by Michael Amos
Samhain Publishing, 220 pp.
Michael Amos’ Homeland ranks as one of the more interesting small-press offerings I’ve read so far this year. It’s a fun story that cleverly blends satire and science fiction adventure with a dry, witty British sensibility.
The story takes place in a massive, enclosed shopping mall somewhere in Iowa. Homeland is the paranoid (and possibly malfunctioning) AI computer system that’s responsible for monitoring mall security. When Security Officer Tracy Higgs wakes up in the medical center with no recent memories he has the following clues to work with: He has absolutely no memory of the mall, terrorist activity is at an all-time high, the mall is suffering from frequent brownouts that can’t be discussed (voicing distrust in Homeland is equal to terrorist activity), and nobody ever leaves the mall. Higgs ends up walking a tightrope—investigating Homeland while not raising her suspicions and having him executed as a terrorist.
The mall and Homeland embody a very British satirical view of America’s Patriot Act-era when security seemed to be more important than individual rights. I only wish that this viewpoint had been presented with a touch more humor (sorry, humour). Perhaps a little more Douglas Adams and a bit less Phillip K. Dick would have helped. Conversely, although more British humor would have helped, less British dialogue was also needed. Supposedly American characters using very English slang (“bloody,” “knackered,” “wanker”) disrupted my sense of belief in a couple of spots. But that’s just me picking nits.
There are a couple of intriguing twists near the end of the story that played out a lot better than I expected them to. In fact, I would like to see the author expand on some of those concepts in future novels.