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The Mocking Program
Alan Dean Foster
Warner Aspect, 323 pages

The Mocking Program
Alan Dean Foster
Alan Dean Foster was born in New York City in 1946 and was raised in Los Angeles. He received a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science and a Master of Fine Arts in Cinema from UCLA in 1968-69 and then spent two years as a copywriter for an advertising and public relations firm in Studio City, CA.

His first sale as a writer was a long Lovecraftian letter, purchased by August Derleth for the bi-annual magazine The Arkham Collector. His first novel, The Tar-Aiym Krang, was published by Ballantine Books in 1972. Many, many novels followed. Alan Dean Foster's correspondence and manuscripts are in the Special Collection of the Hayden Library of Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. Foster and his wife live in Prescott, Arizona.

Alan Dean Foster Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Dinotopia Lost
SF Site Review: Star Wars: The Approaching Storm
SF Site Review: Interlopers
SF Site Review: Phylogenesis
SF Site Review: Into the Thinking Kingdoms
SF Site Review: Carnivores of Light and Darkness
Alan Dean Foster Tribute Site

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steve Lazarowitz

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If you miss the old days of plot-based science fiction (as opposed to character-based), The Mocking Program might just be for you.

Set in Namerica (a futuristic contraction of North America), the book is a crime drama that begins with the discovery of a corpse stripped of its internal organs. Problems begin when it's revealed the victim has two completely different identities, one local and one federal. He is essentially two different people -- neither of whom is interesting enough to be involved in anything shady.

Angel Cardenas, the investigating officer, is a cop with a special talent. He's an intuit, trained to read minute changes in posture and facial expressions, which gives him some idea of a person's thought process. He can't read minds so much as make accurate judgments about a person's reaction to a situation. He can tell, for example, if someone is lying, but not why.

Cardenas' sidekick (every good cop novel needs one) is Fredoso Hyaki, a mountain of a man, who is as good-natured as he is large. If Cardenas isn't a particularly well-developed character, Hyaki comes across as a complete stereotype.

As already mentioned, the emphasis in The Mocking Program is on plot, and the characters are pretty much what you'd expect from a cop novel. No surprises here. All the surprises are in the future Alan Dean Foster paints in enough detail to satisfy even the pickiest futureholic.

One of my favorite bits (and perhaps the scariest part of the book for me) is the advertising grams that fly around the streets, pestering passersby. They are obviously the spam of the future, illegal, but unstoppable. Imagine ad after ad floating around the street, audio holograms swarming mosquito-like around you. Absolutely terrifying.

The Mocking Program takes place about a hundred and fifty years in the future, close enough so that a cop is still a cop, but far enough for Foster to have some real fun with what society has become. There's no shortage of social satire included, subtle though it is.

This book reminds me of a futuristic version of the television series Law and Order, where a mystery is presented up front and the cops find one clue after another that seems to lead nowhere, before finally, they learn the truth. Each new clue comes replete with danger, so there is a quite a bit of action as well.

The future-speak interwoven with Spanish slang makes the story a bit hard to get into at first, though after a while, the style settles down and you get used to it. By the end of the book, I didn't notice it at all.

The Mocking Program is a great concept book. There's plenty of interesting future events, lots of great technological innovations and quite a few really twisted sociological changes. You could almost see it all happening, just the way Foster paints it, even if some of it is entertainingly exaggerated. My favorite technological development in the book is the Wugs, self-replicating machines created by other machines. No one knows why, or where they came from, though they are not dangerous in any way. They are the electronic cockroaches of the future, except they don't carry disease or eat your food. They definitely added an interesting element to the book, even if they are only part of the backdrop.

Overall, I felt the solution of the mystery was more interesting than the subsequent events. That was the high point for me. I really can't say more without giving away a vital plot twist.

If you're a Foster fan, definitely pick it up, it's worth the read. However, if you're more interested in well-developed characters, or the emotional angles of a story, you might want to give it a pass.

Copyright © 2003 Steve Lazarowitz

Steve Lazarowitz is a speculative fiction writer, an editor, a father, a husband, an animal lover and a heck of a nice guy (not necessarily in that order). Steve lives in Moonah, Tasmania with his family and four giant spiny leaf insects. You can check out his work at http://www.dream-sequence.net.


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