Blue Skies by Matthew Mather

TBlue Skies by Matthew MatherAlthough it is one of six interlocking narratives comprising the Atopia Chronicles, this novella is also a fully rounded story capable of standing on its own.

Olympia Onassis is an advertising executive in a world struggling between riding the wave of new technology and sinking beneath it. Diagnosed with media-overload-induced stress on the eve of her greatest triumph, she agrees to trial a new technology that will edit out the very advertising that provides her livelihood.

The story is written in a breezy style reminiscent of noir, not only allowing the plot to unfold at the rapid pace suitable for a story about a data-saturated world but also invoking a layer of grime which removes the need for repeated explicit references to the seamy side of the world. This stripped-down, amped-up delivery gives Mather more room to pack in the seeds of both dystopia and sublimation.

Olympia is almost the perfect caricature of an advertising executive. Filled with extreme opinions about everything but moving onto something else so fast that her anger becomes another hollow event leading nowhere. Even her acceptance of the experimental technology is shallow and arrogant; she is more concerned with the possibility it will give her an in with the manufacturer than with the possibility it could help her do her job better.

The supporting characters are rendered with broad strokes, sometimes leaving little evidence there is depth or real individuality behind their brief appearance. Rather than weaken immersion, this adds to the reader’s understanding of how self-absorbed Olympia is.

Although the book is a full-immersion futureshock and can be read for pure enjoyment, it also raises questions of how much of our life is built from perception not reality and what unexpected impacts this might give as-good-as-life synthetic realities.

I enjoyed this novella greatly. I recommend it to readers fond of cyberpunk, the possible impact of altered realities, or powerful character sketches.

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2 thoughts on “Blue Skies by Matthew Mather

  1. I liked this story too! I haven’t read the whole of the Atopia Chronicles, but I have read a few of the stories and they are really quite good. I thought Blue Skies was the strongest of the ones I have read. I found the ending of Blue Skies to be oddly frightening…

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    1. Without committing spoilers, I am divided about whether the ending is happy or scary; I got the sense that it was not actually terrible for Olympia, but she was shallow and fickle enough I could not tell if it was transitory happiness or the beginnings of personal growth.

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