The controversial Rod Kierkegaard Jr, best known for the cult comic strip, Rock Opera in Heavy Metal Magazine, follows it up with his first novel, a dark social satire set in the America of 2049. A fast-moving, sexy, visionary comic satire in the tradition of Philip K. Dick and Petronius's Satyricon, Obama Jones and the Logic Bomb draws the reader into a randy, pleasure-seeking, plugged-in future world in which political correctness is the law of the land and a new Ice Age has turned the Green movement Orange.
Devastated by the loss of his beloved wife Kim, Obama Jones, a mild-mannered bureaucrat, sets off on a desperate quest through cyberspace to rescue her from the clutches of a compulsory, lifelong UN witness protection program. Along the way he encounters ruthless diplomats, terrorist cells, talking apes, deadly seductresses, shapeshifting robots, body-snatching aliens, civil war in Central Park, God, a strutting supercool babe-magnet alter-ego named Joyful Kalinga, and the Truth: about Kim; about the purpose and fate of Humynkind, and about Obama's own astonishing true nature.
On sale at Amazon (Kindle Edition) now.
Read an excerpt from the novel:
The Suki Moon shuttle from Reagan International didn't go straight to the moon from the earth. It docked at Eunice Station, midway between them. Then you switched shuttles and flew on to Tranquility Base or Clarkesville or one of the other three main spaceports on the moon. The stopover was included in the estimated travel time. "Eunice" was an affectionate nickname dating from the '20s, back when the United Nations International Space Station, or UNISS, was first being constructed. It orbited midway between the two planetary bodies, constrained by their mutual gravitational pull. This was called their Lagrangian, or L1, point. Nowadays Eunice was manned almost entirely by Sony Endura robots, which were specially designed to withstand the periodic radiation storms that swept over it. Security on the ground was even more intense than for a domestic Earth flight, because of fears of a terrorist attack on the space station. Each passenger and every article they took through the gates had to be completely scanned, so boarding took over two hours. Luckily, this morning's flight was only half-full. Many of the passengers were businessmen or tourists like Obama, but most were retirees on their way to new lives, or relatives on their way to visit others like them. The Ground to Orbit aerospaceplane had the capacity for 235 passengers and carried a crew of 12. From the observation window of the departure lounge it had the look of a shining metal pterodactyl--its design had changed very little since the first of the "Space Odyssey" films and sims had been created.
"I've made a dozen of these trips already," the middle-aged man in the seat next to Obama's told him. "I do it several times a year to see my mum. There's absolutely nothing to worry about, just as long as you don't over-eat. To be honest, the whole thing is rather a bore. It's so much like a being in a sim that I really might as well save the money and do all my visiting over the Grid from now on."
The space-craft gave a preliminary shudder, then slowly, creakingly, began to move along the tarmac. The Allura stewardesses sat down and strapped themselves into their harnesses. The man offered his hand for Obama to clasp. "Hector Kirmani," he said. "I'm in diamonds." The shuttle gathered momentum, then began to hurtle unevenly down the pitted runway toward the Potomac River.
"Ah, liftoff at last," Hector Kirmani said. They were airborne. Kirmani then brought his mouth very close to Obama's ear and said, "You see the Sony robot stewardesses over there?"
"I think they are amazing-looking. And such sensitive features. In my opinion, they are far more beautiful than real womyn. Tell me, have you ever had sexual intercourse with one?"
"With a robot?" replied Obama in surprise. "No, I haven't."
"I have heard," said Kirmani in a confidential tone, "That it's the experience of a lifetime for the male organ. Perhaps we will both get lucky on the Moon."
A hologram pixilated into life just in front of him. It was another scantily-clad Slavic girl. But a redhead this time instead of a blond. Actually, her hair was purple, thought Obama. "Just two more weeks to go until we restart the clock!" she cooed seductively."That's right, time is finally going decimal! Starting on the first of Humida, each minute will have 100 seconds, and each hour will have 100 minutes. And best of all, we'll be switching over to the new 20-hour decimal day! You'll love your new times so much, you'll feel like there just aren't enough hours left in the day to enjoy them! Which means you'll be feeling years younger. So remember, Ten is In--and 100 is the new 60!"
