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Mall by Pattie Palmer-Baker - Book Tour & Review

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Pattie Palmer-Baker

* Dystopian *

Title: MALL

Author: Pattie Palmer-Baker

Publisher: Del Sol Press

Pages: 272

Genre: Dystopian

A Novel by Pattie Palmer-Baker Winner of the Del Sol Most Promising Novel, 2017

MALL is a sparkling alternate world where everyone is beautiful,
employed with enough income to consume and to experience a myriad of
pleasures including drugs, gambling, theater, holographic adventures. No
poverty and little or no crime. A lot of sex.

But what about the Mall Code? And what happens when Sara, a 21st
century woman, accidentally finds her way into this alien yet familiar
world? Nona, a MALL mental health practitioner treats Sara upon her
arrival and goes against the Code to help her acclimate. Sara seems to
be just what she needs, an antidote to Nona’s secret and growing

At first Sara desperately wants to get home, and, as she seeks a way
out as well as answers about her new reality, Nona begins to see MALL in
a new light. Is abundant gratification enough?

Things aren’t all beauty and pleasure. Sara experiences dancing in a
dangerous orgiastic dance club on a lower level. She attends a gambling
session where people bet on living more years when their “number’s up”
and a “passing ceremony,” where Mallites are supposedly resurrected into a new life.

Junkers, outsiders lurking on the fringes of MALL, have been fighting
Mall Management’s control by creating increasingly dangerous
disturbances. For years they have struggled to discover an exit, based
on rumors of those who made it Outside and were never heard from again.
Through them Sara and Nona meet someone who might help them escape. They
both must make the choice that will change their lives forever.

Who will risk leaving and who will decide to stay?

MALL by Pattie Palmer-Baker was recently published by Del Sol Press and winner of the Del Sol Press Most Promising Book, 2017.

ISBN: 978-0-9998425-5-3.


What a suspenseful journey Mall was—a real “page-turner”- 
imaginative with firm command of psychological expression and dialogue!
Pattie Palmer-Baker captures some of the sexual contradictions,
insecurities, and darker motivations of her female characters, and the
complex relationships between women. The “surface” allusions to sex and
violence throughout the story line work well with the superficial world
she describes. Sex all the time—and yet, really, not much explicit
writing about actual sexual encounters—the same for violence. This
tension of content and form works well for me. What gives pleasure? What
gives pain? The many hallways and mirrored rooms give the setting a
creepy fun-house effect and increase the sense of a closed world and
claustrophobic doom. Her descriptions of the Mallites’ physical
appearances and their individual choice of costume in this strange place
is creative—a breath of lightness in this frank examination of our
quandary about the meaning of freedom in an existential existence. What is real? I was “on the run” with Sara for the entire read! And what a turn at the end!

