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Pretty Happy


By Joma West 

2 Dec, 2022

Doing the WFC's Homework


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Joma West’s 2022 Face is a near-future science fiction novel.

The society of tomorrow has learned how to meet all of its material needs. It now faces only social challenges. Which have proven to be intractable. Humans are very creative in finding ways to hurt and oppress each other. Even the rich (there are still rich) feel anxious and miserable.

Reproductive technology has added to the discontent.

Physical sex and pregnancy are outmoded historical relics for the wealthy, who relegate such unpleasant matters to the lower orders. Prospective parents select the child they would like. The process of actually producing the children is left to hirelings the parents need never meet.

This approach leaves the wealthy free to devote time to that which truly matters, endlessly competing for social status, AKA Face. Nobody is better at this game than Schuyler Burroughs (he’s better than his wife Madeleine, though she does her best). Ambitious people maneuver to be close to him, hoping to bolster their own status.

Wealthy parents see their offspring as accessories. An unsuccessful child reflects poorly on their parents. Schuyler’s oldest child, Reyna, appears to be all a father could want. Naomi, alas, is dull and unremarkable.

A few event-filled months cast an unflattering light on this family. Schuyler is the unparalleled victor at a game that no longer pleases him. Reyna is more fragile than she appears. Naomi’s curiosity is rewarded in ways that do not please her.

And as for Menial 63700578 AKA Jake? Designed to be short-lived and selflessly servile, Jake is struggling with urges that he does not understand, impulses to which he will succumb at just the worst time.


One may wonder how society came to this pass. None of the characters in this book ever speculate about that. The author isn’t forthcoming. Readers will never learn the answer to that question. The arrangement does appear to be self-sustaining. 

With the exceptions of Jake and possibly Naomi, the characters are a bunch of spoiled, shallow wastrels who have convinced themselves that the best possible use of their time and resources is an endless game of carefully curated images and social status. This doesn’t make them happy.

Nor are their slaves happy. Well, slaves isn’t the word used, but the Menials are produced by a secret process and trained from birth to serve. They are taught just enough to do their jobs and never learn anything that might help them understand what a poor hand they have been dealt.

Jake, the Menial character in the book, is unhappy and knows it … but he hasn’t been given the education to make any sense of his plight. It’s his private misery.

On the off-chance readers might overlook how this society functions, the same sequence of events is presented from a wide variety of perspectives, each as miserable as the others. Poor Jake spends his days slaving away in the service of oligarchs who have hit on a lifestyle that pleases nobody, despite which nobody is willing to defect. 

Frankly, it’s a society that would benefit from a brutal revolution or at least a decent-sized meteor impact. Readers may be torn between pitying the characters or wanting to see their heads mounted on spikes. However, the unpleasantness of the setting and the people in it is the point.

If you like cheerful comfort reads, this is not the book for you. It is, however, well-written.

Face is available here (Amazon US), here (Amazon Canada), here (Amazon UK), here (Barnes & Noble), here (Book Depository), and here (Chapters-Indigo).