She was replaced by the sombre, yet genial features of UN President Jose Manacera. "Howdy," he said, smiling gravely. Obama always got the feeling the world president was speaking directly to him. "And welcome to Selene Japan Aerospacelines' regularly scheduled shuttle flight service to the Moon. For many of you, this trip will be routine by now. For many others, it will be the thrill of a lifetime, your very first visit into space. I can well remember my first bout of weightlessness--whoops! I'd just come from a big state banquet in Tashkent, and I thought I was too much of a tough guy to wear my anti-weightless-sickness Gravanil derma-patch. Amigo, was I ever sorry! And so was the guy sitting in front of me, haha. So don't be a dope. Be sure to roll up your sleeve, and let the pretty stewardess do her job.
"Now, a serious chat, if I may, on the future of the Moon Colonies. I guess a lot of you know or are related to someone living on the moon for medical or retirement reasons. But what you may not know is that only we, the Green Party, remain committed to improving their lifestyles and to actually expanding the size and amenities of the Moon Colonies. That's right, our honorable opponents plan to cut back--or even curtail--both benefits and future construction should they by some crazy accident seize power. Now I'm not running for president this time round--you know me, and I'll be grateful for just a humble post as Prime Minister of the People's Tribunes in the UN Congress--but you can count on my designated successor for president, current Vice President Coco Terrawati, to continue the pro-Selenic policies that have been a cornerstone of our proud UN record for the past 16 years. So remember: in Nyumbro, Go Green! Mother Earth will thank you--and so will her Sister Moon!"
"Pah!" said Kirmani. "It's all a hoax, these elections. Just bread and circuses for the masses. Don't fall for it."
Seating on the Suki Moon shuttle was pretty much like on a terrestrial aircraft, except wider, deeper, and much more comfortable. This was partly in order to accommodate the anti-grav harness. There were only six seats across the width of the cabin, in groups of two, separated by two wide aisles. Obama wished he'd gotten a window seat. Through the cabin windows to his left, he could see the great curve of the earth's clouds already falling away below them, as the aerospaceplane strained to escape the gravity well. "I'll need your upper arm for the derma patch," an Allura said, crouching down beside him. Her slippers were soled with a MicroVel that adhered to the carpets. Her haunches, Obama noticed, had a soft, humyn curve, and he shook his head slightly to rid his mind of the thoughts that Hector Kirmani's earlier words on the subject had injected into it. He rolled his sleeve up higher. It was definitely getting colder in the cabin. "You will notice some drowsiness, sir," said the robot, applying the patch. Up close, she really didn't look so much like Kim. And she had no breath to smell. In fact, she smelled of nothing at all. "It's important also for you to wear your complimentary game-cap at all times. Remember, the captain may require your attention over it in an emergency."
"May I have a blanket?" he asked her. It. There had been a movement in the early '40s to obtain accredited minority status for robots, but it had come to nothing, though their humyn advocates continued to press for them. The robots themselves, however, just weren't interested.
"Of course, one minute. May I help you, sir?" she said to Kirmani, who had leaned forward to attract her attention.
"Are you ladies permitted a social life?" he asked her.
"A social life?" the robot asked blankly.
"One wonders what you do in your leisure hours," he murmured.
"I have no leisure hours, sir. I'm a machine. If you desire companionship, I'll be happy to direct you to the Sony Sales Department."
Through the cabin windows, the Earth's curvature had become pronounced. Tiny stray hairs from the stewardess' severely tied-back hair were floating freely, and behind her, he noticed that someone had let go of an inhaler that was drifting up toward the plastic ceiling racks. His clothes all felt like they were gently billowing in a soft breeze rising from below. Deep beneath the white cloud cover, Obama could see the brown, distinctive outline of the Horn of Africa thrusting out into a patch of reflective ocean. He closed his eyes and fell asleep.
When Obama woke up, the windows were completely black. All around him, the passengers were dozing or gaming under their caps. The air inside the shuttle cabin had filled up with tiny drifts of debris--human skin-scale, lint from clothing, bits of food, and dust--and the thin haze created by this was set swirling by the individual passenger air jets set into the overhead plastic racks.
"This is your captain speaking," said a warm, intimate voice in his ear. "We'll be approaching the UN International Space Station in, oh, about another half hour or so. Passengers to the starboard side of the craft should be able to view it through the cabin windows until the time we make our final approach for docking. You'll find the gravity there to be half of Moon-Grav, or about a tenth of what you're used to back home. Don't forget to take your hand baggage and any personal items along with you into the Space Station. Just a quick reminder that there will be only an average layover there for most of you of only 45 minutes, so my advice is to find your departure lounge as soon as you can and check in at the gate. Enjoy the rest of your flight--and have a safe and pleasant trip to the moon."
