In the utopian post-Scarcity Bitchun society, there is no need to work for a living, no poverty, no hunger, no disease, no death. People can do work, to gain "Whuffie", respect from their fellows. Julius is over a hundred years old, has composed three symphonies, died twice and been restored from backup, and is now part of an ad-hocracy maintaining one of the old rides in Disney World. Everything seems fine, then an old friend reappears wanting to commit suicide, a rival faction tries to take over the ride, and someone murders him. Things go downhill from there.
A great vision of a post-Scarcity world -- not utopia, but pretty close to it, if it weren't for the people. Lots of great little observations of the way people might live, might find value in their lives, and might still mess things up.
Doctorow's first published collection of short stories, some great, some really peculiar.
Even in the Global Village, with everyone online, people still need sleep. So the world has fragmented into time zones, collections of people who share interests and the same sleep patterns. Art (not his real name) is a member of Eastern Standard Tribe, working on user interfaces that will sabotage their great rivals, the Greenwich Mean Tribe, when he has a great idea that could earn him and his co-workers a fortune. So why is he sitting trapped on the roof of an asylum, seriously considering performing a self-lobotomy via a pencil up the nose? (Don't try this at home, people. It never helps.)
It's a great ride figuring out why, in the highly connected, highly competitive, highly caffienated world Art lives in. That world is closer to today than the one in Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, so is more recognisable, and more scary for that.
At first sight Alan appears to be a slightly eccentric neighbour, spending six months sanding down the wood in his new house, offering to soundproof his neighbour's wall instead of complaining about their loud music playing, and helping a friend install pirate wifi network points throughout the locale. But it emerges that Andy comes from somewhere much weirder: his father is a mountain, his mother is a washing machine, his brothers include an island and a set of nesting dolls. But then the neighbours aren't much better: one has wings, and one can detect outsiders like Archie.
Okay, call me old fashioned, but I like my stories to make sense, or at least to make me think that they might make sense if looked at from an angle I can't quite manage to see. I didn't get that feeling. There's lots of interesting little subplots, wry techno-jokes, and good (if nasty) characterisation. But it didn't gel for me. I did a quick web-trawl after to see if I'd just missed an obvious (or even non-obvious!) point, but found little help. So, an interesting, sometimes fun, sometimes disturbing, always disjointed, ride, but no destination.
Doctorow's second published collection of short stories, some not so short. Here he writes futuristic stories by, as he puts it, rigorously and accurately predicting the present. The theme of intellectual property and digital rights management is pervasive, occasionally amusing (as in the reason behind some of those strangely familiar story titles), and often chilling.
Perry and Lester invent things. All sorts of things. Seashell robots that can make toast. Boogie Woogi Elmo dolls that drive cars. They also invent an entirely new economic system. ‘New Work’ is a New Deal for the technological era, and together Perry and Lester transform the country, with journalist Suzanne Church there to document their progress.
But their success is transient and the New Work bust puts the dot.com-bomb to shame. Down but not out, they go back to what they do best – inventing things. Until a rogue Disney executive grows jealous and convinces the police that their amazing 3-D printers are being used to run off AK-47s, at which point things get very dark very quickly…
This brilliantly entertaining and original novel from the visionary author of Little Brother fizzes with bold ideas about the future and how technology shapes society.
Perry Gibbons and Lester Banks are “makers”: they invent things by mashing up, modding, and extending existing tech into new and innovative products. When Landon Kettlewell, new CEO of Kodacell, employs Perry and Lester, and asks journalist Suzanne Church to cover their work, little does she know that this is the beginning of a new era, for technology, for journalism, and for her. She documents their highs and lows over the next several decades, in a world that is changing around them dramatically, and where some big companies furiously resist that change.
Great stuff. This near-future tale has all the obvious advocacy of the Maker philosophy, but it unflinchingly tackles the downsides, too. Shareholder blindness, corporate malevolence, corrupt police, geek naivety, short-termism, and personal issues all stop this from being a wide-eyed utopia. It has a gritty realism, which makes the underlying optimism plausible.
And, most importantly, it addresses the real problem of 3D printers: what’s the killer app? Without that, they are just curiosities and hobbyist kit; with it, they are ubiquitous.
Huw Jones is a technophobe living on Earth with the remaining meat people after most of the population uploaded themselves into the interplanetary cloud several decades ago. He is overjoyed to be called to jury service, to help decide whether some post-singularity software should be downloaded. But things don't go as he expects, and he finds himself on the run, pursued and attacked by judges, fundamentalists, genies, and weakly godlike versions of himself. Life will never be the same again.
This is superb. Every sentence bristles with wit and insight, and the plot boils with unexpected and ever more serious consequences, delightfully weird extrapolations, and deep questioning of humanity. I particularly like the slow realisation that Huw, despite being a deep technophobe of his own tech-level, is in fact more comfortable and adept with that technology than most people are today are with ours.
At Burning Man festival, an old contact emerges from hiding to give Marcus a flashdrive of incendiary evidence, with instructions to leak it if anything should happen to her. When she is kidnapped, Marcus must decide whether to go public—and risk losing his employer the election—before the same shadowy agents come after him.