I don’t care what you think. No matter how increasingly bizarre the world gets, we’re always in need of another dystopian series. And as lockdown eases and shops begin to reopen in the UK, I think I’ve found the novel that might make you think twice about joining the queue for Primark.
In Jeffery Zavadil’s debut novel, Mallworld Incorporated, the planet isn’t doing too well. In fact, it’s so bad that society has had to be sealed inside a huge shopping mall. As a result, its inhabitants are overworked and consumed by consumption in a sort of totalitarian, Westfield-esque nightmare (not that malls aren’t nightmarish enough to begin with).
When Jime Galilei witnesses a death in Mallworld’s violent arena games, he decides to escape the Mall to rediscover the humanity within human nature. He begins a political movement called ReBound as a way of rising up from capitalism’s dark age by promoting democratic socialism, communitarianism and environmentalism.
But can capitalism ever be broken down and replaced in a world built on it? And can a state of true democracy, individuality and freedom ever be reached when these very concepts are exploited by those in power?
Plus, keep an eye out for an excerpt of Mallworld, Inc: Bound Together, the second novel in the series, coming to Dystopic very soon…
Only scrubgrass and dust lay before him, and the colossal Mall loomed behind him. Scrubgrass and dust as far as the eye could see, although even runty little tufts of grass wouldn’t grow in the lakebed. Lake Michigan had been poisoned by pollutants before drying up, he knew, and you couldn’t get anything to grow there now, not even weeds. Not that much would grow anywhere Outside anymore.
Which is why I’m stuck in this moonscape, Jime thought as he turned back toward the algae paddy that he ran. If we had real farms like the ancients maybe I wouldn’t be managing this shit-plantation.
I should’ve just bought up to my minimum Shopping Quota last year like everyone else, he thought. Still, it wasn’t fair. Mall Management shouldn’t have assigned me to months of algaecultural purgatory outside the walls of Mallworld, with no spectas, no restaurants, no stores—nothing but algae farms and assembly plants. And scrubgrass and dust. Jime resented it. He had been such a star in business school that everyone called him “Prime Time Jime”—but his career had fizzled as he drifted between mid-level Manger jobs, and look where he was now. At least his Time Out was finally nearing its end and he would be back Inside soon. He couldn’t wait to buy himself something nice.
Jime walked back to the dark red algae paddy, which lay in the shadow of the immense Mall, breathing hard at the effort it took to haul himself across just a few hundred yards. He hadn’t lost any weight during his reassignment, despite seven months of deprivation; his brown, baggy, off-the-rack suit could only do so much to hide his girth. He shambled past the company jetcopter he was learning to fly as part of his supervisory duties. Looking toward the algae pools, he barely noticed the bent-backed workeys who were laboring to stir the blood-colored slime. Jime turned and eyed the long line of the Mallwall, really the many walls of the Mall’s millions of interconnected buildings, which stretched so far it vanished into the horizon. He spotted a mange-rat scurrying along the wall’s base, dodging in and out of various pipes and mechanisms. Manges were a kind of rodent that survived off the trash and scrub Outside, and here on the edge of civilization they were everywhere. A few weeks back the workeys had been abuzz because one of them had gotten locked out of the dorms overnight and was eaten by manges. The dumbass should’ve made it back in before they locked up for the night, Jime thought; what do you expect rats to eat anyway, since there’s practically nothing outdoors but you? He felt that workeys were dumb and filthy and smelly, and mostly just lazy. If they would only move their asses and do some real work then they could be Managers too, instead of breaking their backs stirring the red goo. The mange-rat scampered toward him along the wall.
As Jime lumbered back toward his office at the base of the Mallwall, he took in the immense enclosure looming above him and stretching as far as he could see in both directions. The ancients would be proud of the people today and the gargantuan Mall they had built. Mallworld extended from here, the Northgate section of the Milwaukee Annex, down through the Chicago–Gary Rotary where Mall Central was, and across the Ohiodomes to Penn Pastures. It thus encompassed the Southern Great Lakes Corporate Regional Zone—although with the lakes sucked dry, Jime didn’t know why it was still called that. Over seven billion shoppers lived and worked in the belly of the Mall, with its stores and kiosks and waterparks and office towers, all covered by roofs and domes of concrete or algaeplastic, all perfectly climate controlled, and filled with pleasant music, pleasant scents, and pleasant shoppers—everywhere. I should be Inside, Jime thought, not out here with the wretched workeys. He looked down and saw the mange disappear into a dark hole in the wall, presumably to fatten itself and then shelter in some dreary nest it had found Inside.
Inside: where Jime could go shopping to buy new food and clothes and plastiplants and hologames, and be part of the latest thing again. He missed strutting the mallways—the corridors and walkways of the Mall—with their colorful sim-skies and constant buzz of human commotion. He loved how different sections were set up to imitate different places: ancient streets, foreign cities, tropical islands. Shopping and entertainment had been stolen from him during his Time Out, and all he could think of right now were the fantastic pork ribs in New Tropicana. When he got back Inside in two weeks, those ribs would be one of the first things he’d buy.
He looked back toward the cracked and dusty lakebed.
You can’t make dinner out of scrubgrass and dust, he thought.
About the Author
Jeffery Zavadil is an author and political theorist interested in democratic socialism, classical republicanism, environmentalism, liberalism, and communitarianism. He lives and works in Washington, D.C., where he has done policy work on democracy and human rights as well as analysis of global political extremism. He has taught college courses on ideologies, democratic theory, and political metaphor. He is an activist with progressive political groups and helps organize the best philosophy book club in D.C. He lives with his long-term girlfriend and their cat, and when not reading, writing, or discussing philosophy and politics, he enjoys jazz, modern art, and modern architecture, and travels when he can. This is his first book.