Obama took the opportunity, while he still had his complimentary game-cap on, to slip into Joyful Kalinga's skin and message "VJ Mechanou" over the Grid. VJ Mechanou was the pseudonym of the Romanian teenager who'd created the "Yaybo" hit video of Kalinga from cam-files at Casino Royale. Hopefully, the message couldn't be traced back to him, Obama, from this address. "Where is my Royalty money??" was the caption. Obama trembled slightly with the fear of discovery until he'd booted down again.
The interior of the Space Station turned out to pretty much resemble the onGrid social room where Obama had gone to a party only a week ago as Joyful Kalinga. Except this version had more billboard holos and corporate advertising and no gaming avatars costumed as demons or mutant droids or vampires. The real station had counter-rotating wheels to enhance stability and simulate a gravity of about .1 Gee. The vessel docking bays were in the large cylindrical central hub. Presumably that was where Eunice's humyn crew lived, though Obama saw none during the hour he spent there--only two types of robots, the Allura stewardesses with their soft blue uniforms and caps, and the bigger, more rugged, and genderless Endura workers, who were dressed in baggy orange safety overalls.
However, there had at least been a dramatic improvement in lo-grav toilet technology since the days of the first "Space Odyssey" sims, thanks to the miracle of the suction jet. After this happy discovery, Obama boarded the relay shuttle to Clarkesville. He watched the latest "DeadSpace" sim all the way to the moon, pausing only to suck a pureed supper from tubes. He was already feeling more used to the weightlessness, so that when the Queen Millenium shuttle finally landed, he initially felt the lunar gravity as near-normal. Only, of course, it wasn't. On the moon, you weighed one-sixth as much as on Earth and could jump six times higher, which is why Loonies, as native lunar citizens were called, had invented whole new forms of football, basketball, golf, and soccer. As they exited, all the passengers--Hector Kirmani had taken another shuttle to Mont Blanc in the Lunar Alps--were required to spray the same MicroVel griptight surface the stewardesses had used during the flight onto the soles of their own shoes, so that they wouldn't over-step and uncontrollably bounce up to the passageway ceilings. The lighter gravity induced a sense of general well-being, even euphoria. It was, Obama decided, when he finally checked into his hotel, like feeling slightly drunk all the time. He suddenly understood why people retired here. Was Kim here already, he wondered. If not, would this be her final destination someday?
The other reason people retired there was the luxury. 99% of the lunar colonies had been built underground, both to protect them from radiation and to conserve and stabilize temperatures, which, with no atmosphere, varied wildly on the surface from near absolute zero during the 15 days or so of continuous "night" to over boiling point during the 15-day "day". In any case, radiation-proofed glasspex was too expensive to use on a mass scale. Consequently, the surface domes had been constructed over kilometers of greenhouses, and, of course, the artificial Lake Serenity, but no one actually lived on the surface. So naturally, Obama had thought of living spaces here as cramped and dark--but nothing could have been further from the truth. His hotel suite was nearly double the size of his condo back home, with high, light-filled ceilings. However, it was wildly expensive, even for just a single night. The furniture was all made from stainless steel, carbon alloys, and cut and highly polished tektite slabs. Everything had to be heavier, even the bed linens. It would have been pretty claustrophobic, anyway, Obama thought, except for the hyper-realistic holos everywhere, some emulating windows overlooking underground parkland. There were even artificial aromas to enhance the illusion of the dark rain forest landscapes just "outside". Yet it all somehow remained weirdly unearthly. Even the YouVee seemed different than back home, even though there was only about a second and a half transmission delay from Earth. He decided that maybe it was because the Japanese had been the first lunar colonists. The morning news here was anchored by a holographic cartoon character called "Sailor Moon". He left it on for the Pookah while he showered. In .17 Gee, jets of water were like soft, fat lazy warm blobs that clung to the skin. He had to use the ultrasound to speed them down the drain, and the combination tickled.
