Adam Bassett’s A Package of Moods is a speculative fiction novel set in a future where a pharmaceutical company has distilled moods into a nicotine patch-like form. Through a series of chapters, each focusing on a new character, Bassett’s novel explores various individuals’ lives and how they intertwine and are impacted by the new mood drugs.
I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
The novel was an easy read, with prose that flowed and was rarely interrupted with any awkward phrasing. Bassett’s writing style has a few moments where it shines. A character’s hesitancy to try the mood altering drugs and his transition to acceptance was encapsulated in “Aidan remained hesitant until the night after Christina broke up with him. He fell into a bottle of rum and awoke with a war in his head and Happy on his neck.” Another character’s description stuck out with the succinct lines “death would be hard for Colby to come by. He always buckled his seatbelt.”
I wanted to like A Package of Moods—the premise was intriguing and borderline dystopian—but it never quite delivered for me. I feel a glaring issue is that the novel attempts to cover more characters and ground than its short length lends itself to. There are 11 chapters, including the epitaph, and each chapter of the novel focuses on a new character and their story. All the characters are connected in one way or another—a nurse from early in the book appears at the end briefly to care for another sick character, the owner of the coffee shop where one character works appears later as the wife of another character, etc.—and the main character of one chapter becomes a background character in another (or disappears entirely). This results in a very surface-level feeling to the story. Other books have demonstrated that it is possible to have a large cast of characters and tell the story from different perspectives—the wildly popular series A Song of Ice and Fire (adapted for televison as A Game of Thrones) is an obvious example—but the length of the book must allow time to develop such a large cast and give the reader enough time with the characters. A Package of Moods, being a bit over 50k words in length, just does not have the time to develop the characters and connections it introduces.