|The cover mine came with (except slightly tinted)|
What is it about? In the future, humans inhabit three planets (dubbed "Megamalls"): MegaMallopolisticks / Sticks, MegaMallopolisuika / Big Melon and MegaMallopolisine / Nile. The plot revolves around Kemmy, who just moved from the Sticks to the Big Melon. She is part of the Karma Club, a team of teenage secret agents who fight crime with laser-shooting musical instruments while using the cover of a sushi delivery service. After years of peace, MegaMallopolisuika experiences a rash of violent crimes and appearances of a mysterious green goo.
Let's talk about the setting details first. The world building is done poorly. Many elements are put together haphazardly with no thought to how they fit together.
The MegaMalls are given hard to remember names forcing me to memorize their nicknames and not their real names. In science fiction, there is a trope called the "Planets of Hats", where a planet / alien race is defined by one quirk. The writer has to resort to this despite there only being three planets: Sticks is the rural planet, Big Melon is the city planet and Nile is the retirement home planet. The Nile is mentioned to be a desert planet. Why the heck would you send all your old people to a desert? That seems horrible. In fact, it sounds like a dark joke. However, I can assure you that the story isn't treating it as such. The book mentions a fourth planet: Phatlantis. It is only mentioned once in Chapter 3. According to the book, it is a "lost MegaMall" that existed before Armageddon and is the origin of circle / eclipse symbolism used by the Off-Center Intelligence Agency (the organization that the Karma Club works for), whose name is implied to have originated there. How do you lose a planet?! The book mentions France, America, Asia and Latin America at various points. Where is this story occurring in relation to modern day Earth? This is never explained. Also, there is no explanation for the term "MegaMall".
In chapter 4, we are introduced to the Stare Masters. The Stare Masters are "bald-headed, gypsy-looking, ... overweight old" men that are descended from Monk E, the founder of the MegaMalls. They have the ability to teleport people from MegaMall to MegaMall and are the only way to get from planet to planet. This is constantly described as being done "holographically" despite holographs not being used. This power seems to be magical in nature despite the fact everything else is science fiction in this setting. It is stated that Stare Masters were "trained in the art of molding Karma". What the heck does that mean? Karma is the currency people get for doing good deeds. How do you mold that? It is also mentioned the Stare Masters don't speak (presumably due to a vow of silence). However, they are shown to work at basically amounts to an airport. Wouldn't not speaking greatly complicate working there? It is mentioned travelling from MegaMall to MegaMall is unusual. If that is the case, where do the Sticks and Nile get their food? Cities and deserts (Big Melon and Nile) are usually terrible places to grow food. Generally, you grow food in the country (Sticks).
Speaking of the Stare Masters, let's discuss Monk E. According to Shay, he and his disciples founded the good deed-based economy. First off, he has nothing to do with monkeys. So, why is he called that? Secondly, the E stands for "Enlightenment". Why is he called "Monk Enlightenment" and not his actual name? We don't call George Washington "President Law" or Lewis Carroll "Deacon Humor". Is "Enlightenment" his legal last name? If so, what kind of surname is that? Lastly, a monk is a person that practices a religion usually living in a community of other monks. Despite this, Monk E's religion is never mentioned.
You may have been wondering about the purple plushy. That's not a plushy. It's a Zoo-Pet. What are Zoo-Pets? According to glossary of terms invented for the story (which by the way is incomplete), they are "cloned zoo animals that have been miniaturized and domesticated as pets" and that "can communicate in Zoo-Pet speak". However, the cover shows Quo Quo, the token Zoo-Pet in the story, with hands. The story seems to imply this since he can use a computer. That brings me to another point. Quo Quo is purple and seems to have human-level intelligence, which no one comments on. Are the Zoo-Pets genetically altered? If these animals have intelligence comparable to humans, isn't treating them as animals unfair? What is wrong with having a normal cat or dog as a pet? The story claims Zoo-Pets communicate via Zoo-Pet speak. However, Quo Quo constantly speaks English. It also mentioned that apparently it is unusual for humans to understand ZP speak. Why would you teach your intelligent pets to speak in a language you can't speak?
The law is enforced by the Copiers of Peaceful Yin and Yang. Even ignoring how bad the backronym is, why not just call them police? The Off-Center Intelligence Agency seems to act similar to the FBI not the CIA. For those unaware, the FBI deal with affairs inside America while the CIA deal with affairs outside of America. The agents of the Off-Center Intelligence Agency use instruments that can shoot lasers or create constructs based on how good the music made with is. Why?! Why would anyone build weapons like this? Why not make laser guns that you just need to a pull a trigger for?
Armageddon is constantly mentioned throughout the book. It is implied in chapter 4 that Armageddon led to the creation of the Karma system and had something to do with the old system of money. Nothing else is explained it about despite the fact it is constantly referenced throughout the book.
Finally, lets talk about the karma monetary system. The basic idea is that doing good deeds can earn you money, while doing bad deeds can remove them. People are given debit cards that keep track of a person's amount of karma. So basically, people have no privacy since they are constantly being monitored by their cards. As I asked in the original post, who gets to decide what counts as "good"? Cultural values and differing opinions can shape a person's perception of good and evil. For example, Americans are okay with wearing shoes in the house while the Japanese find it rude. Are the Stare Masters in charge and that how's they are "molding Karma"? If that's the case, they could easily become a priest class and make themselves rich while screwing over the masses. Again from my original post, where is the money coming from? This is never explained despite the monetary system being crucial to the setting. Kemmy talks about how horrible it would be if you could earn cash without doing good deeds. However, this misses one flaw with the Karma system. This is the exact same system as the current American capitalistic system except you can earn money by being good. A major plot point is the shoe company B-Rok, which is a privately owned entity. This means you can sell goods to earn karma thus meaning you can earn money in other ways aside from being good. The book claims there hasn't a crime in years because of the rewards for being good. What about people who don't care about money (like Lee Harvey Oswald) or are crazy (like John Hinckley Junior)?
Plot and Characters
The plot is not much better. I managed to figure out the goo was causing the people to become evil since it appears at every crime scene. The heroes don't figure this out until towards the end of the book. Instead, they decided to deal with it because its acidic.
The main characters are unmemorable. The sole exception is Phoebe. She is notable because she is annoying. Nearly everything she says is her insulting the other characters either directly or indirectly.
The villains are terrible. They want to destroy the good-deed economy. Why? I have no idea. Tunnel just seems to be evil because the plot says so. They don't need complex motivations. It can be something simple like they think the old system was better or they are misanthropes that want to spite society. Ann Noy's only character trait is that he mixes up words. I have no idea if this is supposed to a speech impediment or not because of how inconstantly it's portrayed. The leader of the villains, Dawn Queen, is barely in the book and doesn't do anything important for the plot.
The evil plan makes no sense. Tunnel, the villains, discovered the goo B-ROK uses to make their Jolted Jades shoes make people evil. This occurs if they touch the goo directly or if they wear the shoes although the latter does it slower. Somehow turning people evil via the goo earns you money due to a legal loophole that is never explained. The villains take over a B-ROK factory to produce the goo and then splatter it across the city in order to turn people evil. This plan is moronic since it would obliviously attract the attention of the police. Instead, Tunnel could use the goo to earn tons of money then use the money to buy B-ROK and keep on producing the shoes.
I wanted to talk more about this book. However, I found this covered basically all the major problems in the book. So, I'll just end this by saying this this is a mediocre book.