When the first lunar colonists had settled Clarkesville and Kubrick City, they pegged the Moon's UTC to Tokyo time, but with a 12-day week. So even though it felt like midnight to Obama, it was now almost 10 in the morning local time. What they would do next month when it was mandatory to convert to decimal time, he couldn't imagine. He decided that he felt hungrier than sleepy. He'd been told that the Moon's hydroponic farms yielded inferior produce and that anything worth eating at its restaurants had to be imported from Earth. But after he'd gone down to eat at the Hyatt's main restaurant, he decided that there was very little real difference. The Mandarin Orange in-vitro chicken seemed the same as at any good New York City restaurant, and the pickled vegetable salad and miso soup slightly better. Sake, of course, was sake, wherever it was drunk, and here at least, it was warmed to just the right temperature. For dessert he had "green cheese" ice cream. The restaurant was on the main concourse of Clarkesville, which overlooked Lake Serenity and LunaDisney. Hotels and apartment blocks rose up along it nearly 20 storeys high right up to the ceiling, which was covered in skylights. The dome over Lake Serenity was one of the great architectural wonders of the age, and even though the blackness of space was clearly visible through it, a slight atmospheric haze had formed beneath the glasspex, lending the scene something of the illusion of a sleepy summer's day on Earth. The lake's waters would be like the droplets in the shower, thick and viscous, almost as much gel as liquid. Obama tried to imagine what it might feel like to water-ski or float on it. Too bad there wouldn't be time on this trip to find out. Maybe he'd come back.
Tourist trolleys snaked through the sidewalk cafes and crowds of pedestrians and over arched wooden bridges spanning the stone-lined canals. A holo of all the moon's tourist attractions shimmered in the center of the table while he ate. He'd arrived too late in the season for the Lunar Gran Prix and was too far from the Lunar Alps to visit the underground "North Pole Winter Holiday Village & Ski Resort" inside Mont Blanc, but there were always LFL games to see--in fact there was one being held live in a local stadium this afternoon. Live sports events were rare on Earth these days, since they were so much easier to attend onGrid. But here on the moon, people were older and still valued sharing group experiences in person, the holo ads told him. Obama wandered around window-shopping for awhile, then took a trip on a tour barge down the main canal into the Magic Kingdom. On his way back to the hotel, he remembered he'd left the Pookah behind in his suite. Surely, he couldn't be tracked down by the UNSS here on the Moon, he thought. Yet he broke into a sweat anyway just thinking about it.
So he made sure to bring her along when he took the PTT, or Pneu-Tube Train, out to the Willow Precinct Liberry that afternoon. The trip, which would have taken him 40 minutes on the Manacera City Retrorail, took exactly seven on the moon. Everything here felt so luxurious and clean and new, he thought. Maybe I should move here, too. The place had that effect on everybody, apparently. Maybe it was the gravity. Of course, he'd miss real nature, especially the ocean and mountains. Beaches. Trees and meadows, even the rain. But since the advent of global cooling, he spent far less time outdoors being able to actually enjoy them, anyway. If he found a good job here, he could be near his parents. And maybe find Kim again. They said that if you stood beneath the Millenium Arch on the main concourse here long enough, that sooner or later you'd meet everyone you'd ever known...
The Liberry, which was in the middle of a grove of real willow trees in the middle of an underground park, was part of the Precinct's Traditional University campus. It was a big square building, constructed of pinkish polished moon rock and some transparent mineral that looked like very pale quartz. It had, he was informed, the largest collection of Japanese literature preserved anywhere, including Japan. It also contained mirrors of most of the legacy data at Japanese universities and institutions. There were UN programs for the similar preservation of those of other nations and cultures, but of course these were plagued by chronic budget shortages and inefficiency, just like everything else about the UN. It was true that the moon, too, was a UN Mandated Territory depending heavily on Federal funding, but somehow it felt freer here. You could even open a little shop if you wanted to.
And everybody seemed so friendly. When he asked the Japanese student who helped him at the main desk of the liberry's front lobby about this, she laughed shyly and gave him a flirtatious glance from the corners of her eyes. "It is because you are young, maybe," she said. "We are all used to only old people visiting us here."
"But you're young," he said.
"There are only a few thousands of persons of my age on the Moon. Because, you know, we have to be raised in special heavy gravity when we are little. Like Earth's. Most of us are here together at this university. It's very boring. Do you have a girlfriend on Earth?"
"Well...sort of, yes," he said. "I guess so, anyway. I'm married." Her manner changed perceptibly.
"This is all the information you will be needing for now, I think," she told him. "The robot will come and help to guide you if you become lost, Mr Jones. And if you are needing any more assistance just speak my name, Tamiko, anywhere inside this building, and I will communicate with you by holo, OK?"
