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November 11 , 2009

The Code of Happiness


In the near future unemployed loner Jamie Fuller is approached by rival organizations for his gifts that he himself doesn't believe in. As they vie for control of his spiritual and material wellbeing they hide their true intentions from him. Jamie, living in a bubble and ignoring the obvious as he's prone to do, is coaxed into a horrifying future all in the name of happiness, and a destiny he may never escape.

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Happiness can be bought and sold, as well as scientifically created, squashed, and manufactured. The question is what does that do to people, and should it be done? The Code of Happiness by David J. Margolis is a philosophical science fiction with a thrilling adventure filled plot. The theme that technological advancement will harm both the environment and human experience, but at the same time is a force we all benefit from is handled in a way that is intriguing and nuanced. The journey of the protagonist is the main reason for delving into this theme, as he wrestles with what experiments and data usage is unethical from both sides of the equation.

The main character is Jamie, who is introduced to us as an average guy, if perhaps a little stubborn in avoiding certain technologies, such as oxygen masks. Through the plotline as Jamie’s situation in life and choices morph, we learn that he is both more unique and more normal than we are first lead to believe. His initial struggle to get a job is something that many young people today can relate to. Jamie learns about himself and how willing he is to compromise, as unwittingly his actions cause some of the biggest problems in their society. There is little he can do to stop both the menacing power of the “unpronounceable corporation” and activists who make too many sacrifices on behalf of others for the greater good.

The future setting of The Code of Happiness is one that is both probable and recognizable in our present. One invention I loved was the two-dimensional holographic baristas who made lattes on the vending machines. Although the culture was not vastly different than modern Western culture, there were hints at the direction that change took place. Jamie’s computer programming skills qualify him for a minimum wage job, as Jamie explains that a monkey could do it. An injured old man reacted poorly to being offered help, as few people help others anymore.

Margolis’s creates description, which immediately presents a picture in the readers mind. I vividly imagined the dream scenes. The dialogue is short and to the point. It is a quick read with even pacing. If there was anything lacking, it would be that the side characters were not as developed as they could have been, but that allowed me to focus on the plot and world.

I would recommend Margolis’s easily read novella to readers whom want a science fiction adventure that causes them to think, not only about the future, but also about themselves. It is also just a fun read, if one is not easily depressed by imperfect futures. 8/10

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