Imagine, for a moment, that you aren’t reading this review through the power of the internet, because the internet no longer exists. In fact, most of the “modern conveniences” – including transportation and electricity – are rationed, all as a result of previous generations’ mismanagement of resources. Everything, including religious faith, is a corporation. This is the world in which World-Mart, a dystopian tragedy by
Lane, is set.
The protagonists of the novel are a family of four: George and Virginia Irwin and their two children, teenager Shelley and seven-year-old Kurt. George and Virginia both have good jobs in the corporate sector and are able to provide corporate-level educations to both of their children. The children have been raised to see themselves as better than the mart sector workers, who fill the service-industry jobs. Below them, are the deviants – a genetically mutated race no longer seen as human at all. These beings are relegated to menial jobs or a life of crime.
Lane has created a world that is horrifyingly recognizable to the modern reader. The Irwins are presented as the typical family, representing just how close most middle-class Americans live to the edge of destruction. Just one instance of bad luck can put a family into freefall, as it does with the Irwins.
There’s a lot to like about this novel. The writing is, for the most part, smooth, and the plot is engaging. The Irwins are well-developed characters, as are most of the others with whom they interact. Their world, with all its prejudices and violence, comes to life through Lane’s words. This is social commentary in the vein of Ayn Rand, and Lane touches on everything from global warming to eugenics.
Unfortunately, I felt that the characters of Nadine and Mr. and Mrs. Conrad lacked depth. Speaking as a writer, I suspect that Lane may have cut a couple of pages from this part of the novel and lost some of the characterization that would have made these characters pop off the page. As a result,
actions in relation to them didn’t feel authentic. The angst-filled teenage
poetry attributed to Shelley felt real enough, but I think it could have been
summarized in a line or two instead of forced upon the reader in its entirety. I
found myself stumbling over the author’s odd word choices in a couple of
instances, and there were a handful of typos (less than ten). Virginia
At a time when everyone seems to be reading about zombies, vampires, and other supernatural killers, I found it refreshing to read a novel that made monsters out of humanity instead – a much more frightening proposition, in my opinion.