Elements of fantasy, science fiction, and espionage blend together in a mishmash in Scotto Moore's Wild Massive. Moore's latest novel presents a multiverse set in—to be as purposefully inclusive as possible—an area known as the Building, as individuals struggle against the crushing weight of both the corporate and political interests trying to dominate their lives. This spiraling tumble into bureaucratic hell proves a fascinating read because it addresses the heroism of morality in the chaos of a life dominated by products and franchises.
Everything about this journey plays with metafiction, most prominently in the form of its narrator, a writer named Tabitha Will, who, during her day job, works for entertainment conglomerate Wild Massive on a TV show, called Storm and Desire, that seeks to direct the course of reality. Within the novel, the show lampoons the kind of influence corporations have on governments through apparati that hold major stakes in all sectors of the economy. Tabitha frames everything in language that has a businesslike undertone, even when what is happening borders on the fantastic. For example, her immediate boss, named Allegory Paradox, has the role of “Muse,” functioning as a showrunner for Storm and Desire, but still nominally reports to an “Architect,” who helped design the “Building.” Commonplace nouns use capitalization regularly throughout Wild Massive, because it places special emphasis on the fact that people in the Building exist to put out a product, regardless of any worth they attach to themselves. But sometimes people seem to be the product, so they are themselves given names that sound like products or concepts: another Muse is named Epiphany Foreshadow, for example, or a secret agent is named Pivotal Moment. The ambiguity between person and concept has become so commonplace for Tabitha that it affects how she fundamentally views the space in which she lives.
Pinning down a more plainly descriptive correct term for the Building in which all the action takes place presents a frustrating endeavor because it has countless floors, a chasm just underneath the penthouse, pocket dimensions, even other planets that seem to be inside it, and a deserted parking lot that exists outside of it. Besides, “the Building” allows for the flexibility of metafictional play. It presents an infinite space within which Tabitha can tell her story.
The irony that even societies that have all the resources they could possibly use still fall prey to greed and covetousness defines the way these characters think. Tabitha writes about wars between the main political authority, the Association, and various minority groups. The Association's technological prowess includes longevity to the point at which humans can live practically forever, advanced robotics, teleportation, military spacecraft, and one time machine. All this exists alongside magic, most prevalent among the Shai-Manak, a group of extraterrestrials that use ze/zir pronouns, whom the Association wants to control. Within this maelstrom, lack of control motivates the Association more than anything else and causes the greatest conflicts. The Association, within recent memory, cracked down on a commune of dissident superpowered mutants called the Brilliant, and Tabitha eagerly wants to document the event for Allegory to weave into the plot of Storm and Desire before its focus shifts to the war with the Shai-Manak.
Almost all the novel’s characters except Tabitha have lived for centuries, compared to her own twenty-six years. A fan of the show she works on, Tabitha possesses both a naive enthusiasm for the narrative and a strong work ethic, but what we learn is her magical ability to see into the future gives her value for the Wild Massive corporation. Her boss, Allegory, employs her for this ability, but Tabitha, an orphan later abandoned by her grandmother as a teenager, adopts Allegory as a mentor and remains understandably loyal to her in a world in which others set aside such genuine relationships. In a Building of limitless possibilities, where anyone who lives to old age seems to live forever, personal connections fall away with surprising ease. In a neat twist, Tabitha writes about her own tragic past with blithe irony, but her devotion to Allegory, Wild Massive, and Storm and Desire betrays the void she still feels in the absence of biological parents. When her precognition prompts Tabitha to rescue from Association security a fugitive Shai-Manak named Andrasir and Carissa, a refugee from the Brilliant, it presents her with a first point of conflict with Allegory. Allegory takes information with which Tabitha entrusted her to the authorities, further fueling rebellion in Tabitha.
However, what Tabitha considers a minor personal rebellion is actually the manifestation of a great skepticism and mistrust that pervades the Building—it's just that it's only the second time in Tabitha's short life that she has felt it. Beings who live much longer hold longer grudges, as in the case of Carissa, the Brilliant woman whom Tabitha rescued. Carissa has her own agenda against the Association. The Association had wanted to study the Brilliant in order to produce their own superpowered beings, and sent the military in when the Brilliant resisted. She wants revenge for the loss of her family, including an especially close brother, whom she believes the Association murdered; but fear drives Carissa to live in exile in an elevator. In a Building of nearly innumerable floors, the elevator becomes kind of like a camper van for her. However, her grudge has left her with a deep-seated distrust of people: she can neither rediscover the community she lost nor find success in any of her Association-sabotaging plots, nor form new connections. A lover she reencounters remarks that Carissa hasn't contacted her in hundreds of years.