"OK, thanks." There were too many women in his life already, he thought, on his way down the pneu-tube ascensor. He didn't need a Japanese Skoolgirl, or "Lolita", as they were called in Japan. Which was the actual name of a psychosexual syndrome listed in the latest World Psychological Association's latest "Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders XXI". It was part of Obama's job to keep abreast of all of these unfortunate illnesses, since their sufferers enjoyed automagic minority status. Sometimes their conflicting needs could create bizarre legal tangles, on which the Department was sometimes called to depose. For example, if a sufferer from "Japanese Skoolgirl Syndrome" was driven by his illness to attempt to attempt to kidnap a real Japanese skoolgirl, and she injured him while resisting, then in theory she could be charged with a hate crime. However, as a womyn, she was also legally considered a victim. To obviate the dilemma, the UN had provided blue-helmeted UN peacekeeper bodyguards to the families of skoolgirls who desired such protection, though most preferred to hire Japanese gangsters, or yakuza. However, there was an ever-decreasing need for this, since Japan's birth rate remained in precipitate decline. In fact, Tamiko was the first young Japanese person Obama had ever met. Aside from Simonetta Sato, of course. If Simonetta had grown up in this way, thought Obama, it might explain a lot about her behavior.
Too many women in his life--except the only one he wanted. He sighed unhappily. Since the moment Kim had been taken away from him, his life had become nothing but a bad dream. Everything he'd done since had been like a laboratory rat clambering around a maze, pointless and frantic and futile. He'd achieved nothing. Maybe everybody was right. At some point maybe he really did need to just give up and start all over again. "And where better than the moon?" whispered an ad holo in the ascensor. "Low grav, low pressure--and new low, low prices on villas and condominiums, thanks to the UN's new First-Time Buyers' Housing Assistance Credit. Getting tired of all the hassles of life Earthside? Feeling bogged down? Getting nowhere fast? Well, quit your worrying--up here on the moon your cares will just float away..."
Who knew? It might even be fun to hook up with a "Moon Maid", thought Obama treacherously as he exited onto his floor. He'd ask her to swipe iRists with him on the way out.
The data morgues of the Willow Precinct in no way resembled those of MAD. The GenBank collection was contained inside a single huge room, filled with helpful robot servitors and how-to holograms. He was looking for only the single data file collection, which was known as "HGP K6 SSWATZ28954172.1952-2022". Legacy Data translation machine stands stood at the end of each long row of gently refrigerated waist-high horizontal display bins--you simply slipped the storage media into it and it was automagically detected, translated, and then ported to your iRist or onGrid account. Why couldn't MAD have funding like this? Why did he have to work in such a miserably decrepit, ancient tenement of a building, filled with broken-down and outdated technologies and bored--or even worse, crazed and resentful--coworkers? Obama felt he could be perfectly happy spending the rest of his life working at an institution like this one, helping to preserve the precious and vanishing humyn heritage for the future. Why not? It had already done him a lot of good just to get away off-planet for a bit. Some of this feeling, he knew, was just the giddiness of the lower gravity. But some of it was real. The question was, how much?
In the merest fraction of the time it would have taken Priska or Raffi, the Endura robot located and extracted the HGP K6 SSWATZ28954172.1952-2022 disk and fed it into the translation machine. After a few minutes, it swiped his iRist. Obama glanced at the data, then attempted to scroll through it. It was blank. None of the data was there.
He made the Endura remove the disk from the machine, then he fed it back through himself and attempted to manually translate it, scanning it visually as he did. Blank.
He removed other data containers at random from the bins and fed their contents into another machine. They were all blank. Obama looked around the huge, brightly gleaming, beautiful room. There was, as far as he could tell, nothing actually in it.
Tamiko seemed at first politely disbelieving, then terribly, almost personally, mortified when he complained to her about it at the front desk. But all she could do, aside from apologizing profusely, was to swipe him the iTooth of the Liberry's Director, a Mr Ichinose, who did not answer his chimes. Obama left two messages, then went back to his hotel.
Where he spotted Park and Malek loitering in the inside lobby.
Maybe it was because he was so wired from lack of sleep. Or maybe it was just the pure adrenaline rush generated by sudden fear. But the moment he saw the two Security Service agents, Obama simply turned and walked back the way he'd come.