Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Downmind Downmind
by V. O. Blum
Steam Press

Supplied for review by Steam Press

Reviewed By: Jacqui Smith

This wasn’t an easy read, and it isn’t going to be an easy review. The idea that one person could somehow control the mood of the world is an unsettling, and dare I say, a depressing one. The idea is that certain extremely rare individuals unconsciously project what the writer terms "t-waves" – creating a contagious despair across the human population. Oh, and interacting with the physical world in odd ways, doing peculiar things to wooden panelling.

Which brings our hero into the tale, a botanic chemist from New Zealand named Foster Castle, who is called in to investigate a piece of oddly degraded wood that was formerly part of the wall of a mental hospital in Boston. He digs into the database and finds a similar specimen in Rio… and so it begins. All this set in a 2025 where things are (predictably) falling apart around the edges. So, it’s proper science fiction that takes a serious view of the future, something we don’t see nearly enough of these days.

I found Blum’s vision of a decaying future entirely credible, although the concept of the DownMind was a bit too unbelievable for me (and a bit too New Ageist, especially when the personnel of a Coromandel retreat get involved). His attention to detail is excellent, and he has certainly done an impressive amount of research. I suspect that his forays into religion and politics are likely to be unwelcome in certain dinner party conversations, and if you’re easily offended by such things this is not the book for you.

That said, he gave me an idea or two to think over… and that’s what this novella is really about. Read it for the ideas, some of them will blow your mind!

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