Invisible Things

Mat Johnson (Loving Day; Pym) explores the metaphorical dark side of a moon in Invisible Things, a chilling, bitingly funny sci-fi allegory set in an extraterrestrial Potemkin village designed to mimic the worst qualities of U.S. society.

When the first manned mission to Jupiter arrives, the crew discovers a glass dome on Europa's surface; it shelters a replicated American city populated by a million abductees. Their ship returns to Earth empty. Three years later, a rescue mission sets out for Europa. Getting into the city and finding the missing crew is straightforward; two of its members have reached high status in the city's viciously polarized political parties. Getting out is a different story. The elites of the ruling party want the rescue ship's technology for themselves. When Nalini and Dwayne, members of the original expedition, assist the escape effort, they are treated like enemies of the state. Worse yet, the city lives under the threat of "invisible things," forces that attack and even kill anyone who disturbs the status quo.

Johnson distills societal woes, including wealth inequality, rampant consumerism and cutthroat political manipulation, into a world where "every hell was artisanal and individually crafted" and yet derived from the same misshapen version of reality. The theme of inescapable oppression sits heavily, but incisive observations and over-the-top confrontations both support and cut the tension. This horror story in comedy's clothing may intrigue sci-fi fans but should find its warmest welcome among readers looking for insightful food for thought served in an unconventional package. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

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