Mallworld is a 30km long shopping centre, in the middled of nowhere, owned by the powerful barJulian family. Unfortunately for the human race, it's been sealed off from the rest of the universe by the Selespridar, until it grows up. Trapped in a bubble just larger than the orbit of Saturn, the human race can't see the see the stars any more. This means that Mallworld has become the hub of what passes for human civilisation. It's here that humanity has its one point of contact with its masters, and it's here that the Selespridar will be sampling the lives of 9 humans to see if they are ready for the rest of the universe. Using this survey as a framing structure we're presented with Somtow's short stories.
While Somtow's stories are best classified as humourous SF, they're also finely tuned studies in melancholy. Yes, everyone behaves in trivial ways, because without the promise of the stars life is trivial. It's this underlying sadness that drives the main characters of these stories to overcome their situations, whether it's through music, art or parenthood. They're also a pointer to Somtow's later career in the moral certainties of dark fantasy.
An interesting collection of early works, that show Somtow's later promise.