A 21st-Century Dystopia
Chapter 1: Shoes
Naomi Humbolt knew it wasn't real. She knew that her whole world, the modern world, was actually nothing more than a digital mashup of PapDrive Augmented Vision, twinkling her eyes technicolour through the thin sheet of polymers that covered her once-blue irises: PapDrive Corneal Implants - everyone had them, life would be impossible otherwise.
Tucked away in the back of her sub-conscious, she knew that the manor house she shared with her husband was really just a thirty-second-floor apartment, in a building no different to any other under Manchester's Didsbury Bio-dome. The spacious living room in which she saw herself, the rich felt wallpaper and Turkish carpets, were just layer-upon-layer of virtual images over the walls of a bright yellow box-room. Even the velveteen chaise longue over which she stretched out her elegant bare legs was just a patent-lemon exercise bench, transformed in her mind's eye through an extensive combination of digital applications.
The thing was, she didn't care. This was her world, one where her rise from slumdog to superstar was the stuff of legend; her marriage to primetime PapNews presenter Vincent Humbolt filled more virtual columns than even she had time to read and she couldn't remember how many PapCorp divisions she was now the face of.
Beyond open bay windows, an orchard of long-extinct fruit trees rustled on a breeze which Naomi's PapDrive SenSuggestor App swept warm against her cheek. But she barely noticed that either. She was caught up in virtual browsings, thumbing through pixelated brochures of outfits and shoes: working, as she liked to think. After all it was her job to look spectacular. The PAPTA Awards were only weeks away and she was already odds-on to win Song of the Year. She could hardly go on stage in front of billions dressed in the wrong outfit, in something that wasn't original.
"Papp-Damn," Naomi cursed, flicking away the boots with the back of her hand. Into her other, as if by magic, a cocktail glass appeared. Her servants, in their head-to-foot yellow overalls, were so well blotted out from her PapDrive vision that she'd forgotten they even existed.
Manchester's second coming had been rapid and thorough. Only here and there might you have spotted a characteristic brick or stone façade - pickled relics of the city's first golden age, they had become the ornate foundations to towers higher than anything the Victorians could've imagined. Manc-hattan, as it had come to be known, an entire city of Times Square. On steroids. And this 21st-century megalopolis had a transport network to match its ambitions - a series of concentric 'PapWays' linked by die-straight spokes, twelve-lane highways that sliced through skyscrapers the envy of the world. And woven between those architectural wonders, some 40 floors up, was a web of steel girders giving the only visual clue that you were inside a climate-controlled Bio-dome. That and the blatant celestial interventions.
[Because through Vincent Humbolt's PapDrive implants,] the Milky Way rearranged itself into starry arrows, all pointing at a moon that span yellow with a smiling round face. "Night out with the boys?" PapBurger's 'Man on the Moon' asked. "Line your stomach with your favourite Maxi Burger menu - your very-own bio-beef patty is being grilled as we speak. Simply click the link, follow your Pathfinder and let us do the rest." It winked at Vincent and a yellow route pointed him off the highway. He flicked the advert, confirmed the order and followed his navigation as it instructed him to pause by the side of the PapWay, just long enough to have a bag thrown into his lap by some worker he couldn't see.
Subject categories BIC: FA, FHP, FL, FM
Format: pp. 262 Royal Octavo Format 234 x 156 x 15 mm
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Exploring issues of corporate hegemony, Pap is truly a 21st century dystopia. It describes a world where a single corporation, PapCorp, has come to dominate all facets of daily life from security to water, agriculture to the news. Through their omnipotent PapDrive Corneal Implants, without which modern life would be impossible, PapCorp even influences what people see around them and their most intimate memories.
In Manchester, under the Bio-domes of PapCorp's home city, the presenter of PapNews' Humbolt Hour, Vincent Humbolt, spends most of his programme gossiping about the never-ending sex scandals around the corporation's CEO. This leaves only seconds for a montage of another PapSec victory overseas. Not that Vincent's wife, Naomi, cares about any of that - she needs shoes for the PAPTA awards and doesn't have the credit to buy them.
Meanwhile, millions flee their homes as the land dies beneath them. Drought, pollution, storms, and sometimes the end of PapSec's long arm, all drive people from their homes. People like Aliyá Talavera, her parents and the rest of the citizens of Murcia, made homeless after PapPop built the fifth letter of their logo around the city to create the world's largest advertisement, and sent in PapSec to clear the 'Anarcho-terrorist' stronghold in its midst.
Pap is the first of three novels exploring the similar ideas. The next book, PapUp, is already underway and will chronicle the rise of the world's greatest corporation through the themes of Growth and Betrayal. The third novel, PapDown, will tell the story of PapCorp's inevitable downfall.
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