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Brendan Detzner reviews "Mood Shifts" by Dan Weiss

Thereís a long list of things to talk about in Mood Shifts. Programmable insects. An alcoholic beverage that only causes permanent brain damage to a small percentage of the people who drink it. A competitive wage granted to federal prisoners. Leisure marriages. Unemployment offices that double as power plants. And so on.

But counting off all of the things that Dan Weiss has dreamed up would be missing the point. The thing that makes Mood Shifts interesting is that it presents the future not just as a gallery of cool new gizmos, but as a world, a world where everything connects together with real consequences to the people living in it. The book isnít driven by hard science, but by social science. Even the most absurd developments are caused by things that we can recognize in our own world.

The story revolves around one Fred Duff, an everyman in the Orwellian tradition, and the process by which he becomes more and more disenfranchised with the world around him. The first major rift comes when he discovers that his leisure wife, Karen, has gone into treatment at a personality alteration boutique called Mood Shifts. Sheís also put his dog to sleep without asking him. Upset both at the loss of his dog and at the loss of his wife (who is no longer the woman he married as far as heís concerned), his performance at his job as a professional consumer is affected, and, despite the best efforts of his work wife Cammie, he gets fired and is forced to walk the treadmills at the unemployment office. In the process of getting a new job, he begins to examine the corporate structure of the companies heís been working for, several people close to him get murdered, and the possibility is introduced that Fredís own personality might have been altered without him even knowing.

For all itís twist and turns, the plot of Mood Shifts is ultimately a series of devices designed to put Fred in positions that give us different views of the society that Weiss has assembled. The main actors arenít the characters, but the corporations that the characters work for, and as the story proceeds we learn more about the companiesí background then we do about Fredís. This is both a good and bad thing. On one hand, the fact that we canít always tell why Fred is doing something produces some interesting questions about whatís motivating him. Is it his own free will or is it a manifestation of whatís been done to him? On the other hand, a book that deals so frequently with the consequences of altering oneís personality might be better served by characters with well-defined personalities to alter.

The thin characterizations are especially evident in the beginning of the book, before we really get a chance to immerse ourselves in Fredís surroundings. Once his explorations get rolling, we have more interesting things to concern ourselves with. The realism of the future world in Mood Shifts is beside the point- calculated exaggeration is the bookís stock in trade. Regardless of how good a predictor Weiss turns out to be itís already clear that heís a sharp social critic. Anybody whose ever had a job or gone shopping will find something to chew on in Mood Shifts.

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