— Cathy Cain, Portland poet and artist



“I want to be
clear, Natalie: are you saying that you’re having sex with this man more often
than the Code dictates unless pair-bonded?” Nona asked, fidgeting slightly.
Natalie nodded, red curls bobbing.
“Sometimes. The sex is good, but that’s not why I seek out his company. I can’t
find the words to ...”
Puzzled, Nona stopped listening.
Was Natalie trying to say the sex was not good enough to pair-bond? If that
were the case, any Mental Health Practitioner would know how to remedy it. If
Natalie’s actions weren’t against Mall’s Code, Nona would interrupt and tell
her. Surprisingly, this restriction pressed on her in an unfamiliar manner, a
physical pressure in the area just above her stomach, like the sting she
sometimes felt when she adminned a dart. But relief would have to wait.
Natalie’s voice dropped again to
almost a whisper. “You won’t tell, will you? That we have sex secretly? Or that
we meet to talk in one of our quarters?”
Nona’s interest quickened. “No,
anything you say in here is protected by client/patient confidentiality. May I
ask why you meet in your rooms when that also is expressly forbidden?”
“Are you sure you won’t reveal
anything I say to you?”
“Yes. Please know, Natalie, that
even if I wanted to, Mental Health Practitioners cannot.”
“We meet,
well, to talk about what he believes is wrong with Mall.” She paused to search
Nona’s face. “Okay, I’ll tell you the part that you can never tell: he’s a
The confession stunned Nona into
silence. Never before had any of her clients divulged such a shocking fact.
Before she could speak, as suddenly as it had been happening so often in the
last few weeks, the lights went out. “I do apologize. You probably have also
experienced this annoying event too many times. Usually the lights go...” Light
flooded the room at that moment. “See, no harm done, and I will add two extra
minutes to your session.” Nona inched up in her chair to look more closely at
Natalie. “I confess that I am taken aback by your admission that you’ve been
meeting with a Junker. Of course, I will not reveal this, but I can’t
understand why. We all know that Junkers are causing the disturbances occurring
throughout Mall. How do you feel about pursuing this strange relationship with
someone who belongs to this group?”
“I admit I find it troubling. But
not so much that ... Oh I don’t know what to do!” She wrung her hands and
lowered her head.
Nona was at a loss. Most of her clients
wanted to revitalize all kinds of things, from virtual reality rock climbing to
interactive story creation and, most often, sexual experiences. Except for
Natalie, the complaint was the same for everyone: the experience lacked
novelty, and the client wanted to rekindle the thrill. And strange, wasn’t it,
that the boredom Nona felt when she listened to the repetitive and stale
grievances was for her a symptom of the same problem? The only subject she did
find interesting was clients’ fear of death, but most refused to discuss it in
much detail. All she had to go on was body language—those subtle, involuntary
physiological effects revealing intense discomfort. If only she could persuade

them to go into detail, but that, too, would be against the Code. Never

insist that someone talk about a subject that would make the speaker

uncomfortable, and that even included Mental Health Practitioners. She

certainly did not feel bored with Natalie. Excited and, yes, a little scared.
Not only did Natalie know a Junker, she had a relationship with him. What
should she do? She wished she could discuss with her colleague and former
pair-bond, Royce.
Suddenly, the entry gong sounded,
startling her out of her train of thoughts. Natalie gasped, rising from her
chair. “God of Reincarnation, am I in trouble?” She fell back into her chair
when the door slid open and a black-and-silver uniformed man strode in.
“Pardon me, may I ask why you are
here?” Nona asked, stepping back. She seldom encountered a Finance Policeman.
“Your presence is required soon at
a Mall Management meeting,” he announced in a deep, authoritarian voice.
“Please excuse me. I am
confused—why me? Mental Health Practitioners never attend those meetings.”
“They do not inform me about the
subject of their meetings. Even if I did know, I would not divulge it.”
“Yes, of course,” she hastened to
reassure him. “I have never been to Level 100, so please, can you tell me when
and where to go?”
“Not necessary. I will return and
accompany you at the appointed time.” He spun around and out the door.
Natalie sighed audibly. “Oh, God of
Reincarnation, I thought somehow you had alerted the Finance Police about my
code violation.”
“No, as I said, I would not and
cannot. Please continue.”
“I wonder what the meeting will be
about.” Natalie looked over at the door. “I’m afraid for my friend ...”
Nona interrupted. “Please excuse me for cutting in. You said
friend. Do you have a heart- friend contract with him?”

“No—I would, but he refuses because…I don’t think I want to
talk about this anymore.”

Nona quashed the desire to try to persuade her. “Do you have
anything else to discuss? Our meeting is drawing to a close.”

“Sort of. At work, Delta stole one of my ideas. I planned on
letting Stan know because I earned the extra credit …”

Again Nona’s attention veered away. What was this
meeting she was summoned to? Was it about the disturbances? Just the other day
her office went dark twice, both times during sessions, and one of the
blackouts lasted a half hour. The next words out of Natalie’s mouth snagged her
“Delta must have heard or seen him enter my quarters. She
red-mailed me into keeping silent about her creative theft in trade for her not
revealing that Code violation. To make it worse, she overheard him tell me
before entering my room the date for the Junker’s next meeting. He wanted me to

Nona shifted in her seat. What should she do? How could she
help her? “I, as your Mental Health Practitioner, would not want you to take
such a risk. If you are experiencing curiosity, I can prescribe something that
will eliminate that undesirable feeling—have you heard of the new pharm,
Freedomfrum?” Before she could stop herself, Nona asked, “Did your friend tell
you where the meeting would be?”

