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Book review: <i>Justice Inc</i> by Dale Bridges

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the cover of the book

Can love blossom in Omni-Mart against impossible odds? What would really happen if people could live forever? And just how would you program your ideal girlfriend? These short stories are not for the faint hearted!

The story

Imagine being sold by your poor parents to lifetime indenture at the Omni-Mart superstore, which at least guarantees you financial security and no need to ever go outdoors again. Would love be enough to break you out of the drudgery that your life has become? This is the premise of the first story in Dale Bridges' collection, entitled Welcome To Omni-Mart. There are ten stories in total, each speculative or futuristic in nature, but each a slightly different comment on human society.

The style

The storyWelcome to Omni-Mart is a strong start to Justice Inc. In fact, the first page should be used as an example in writer's manuals for “how to write a compelling first page to keep the reader interested.” And I know what I'm talking about. Recently I've downloaded about ten Amazon samples of books I thought might be okay, but the first few pages were SO HORRENDOUS I couldn't keep reading. You know what I would have kept reading? Justice Inc.. Kudos, Mr Bridges. However, I digress.

As I mentioned above, Justice Inc is made up of ten stories, although the second, fourth, sixth and eighth are single page jobs, just little snippets or tastes of speculative fiction. The second story, for instance, is called Texting The Apocalypse and is a text conversation documenting the casual nature of text communication between two teens who are surrounded by a world which is literally collapsing around them. Some of the stories are stronger than others, but they all hold up creatively and are, at the very least, thought provoking. I think my favourite story was The Girlfriend ™, which is beautifully written. The main character is despicable yet sympathy-enducing, and the story finishes with a nice clean twist and effortlessly questions certain social norms we all live with. Bridges could write a manual about how to plot short stories. There's a real knack to it, and he's managed to cram ten of them into this very short book, and each of them works.

I think the reason these stories work so well is because Bridges understands that the future can't just be bleak and shitty. When you're writing speculative fiction, the characters need to have redeeming qualities, be human, have a level of hope. Bridges not only infuses an element of wry humour into his stories, he also keeps them very human, and just a little bit familiar. He raises thought-provoking issues while not inspiring the reader to throw the book on the floor and think about how society is ruined. Which is exactly, to the letter, what one wants in a collection of short speculative fiction stories.

Who is this book for?

Pretty much anyone. It's a nice easy read, it's short, it's entertaining without a massive time commitment required. If you take this on holiday, though, for god's sake take something else as well. You'll be finished before you clear customs.

If you like this book, you would also like...

Hmmm. If you like it for the short stories, you'll want a real master, like Roalh Dahl's adult stuff. If you like it for the content, I can't help you. I usually dislike this genre, but Dale Bridges might just be bringing me round.

In short

Title: Justice Inc
Author: Dale Bridges
Publisher: Monkey Puzzle Press
ISBN: 0991542959
Year published: 2014
Pages: 136
Genre(s): Speculative fiction
Review Type: