This book was recently published by a dear friend and a talented writer. Since writing is his livelihood, please consider supporting him by buying the book on Amazon in Print or for Kindle. Perhaps the praise below will convince you even further that this fantastic book is worthy of your time and money.
A book title such as Dystopolis insinuates immediately that at the periphery of the stories inside one will find a city where all is not well. While not all of the narratives are overtly dark in theme from start to finish, there is a deep heaviness hanging over the mood of the book; black clouds at the edges of everything that disappear if you try to look at them directly. Along that same theme—in a literal sense—I don’t think I visualized a single scene taking place during the day or in the sunlight; the world the author paints is all stale fluorescents in underground structures, stark neon against foggy streets, and wet alleyways in constant night (visualize Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner).
Dystopolis is not quite a novel, but is clearly more than just a collection of short stories. It could perhaps be described as a profile of a city told through it’s inhabitants, yet at the same time is a supremely original picture of a cold, calculated future.
The book operates on a slow-reveal, introducing the reader to veiled and minimalistic descriptions of how life operates within this world, then gradually pieces come together and earlier uncertainties are resolved. The answers are sometimes shocking, at other times chillingly ironic.
The individuals at the heart of each story range from stoic to despicable to pitiful, yet a common thread carries through all of them: in varying degrees, they are allgrasping for life. This is exemplified in different ways, and some characters are more directly self-aware than others, but there seems to be a theme among them of searching for purpose in the midst of a world they do not completely understand. Some seek intense personal comfort or pleasure, others are just trying to keep alive and fed for the next week, still others are merely hungry for real human connection. While this theme is not at the forefront, it rises to the surface the deeper you get into the book. Again and again, you find yourself recognizing pain in these people, and the way each addresses it is often not pretty.
Another ‘character’ of sorts (or at least a constant presence) is CAIN, the Central Artificial Intelligence Network. To go into detail here would spoil secrets better told by the book itself, but suffice it to say that the concept is one of the most uniquely blended interactions between man and machine that I have encountered in some time; it is one of those rare, excellent ideas that ‘changes everything’ about the way we think of humans going about their lives. There may be commentary going on questioning technology and the way man uses (and abuses) it, but if so it is subtle, not heralded loudly.
At first glance, Dystopolis could be pegged as science fiction regarding a jarred and wretched future. While that is part of it, I found the book to be more like a profile of human behavior and the universal search for meaning clothed in a futuristic environment. That may sound cliché or like a concept that has already been explored ad nauseam, but I found Dystopolis to be consistently unique, starkly honest, and relate-able in all the right ways. While the reality it creates is often unpleasant, it is true, and warrants self-reflection as to how the broken characters are maybe not so different from ourselves.
Things really hit their stride at a chapter called Dining Out; that story and two others were the infuriating sort of brilliant that makes one jealous they didn’t think of it first. There’s material here on par with the best of Philip K. Dick or William Gibson—that isn’t flattery, merely a truth. With Dystopolis, Fraser has imagined something that walks in with a sci-fi badge on, then sneaks up on you with a pitcher-full of vulnerable, tragic, real life.