as reading to anybody who'd enjoy a
rambling journey through the chat-room interactions of the Mallsters
at the end of the world.