Few people try to express a moral rejection of Carissa's lone crusade against the Association. Government overreach has simply become an everyday occurrence for so many of the Building's inhabitants, who exist in kind of a limbo in which they accept the Association's authority, but generally try to avoid it. However, Allegory knows that the Shai-Manak's war might be the last chance for a major group to challenge the Association, so she attempts to refocus Tabitha, and the scope of the TV show, to include their story.
Allegory has been a driving force behind the decisions the Association makes, mostly in reaction to aggressive clandestine moves put forward by Epiphany Foreshadow, a former friend and fellow Muse. Both once worked for the beings who created the Building, but Epiphany carried a performance review of Allegory's work too far and now they are nemeses. They conduct a shadow war behind the scenes, with Epiphany attempting to disrupt what structure Allegory has managed to put into order within the Building. Even this mythic backdrop has businesslike roots, as though the forces of good and evil somehow have a career benefit to derive from their actions; but unfortunately for the other beings inside the Building it also means they can act somewhat capriciously, as in the case of the Shai-Manak, in the case of which a Wild Massive attempt to build yet another theme park triggers the war.
Still, where the Shai-Manak, and in particular a soldier named Rindasy, feel the effects of war, Allegory and Tiffany see writing material. Rindasy provides an outsider's view on the Association when ze infiltrates their perimeter with a devastating magical bomb, which Rindasy then carries for the whole novel once the Association learn of zir plans from Andrasir (after Allegory alerts the authorities). Warning the Association, the enemy, had been Andrasir's plan the entire time, much to the surprise of Carissa, Tiffany, and especially zir romantic partner, Rindasy. The idea of peace between the two sides seems not to have crossed anyone's mind, except Andrasir's, who above all else does not want Rindasy to die in a suicide mission. Rindasy, despite patriotic feelings, expresses reluctance to go through with the attack anyway; Zir flight provides the third plotline that intertwines with Tiffany and Carissa's for Allegory and Epiphany to manipulate.
Rindasy's experience as a soldier provides a practical contrast to Carissa's justified anger and Tiffany's youthful zeal. Ze has actually fought the fight that Carissa grudgingly avoids and exists in the abstract for Tiffany. Once paired up, Carissa and Rindasy evade the Association throughout the Building even as Tiffany literally writes their story, knowing where they'll go next—and the other two are aware of her ability!
Conviction proves to be the one trait that cannot be bought from a company like Wild Massive, regulated by a government, or controlled by the mythical-corporate Muses. While fringe groups do exist as they travel the Building—a no man's land stairwell takes in most refugees—Carissa and Rindasy’s refusal to comply with the desires of the powers-that-be ironically accomplishes each other’s goals. In the corporate powers’ scramble to catch Carissa and Rindasy, they shut down both the experimental superpowers program and initiate a truce in the Shai-Manak war. However, neither Carissa nor Rindasy can ever really return to their camps, where suspicion and backstabbing reign supreme. Tiffany, the natural observer, watches this unfold in the schemes that Allegory and Epiphany try to play as they struggle against one another. Despite the looming presence of communal entities, the only way anything seems to get done in the Building is by individualistic outsiders’ force of will.
While playing with genre staples like a multiverses, authoritarian regimes, and superpowers, Wild Massive manages to provide a speculative-fictional collage, in which anything can happen, and which simultaneously reduces the conflict down to a person standing on moral grounds against a wider system. In the context of a materialistic cosmos, the individual's struggle against the greater community proves to be a hard-fought, but winnable battle. That Tiffany, Carissa, or Rindasy's minor rebellions can throw the plans of mythic overlords out of whack leaves the well-being of the Building, the ultimate community, in a perpetual negotiation with the individual. In Wild Massive, Moore has written a skillful celebration of the unending haggle between producer and consumer.