* Dystopian *
Author: Pattie Palmer-Baker
Publisher: Del Sol Press
MALL is a sparkling alternate world where everyone is beautiful,
employed with enough income to consume and to experience a myriad of
pleasures including drugs, gambling, theater, holographic adventures. No
poverty and little or no crime. A lot of sex.
But what about the Mall Code? And what happens when Sara, a 21st
century woman, accidentally finds her way into this alien yet familiar
world? Nona, a MALL mental health practitioner treats Sara upon her
arrival and goes against the Code to help her acclimate. Sara seems to
be just what she needs, an antidote to Nona’s secret and growing
At first Sara desperately wants to get home, and, as she seeks a way
out as well as answers about her new reality, Nona begins to see MALL in
a new light. Is abundant gratification enough?
Things aren’t all beauty and pleasure. Sara experiences dancing in a
dangerous orgiastic dance club on a lower level. She attends a gambling
session where people bet on living more years when their “number’s up”
and a “passing ceremony,” where Mallites are supposedly resurrected into a new life.
Junkers, outsiders lurking on the fringes of MALL, have been fighting
Mall Management’s control by creating increasingly dangerous
disturbances. For years they have struggled to discover an exit, based
on rumors of those who made it Outside and were never heard from again.
Through them Sara and Nona meet someone who might help them escape. They
both must make the choice that will change their lives forever.
Who will risk leaving and who will decide to stay?
MALL by Pattie Palmer-Baker was recently published by Del Sol Press and winner of the Del Sol Press Most Promising Book, 2017.
Mall, a Novel in Search for an Author
The last thing I wanted to do was write a novel.
I love reading works about alternative worlds. I imagine realities where animals can talk or people can read minds or aging happens in reverse – things like that. Then one day, about twenty years ago when malls were still thriving, I wondered what would it be like if everyone lived in malls. (I loved shopping). Would people live in apartments scattered among the shops? Or on separate floors? What would they do all day? How would they be employed? I imagined all kinds of things which dissolved in my unorganized brain, so I began to write my ideas. A novel started to form, one that I would abandon to work on my artwork or poetry, sometimes for years, and then come back to it. Writing seemed to be the only way I could keep track and expand this concept.
As time went on, I cast aside the idea of numerous malls in favor of one giant Mall, a closed system in response to a cataclysmic event. Because our malls were the foundation of Mall, the goals of shoppers in our time became the goals of the residents, called Mallites, such as the desire to be beautiful with gorgeous clothes. No problem. In Mall, almost everyone is gorgeous with attire beyond your dreams. Not enough to do? Not so in Mall, a place with a myriad of amusements including nonaddictive drugs, a lot of sex and all kinds of virtual reality entertainment. What about not being able to afford what’s for sale? No need to worry. Poverty doesn’t exist, nor does unemployment so everyone can purchase what they want. In fact, the Mall Code demands everyone must consume heavily.
Mall is a world where the purpose of life is to pursue pleasure. No suffering. How could that be achieved? How would they eliminate emotional pain? In the early days of Mall, the Mall Fathers decided that the root of all psychic pain was close relationships. When devising the Mall Code, they forbade intimacy and created countless kinds of amusement. Pleasure, they believed would be enough, along with long lives (for some), and no poverty or crime.
While I was creating this alternative world, something else bubbled to the surface. Where did this idea of no deep attachments come from? Actually, not really surprising considering that for twenty-five years, I worked as a counselor and had seen firsthand how much people suffer over failed or conflicted relationships.
But what would a world be like where deep friendships and romantic love were forbidden? Would guaranteed employment and endless pleasure be enough? Maybe not for everyone. Nona, a Mental Health Practitioner secretly feels empty and bored. Then Sara, a woman from our world somehow enters Mall. Not surprisingly, she freaks out. When Mall Guards witness her uncontrollable actions, they bring her to Nona. Sara’s outlandish beliefs and emotional outbursts electrify Nona. As time goes on, Nona learns about feelings, about friendship, about taking risks. On the other hand, Sara, who suffers from a troubled marriage and a difficult childhood, finds the lifestyle tempting. Not at first, but over time her commitment to return home weakens. She is overjoyed when Mall plastic surgeons make her beautiful. Without any pain! What else? Fun, adventure, an amusing job and handsome men everywhere.
The more Nona does to help Sara pass as a Mallite, the more danger they encounter. Like involvement with the shadowy rebel group, the Junkers.
Junkers want to be free of Mall Management’s control, and many of them want out. Impossible in this closed world? Maybe not. Could they help Sara find her way home? Does she even want to? How about Nona disillusioned by her once flat and boring existence and in trouble with the authorities?
Would you want to go home? Or would you want to stay in this supposed Shangri la?
What a suspenseful journey Mall was—a real “page-turner”-
imaginative with firm command of psychological expression and dialogue!
Pattie Palmer-Baker captures some of the sexual contradictions,
insecurities, and darker motivations of her female characters, and the
complex relationships between women. The “surface” allusions to sex and
violence throughout the story line work well with the superficial world
she describes. Sex all the time—and yet, really, not much explicit
writing about actual sexual encounters—the same for violence. This
tension of content and form works well for me. What gives pleasure? What
gives pain? The many hallways and mirrored rooms give the setting a
creepy fun-house effect and increase the sense of a closed world and
claustrophobic doom. Her descriptions of the Mallites’ physical
appearances and their individual choice of costume in this strange place
is creative—a breath of lightness in this frank examination of our
quandary about the meaning of freedom in an existential existence. What is real? I was “on the run” with Sara for the entire read! And what a turn at the end!
— Cathy Cain, Portland poet and artist
Her artwork has been exhibited in galleries throughout the Pacific
Northwest. Locally and nationally she has won numerous awards for her
art and poetry.
An accomplished poet, Pattie had been nominated for the Pushcart
Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in many journals including Calyx,
Voicecatcher, Military Experience the Arts, Minerva Rising and Phantom
Drift. In 2017 she earned first prize in the Write to Publish contest,
and in 2019 she won first, second, and the Bivona prize in the Ageless
Poetry contest. She has served as the poetry co-editor for VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices and visions.
Del Sol Press awarded MALL first prize for the most promising first novel in 2017.
Pattie lives in Portland, Oregon with her beloved husband and rescued dachshund.
Her website is www.pattiepalmerbaker.com/.
You can follow her at Facebook at https://tinyurl.com/yykrz36e.