It's a wretched existence in the Tomorrowland universe. Regret, longing for glory days, self-denial. It's all a pity party and we're here on the edge watching in, feasting on the marrow.
A certain darkness takes each short story and wrings it thoroughly, juicing out all the essence and in a language that's swift, economic and lucid. Decent in its drabness from a high level, it's a witty collection as the stories develop their own style and bubble out a humour that lies beneath all that muck of existing in a world where you're with your thoughts and second-guesses.
Filled with characters that are shades of depressing, it's their distinct angles on self-loathing and failed realisations that imbues each story with a charm that comes through in humour and satisfaction. Each end caps off in a delightful, resolute manner. Even, or especially, if it's not a happy one. But you've now got a smile for reading them.
Looking for a way out is less of an issue here than looking to take stock of what's around you. The aftermath of living is a torn, unforgiving prospect filled with the introspection that claws its way out and you just have to be ready for when it does.
"Guilt City" taking that on its head with the narrator building an arcology of sorts right in their own backyard and having to deal with scores of people they've wronged taking up residence. "Future Me" starts off with a simple premise of rewriting your own history but then spirals so quickly into a madness and absurdism of time travelling gone awry that it alone would be the price of picking Tomorrowland up off the shelf.
You stare out windows when it's raining like in a drug commercial. Your alcohol and pornography use, let's just be honest, they're off the charts. You smoke way too much. You're afraid of your own shadow. You live a sad, sad life. You've got to change, and I've got to change you. I mean I've got to change me, and there's no time like the past.
Moving the final story, "Bearing A Cross", up away from the end would fare the weight of the collection better. It's still a good yarn, but the parallel doesn't veer too far from current events and takes things down a notch.
What Joseph Bates has here in Tomorrowland is a fine spirit walk of taking bleak existences and finding its light in warped reflections.
Reviewed on Sunday, 20 July 2014