Author: Rick Moss
Publisher: Aerodyne Press
ISBN: 978-0-9831666-0-3

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In his gripping debut, author, Rick Moss offers us a fascinating , and very seductive premise –networking  with a  strong social  agenda, connecting  a world  of strangers into  close knit tribes , all part of a benevolent electronic uber-family. An arresting image midway through the book pretty much sums it all up– a stadium full of strangers perfectly coordinated in a dance programmed and fed into their minds by a giant virtual network .  This is the ‘Ebocloud’, a vast community of cohesive groups, aiming to change the world with its ambitious socialist ideals and notions of family building.   Mixing state of the art connectivity with ideas derived from  tribal  notions of family (specifically the peaceful  and forward thinking Ebo tribe in the now-defunct state of Biafra), the Ebocloud  quickly  finds a vast and devoted following, spawning  an energetic sub culture complete with its own jargon, gestures and tattoos.    ‘It’s the antiFacebook’, a character quips,  and indeed that is what the Ebocloud seems like, replacing superficial ‘friending’ and self obsession with a system that awards altruism and community spirit, and seeks nothing more than the welfare of its  believers . As for the dance, called Orchestrated Movement,  it  is an illustration of the next step in the cloud’s evolution, where “ebocousins” across the country  can literally plug their brains into the network, enabling the cloud to monitor their responses, track their movements  and even  influence their choices and actions. 

Against this exciting backdrop  runs the story of artist Ellison Luber, seeking answers to unexplained attacks that have destroyed his home, left his brother dead and caused his girlfriend, the mysterious Charlotte, to go into hiding.   Nothing could be further from his reclusive life than the crush and bonhomie of the ebo , yet Luber finds himself drawn into  its cheery embrace as he sets out to unravel the mystery that is Charlotte
and her connection with the attacks. Before long, Luber even signs on to become one of the first recipients of the dToo, the digital tattoo that will let the Ebocloud cruise unhindered along his neural pathways .

Smell the Kool aid, the more cynical reader might observe, or wait for the inevitable onslaught of cloud- controlled zombie armies.  For where there is the possibility of mind manipulation in science fiction, there is always, always evil genius plotting  world domination. Right?  Well yes,  conflicted genius does make an appearance, as does  an app that persuades a mob into an act of vandalism, if only to save a life.   And no, for what Moss has in store for us is something  more interesting than Frankencloud on rampage .

At the heart of  this book  is another intriguing one –  The Venaries of Planet Flounce, a science fiction novel that enjoys a cult following  and  that, with a character clearly based on the elusive Charlotte, just might hold the key to Luber’s puzzle . Based in an alternate world called Flounce, “Venaries..”  tells the tale of a society  run by mammoth corporates, and sharply divided into the breedums , privileged with a lifestyle that deems the use of one’s hands sinful,   and a huge menial class called  the ‘touchables’ ,  doomed to a life of silent servility.  The venaries are female ‘touchables’ , employed as maids by the breedums and , invariably, exploited and abused. Change – preceded by a particularly violent civil war - sweeps in thanks to one breedum,  the ambitious reformist Aniston Penchast, aided by his shrewd venary , Lotte Char (equal parts pawn and player, in a role reminiscent of the clone Sonmi in David Mitchell’s ‘Cloud Atlas’).

Ebocloud has a brisk, edgy pace that keeps you hooked to the plot, as it alternates smoothly between Luber’s story and  Flounce’s.  Author Moss displays a considerable talent for world building, designing both Flounce and the Ebocloud with impressive detail.  Cloud it may be, but nebulous it isn’t – Moss gives us a technical scenario that is well researched and believable, and Flounce is a tumultuous world I expect lots of his readers will want to visit again.

Given how much I enjoyed the story and its progression right up to its climax, I must confess to a little disappointment with the way things work out - a rather morally conflicted resolution that seems to condone the loss of a few for the greater good . While a character does attempt to explain it away as not succumbing to ‘American-style    moral superiority’,  this sentiment seems  closer to the Tao of the breedum, than anything Ebo.  In every other respect, Ebocloud is a thought provoking and exciting book that I would recommend to anyone interested in speculative fiction.

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