Reviewed by Magdalena Ball
The Chaos of Mokii
by Geoff Nelder
Solstice Publishing – Solstice Universe Imprint
November 16, 2016, ASIN: B01N53B56B
I’ve ‘visited’ Second Life a couple of times, and have to admit that I found it unsettling. It truly felt like an alternative reality with its own set of rules, engagement, and commerce proliferating in a plane entirely different to my own. I’ve often wondered about the implications of such long term occupation in a mental space – one where the physical is subjugated to the mental sphere. Nelder, a master of the ‘what-if’ sci fi, explores this kind of virtual reality in his short, but powerful story The Chaos of Mokii. It’s a fast ride – almost like an amusement park roller coaster – the whole story progresses so quickly, and yet in a way more satisfying and thought-provoking than many full length novels.
The world building is sleek and beautifully done – moving from “a cross between the Titanic interior and a Cinderella nightmare” to crystal corridors, helical stairways, alabaster bridges, and Sandalwood scented saunas. The shifts between the ‘real world’ of a train, and the cyber-world are sleek and handled with a smoothness that belies the fictional nature of both worlds. Nelder’s characters are also well-drawn, particularly his protagonist Olga, who comes across as both vulnerable and ultra sharp. Nelder’s own grasp of physics, hacking terminology, and the philosophical implications of cyber-space make this story so much more than just a fun escape full of un-predictable twists and turns, though it is truly fun, and definitely full of unexpected twists.
At a deeper level, there are questions raised about the nature of reality that are chillingly relevant considering the fact that last year Elon Musk stated publically that there is a billion to one chance that we’re living in “base reality” (that is, a non-virtual world), and even Neil deGrasse Tyson has argued that there is a high probability that we’re living a computer simulation. Though it’s pretty hard to accept these as fact at the moment (the simulation would have to be a damn sight better than Second Life), the possibility of a matrix-like world is becoming increasingly more likely as the world appears to be moving towards instability and as our technological capability grows exponentially. The Chaos of Mokii doesn’t really specifically posit these questions—it’s light-hearted fiction after all—but Nelder’s ‘what-if’ becomes the backbone of the story, and the ultimate choices that face these characters which makes The Chaos of Mokii such a provocative and powerful read.