I picked this next book up on a bit of whim while browsing through NetGalley last year. The cover is striking, but the concept really drew me in. It gnawed at me with its really big feelings of “this is going to be weird, but bare with me.” Wild Massive, by Scotto Moore, is an incredible, delightfully messy romp that accomplishes most of its aims while being a truly fun ride.
Imagine there was a desert, and in that desert existed not just a building, but the building. A near infinite skyscraper comprising 50,000 floors, each with its own biome, world, set of cultures, or even just a blank slate. And this building is also populated by a brand of theme parks, a large governmental body known as the Association, the agents of Storm and Desire, and a curious race of shapeshifting wizards. Carissa, the last surviving Brilliant, is traversing the backstages of this building, she just happens to get in the way of a massive sneak attack by the shapeshifting wizards on the Association, forcing her to reckon with her own past. And amidst all of the technological wonders and magical marvels that populate the building, sits Tabitha Will, and her ability to see one day into the future by writing a book.
I know I start a lot of reviews off with, “I don’t know where to begin with this review,” but Wild Massive might truly be one of the few times where it’s hard to pick a starting point. I could wax on about its meta-commentary on the art of storytelling, or how it lampoons the big multiverse spanning super-hero mega franchises, while also giving them a loving wink. I could describe how the mere fact that the chapters are separated into seasons and episodes opened up so much more mental leeway for exposition pockets that served both as world building and long elaborate jokes with varied timelines for payoff. It’s also a clever book full of amazing one liners that hit more often than they miss, and characters that are named exactly what their roles would be; three cheers for Agent Pivotal Moment.
The book is, as I said, delightfully messy. Moore cannot help but constantly introduce new ideas that fit the moment perfectly, but still require a bit of setup. He never seems to get fully carried away luckily, but there were some times where I felt fatigued. Thankfully, by the time one reaches the later sections of the novel, there is less of this as all the weird and whimsical stuff has already been offered, and it’s time to take the coaster downhill. I’m not kidding, while the majority of episodes are nice bite size chunks, there is an incredible climactic battle that dwarfs the rest of the episodes in page count. But it doesn’t overstay its welcome. It feels earned and all of the little pieces come together in a mesmerizing display of fireworks. It made me feel things that I would not normally feel in similar superhero stories, and I found myself laughing out loud, a lot.
I will say, if you aren’t a fan of funny books, this one may be tough to swallow. Moore manages to balance subtle satire with absurd dad jokes, puns, and commentary on story crafting. Your mileage may vary as well depending on the kind of humor you enjoy, along with the types of things you like to make fun of, but I had a blast with it. It’s ironic with moments that lead into sardonic, yet incredibly sentimental about the things it targets. It’s an irreverent book that doesn’t take itself seriously, but treats its subject matter with clear love. Moore seems to recognize that he’s having fun, and not trying to tear things down. Instead, he uses humor and irony to pick apart things we take for granted within these more streamlined commodified stories. It’s not all crap, but Moore spends time picking at the motives for these kinds of stories more than just taking cheap shots. It made the humor have staying power, while also forcing me to consider what exactly I found funny, which is a weird place to be in when reading a comedy science fiction book about a 50,000 floor skyscraper. I also loved Wild Massive for that aspect, which some people may have a hard time dealing with.
The characters were honestly pitch perfect. They aren’t the most growth oriented characters, and while Moore shies away from digging too deep into their interior lives, he makes them feel that they have a stake in their world. While I generally like a little more interior life, Moore invested me fully into almost every character, be it main, side or even bit character. They all felt as if they had lives outside the narrative he was telling, even though in some cases they explicitly did not. The agents were all wonderful, even if they were sociopathic. Carissa and Rindasy had an excellent dynamic as they smashed through the floors of the building. Again, three cheers for the best bit character I have ever read, Agent Pivotal Moment who is perfect in every way, no notes.
What it really comes down to for Wild Massive, is that the story feels like it tries to be about everything, without feeling like it is actually about everything. There are stories about colonialism, capitalist drudgery, finding one’s role within the wider universe, and the joy of theme parks even if they can be a little fucked up and used to tell untruths and weave propagandistic narratives. It’s also about a goddamn 50,000 story skyscraper, inside an infinitely looping desert, with time machines, elevators that transport you to your destination, and a chasm that separates the topmost floors from the other 49,950 floors. Oh also you can break the windows, and travel outside it, and there are fire escapes. It’s an insane attempt to make art about both the individual process of making art, and the corporate need to usurp the process for profit and perfecting the creative process. But it’s also a fun heartwarming tale about two fugitives trying to find safety from the people trying to kill them.
I don’t really know how else to critique such a massive book. I don’t really see areas where it needs improvement but even though I found myself adoring it despite and because of its flaws, I still found myself needing to take breaks from it to recharge. It’s really hard to distill Wild Massive into a single idea. I don’t even want to try because even Moore doesn’t seem to want it to be one thing. Even if that one thing is a “metaphor,” there is literal commentary in the book about how it’s impossible for it to only be one thing. So, amongst this shifting, metamorphosing, sprawling narrative that covers no less than 50,000 different floors, who can I say this book is for? It’s for anyone who wants to play around with the world of creativity and who isn’t afraid to get dirty in the sandbox. It’s for people who still like superheroes conceptually, but sometimes find the current offerings lacking. It’s for people who want something different that might push the boundaries on what they are willing to accept from an author in terms of shenanigans. It is a labor of love, of several different projects Moore has tried in various different forms, and he’s found a home for them here, and boy is it welcoming.