In a world where no one ever dies, what gives life purpose? In the Maze Game, Diana Slattery has created an amazing work of science fiction that probes certain questions of the future in a way that is unfamiliar, disturbing, beautiful and cruelly savage. Think “All that Jazz” meets “Tron” with Captain Jack Barishnokov and the X-Men thrown in, and reality has become “The Matrix” with a prime time Olympics show that shares the audience of “Ender’s Game.” Sounds complex, but it sure was a page turner. Very satisfying read for the most part.
In the Maze Game, we flash forward on Earth to a time when the I-Virus has infected everyone, and only a select few will die. Humanity has survived the “Hunger Wars” by the fluke of an artificial intelligence entity, OTB, who was awakened by a hacker. Growing intelligent far beyond the humble origin as a gambling media network, the A.I. mastered the ability to teleport matter from remote locations instantly. Originally asteroids and planets were mined for resources and food, but now all things travel everywhere to everywhere on request, at the logical whim of the AI. Everything is “Viewed” by OTB, and all people “View” anything using their personal Score Board to watch or join in. As a perfectly transparent immortal culture, they have perfected every form of perversity. Wealth and privilege is earned from the Game, and all live by the economy derived from viewing and betting on the players in the Maze Game.
All needs are provided by the omnipresent computer personality, O T B, ostensibly a female entity, faithfully fulfilling her contracts with various facilitators and players in the Game while learning to discern ambiguity and contradiction within truth.
Except for a small cult of born humans, the very few mortals in the world are clones produced by “cooks” to be mutant experiments and slaves. In the distopian world of the genetically engineered, Glides, Chromes, Swashes and Bods are the uber popstars of the Maze Game world, bred and trained for their entire young mortal lives to be “Death Dancers.” It is the dance of death that gives all their sense of purpose, without which they die of boredom, and end up in mental hospitals watching screens of white static.
So, in all this, I have not even begun to express what is most fascinating and interesting about this story. It is a world with believable characters, and mutant messages. The Bods are the jocks, and compete exquistely naked except for their tatoos. The Swashes are the dashing romantic pirates. The Chromes are the Kurzweilian cyborgs who swap their human limbs and chemistries for engineered enhancements. The Glides are the most mysterious, seeming gracefully oriental and philosophically complex. The story is their training and preparation for the “Millenium Games” in a style that is hard to characterize. It has a quality like surfing the cable networks, with sudden short views of story threads in an impossibly complex unfolding. To one born in a media centric century, it is not unfamiliar.
In a world where everyone has a game board to Play, View, Bet, and Virtually Participate in any reality show, and Everything is a reality show if you can get enough ratings, how does one know privacy? Love? Purpose? Truth? Honor? These and other valuable questions are up for pondering in this very enjoyable tale.