Bookshelf: 'Wish List,' a book you must 'add to cart'
By Johanna Salinas
In this modern world where clicks and scrolling shorten attention spans, reading a book can seem like a huge feat. Amanda Pampuro’s “Wish List” grasps our attention with sci-fi shorts that remind us to step back from technology and remember reality.
Pampuro is a former Guam resident who has written for various local publications such as the Marianas Variety, Guam Daily Post, The Guamanian and Pacific Island Times.
For fans of “Black Mirror” and “Twilight Zone,” Pampuro’s vignettes go beyond sci-fi. Each story is a commentary on connection—both human and otherworldly.
The book opens with the titular novelette. A woman, only known by her username ARgurl16, is being constantly observed by artificial intelligence, which tries to predict her needs through her online wish list. Pampuro’s AI is less Steven Spielberg and more reminiscent of Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Artificial Friend.”
There are moments in “Wish List” where the AI becomes sentient about humanity, particularly human desire. The AI narrates, “Happiness is a human emotion that reflects not just satisfaction but also a kind of thrill. Happiness can be a simple momentary upbeat in the music of one’s day or it can be an exuberant kind of madness. It is a fleeting song, but humans cling to the memory of those tunes throughout their lifetime.”
Pampuro’s novelette is a cautionary tale of not following your heart. Her nameless protagonist forever browses diving flippers without purchasing them.
This piece could perhaps be interpreted as the author’s own musings of what if she had not taken any risks in her own life and traveled to Guam.
“Wish List” is followed by a sci-fi romcom “By the Light of the Moons.” Pampuro puts a spin on the enemies-to-lovers trope by sending the rivals Peter and Vivian to Mars.
In their new home, the earthlings form a new bond they couldn’t have on their home planet. This piece is the coziest of the collection, with the focus more on the characters and the science being just a part of the romantic backdrop.
In the final story, “Flight of the Valkyries,” Pampuro takes on time travel as an acrobat unintentionally unlocks a wormhole into the future. As the story is related to the fable Peter and the Magic Thread, the prose is nostalgic to RL Stein and Neal Shusterman. This piece is an excellent cautionary tale to share with all ages as a reminder to slow down and enjoy the slow, quiet moments.
Pampuro writes sci-fi pulp with a full heart. The stories in “Wish List” can be read in one sitting, yet the heaviness of each plot stays with the reader for a long time.
“Wish List” can be purchased on Amazon. and you can find Pampuro on Instagram and Twitter at Bright Lamp and her site amandapampuro.wordpress.com.