“Thank you for the offer of the pharm prescription. I really
don’t need it. It’s not exactly curiosity. I just can’t explain it. I do have
an idea where they’ll meet: somewhere on one of the lower Levels.” She raised
her head abruptly. “Why do you want to know?”

Why was a good question. Was it because she wanted to
be a proper Mallite and report this meeting? No, that wasn’t it. She couldn’t,
anyway. Did she want to meet a Junker? Was that what she really wanted? No one
knew who they were or where they met. What was this unusual tenseness she was
feeling? Strangely, it was not unpleasant. The chance to talk with a Junker
excited her—that was it—a feeling she had not experienced for a very long time.

Before Nona could answer, an alert gong sounded, followed by
a loud voice announcing, “Mall Emergency! You are the MHP on call. Guards will
contact you in thirty seconds.” Nona stood abruptly and said, “Please excuse
me, Natalie; it would be best if you left at once. We can schedule another
appointment later.”

“Oh, God of Reincarnation, a Mall Emergency! I’ll leave
immediately,” Natalie said, voice shaking. She scurried to the opening door and
hurried out.


My Review
Mall is...Mall. I honestly think this book is one of the most unique dystopian novels I've read in a long while. It's not like the typical "government is bad, female heroine has to do something she doesn't really want to to change things and get rid of corrupt government" plot most dystopian novels tend to have. I guess it's more post-apocalyptic in a sense.
I definitely got a High-Rise vibe, or even a Dollhouse vibe from the story. If you're a fan of either of those, you'll most likely enjoy Mall.
The story is about a woman named Sara who has a sucky husband (he enjoys looking at other women/flirting with them), and while at the mall one day, she runs off after seeing him being so brazen with the cashier at the shop they're in. Instead of making it out to the parking lot or to another part of the mall, Sara tumbles through a strange portal and lands in Mall. 
That's when things get really weird.
I honestly had no idea how this book was going to play out. I spent most of my time trying to figure out what Mall was, what the people really were, how they came to be there, and why they lived the way they did. 
Everyone in Mall must follow the Code, which is basically the law of the land. Everyone in Mall is also vapid, shallow, and obsessed with consuming and pleasure. Sex is meaningless. Life is meaningless. But everyone is happy and content in Mall...or so it seems.
I really rather enjoyed the whole aspect of Mall. It's an intriguing premise, what with the characters having a life where one only cares about making profit, being pretty, and never experiencing negative emotions. It's a tempting thing, to be sure, but it comes with a price.
The characters are an interesting bunch. I felt for Sara. Her husband was trash. Her childhood sucked. And it made sense that she started to come around to the way of living offered to her in Mall. 
I also liked Nona and Stan. On the other hand, I despised Fabriana and Paul. 
The plot and world-building were fantastic. Mall feels like an immersive read one can get sucked into and lost in. I felt like I was living in Mall at times while reading. Especially because I related to Sara in so many ways. 
The only thing that frustrated me was the ending. I liked how it ended, but at the same time, I wanted more. I needed something to give me a stronger sense of closure. 
Overall, though, if you're a fan of dystopian/post-apocalyptic fiction that is different and will make you think, Mall is definitely a story you'll want to get your hands on.
4.5 stars from me! 

Pattie Palmer-Baker is a recognized award-winning artist and poet.
Her artwork has been exhibited in galleries throughout the Pacific
Northwest. Locally and nationally she has won numerous awards for her
art and poetry.

An accomplished poet, Pattie had been nominated for the Pushcart
Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in many journals including Calyx,
Voicecatcher, Military Experience the Arts, Minerva Rising and Phantom
Drift. In 2017 she earned first prize in the Write to Publish contest,
and in 2019 she won first, second, and the Bivona prize in the Ageless
Poetry contest.  She has served as the poetry co-editor for VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices and visions.

Del Sol Press awarded MALL first prize for the most promising first novel in 2017.

Pattie lives in Portland, Oregon with her beloved husband and rescued dachshund.

Her website is

You can follow her at Facebook at

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