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Eastern Standard Tribe [Hardcover]

Cory Doctorow
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 1 2004
Art is a member of the Eastern Standard Tribe, a secret society bound together by a sleep schedule. Around the world, those who wake and sleep on East Coast time find common cause with one another, cooperating, conspiring, to help each other out, coordinated by a global network of Wi-Fi, instant messaging, ubiquitous computing, and a shared love of Manhattan-style bagels.
Or perhaps not. Art is, after all, in the nuthouse. He was put there by a conspiracy of his friends and loved ones, fellow travelers from EST hidden in the bowels of Greenwich Mean Time, spies masquerading as management consultants who strive to mire Europe in oatmeal-thick bureaucracy.
Eastern Standard Tribe is a story of madness and betrayal, of society after the End of Geography, of the intangible factors that define us as a species, as a tribe, as individuals. Scathing, bitter, and funny, EST examines the immutable truths of time, of sunrise and sunset of societies smashed and rebuilt in the storm of instant, ubiquitous communication.

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Cory Doctorow is one of those rare writers able to envision a future that is entirely believable, one we may wake up to tomorrow morning. Doctorow's prescience is largely a result of his passion for new technologies. Not only is he an established SF writer, he's also a member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a co-editor of the popular tech culture website Boing Boing. Doctorow practically mainlines the future, and readers will feel at home in the future he presents in his second novel, Eastern Standard Tribe, because it's built out of familiar things: megacorporations, social networking services, instant messaging, and GPS devices. The technology and social trends in Eastern Standard Tribe are always the next generation of what exists now, but only just, as if they're simply the latest version rather than an entirely new operating system.

The book tells the story of Art, a member of the Eastern Standard Tribe, a Friendster-like society made up of people who share the same sleep schedule. Art works undercover for EST in England, performing various acts of corporate sabotage, but his life is changed when he falls in love with Linda, a woman who steps into the path of his car to earn some insurance money. Along with Fede, a paranoid EST co-conspirator, they get caught up in an intrigue involving music file-sharing, which eventually results in Art being committed to a sanitarium, where he narrates the book in flashbacks.

Eastern Standard Tribe is a hyper, caffeine jolt of a book, as biting and satirical as it is hopeful and utopian. Doctorow depicts a world that, like Schrödinger's cat, is caught in a moment of impossible simultaneity, torn between two possible futures. Will the profit motive continue to rule the world? Or will society embrace new technologies that serve the masses rather than the corporations? You'll have to open the book to find the answer. --Peter Darbyshire

From Publishers Weekly

John W. Campbell Award-winner Doctorow lives up to the promise of his first novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (2003), with this near-future, far-out blast against human duplicity and smothering bureaucracy. Even though it takes a while for the reader to grasp post-cyberpunk Art Berry's dizzying leaps between his "now," a scathing 2012 urban nuthouse, and his "then," the slightly earlier events that got him incarcerated there, this short novel's occasionally bitter, sometimes hilarious and always whackily appealing protagonist consistently skewers those evils of modern culture he holds most pernicious. A born-to-argue misfit like all kids who live online, Art has found peers in cyber space who share his unpopular views-specifically his preference for living on Eastern Standard Time no matter where he happens to live and work. In this unsettling world, e-mails filled with arcane in-jokes bind competitive "tribes" that choose to function in one arbitrary time or another. Swinging from intense highs (his innovative marketing scheme promises to impress his tribe and make him rich) to maudlin lows (isolation in a scarily credible loony bin), Art gradually learns that his girl, Linda, and his friend Fede are up to no good. In the first chapter, Doctorow's authorial voice calls this book a work of propaganda, a morality play about the fearful choice everybody makes sooner or later between smarts and happiness. He may be more right than we'd like to think.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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4.0 out of 5 stars Too bad it isn't twice as long . . . July 1 2004
It's a horrible thought, but "cyberpunk" is getting a bit long in the tooth, for all that Gibson and Sterling and Stephenson keep writing great books. In his first novel, _Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom,_ Doctorow (who is no relation to E.L. that I know of . . .) showed that he was well on the way to reinvigorating that subgenre. This time, he turns his attention again to the very near future, to a world where the personal computer, the Internet, and the cell phone have all come together in the "comm" -- the ultimate communication, information, and security appliance. The society constructed around the comm, though, is much more difficult to describe. A "tribe" is less than a nation (in the traditional geographic sense) but much more than an affinity group, a societal segment of like-minded people pursuing common ends -- more or less. And because of the inescapable circadian rhythms of our lives, these groups become defined by the time zones in which they primarily reside, even though they're all linked instantaneously by their comms. Art Berry, a loyal member of the tribe based on the U.S. east coast (though it extends all the way to his hometown of Toronto), is a talented user-experience consultant who spends his time and talents in the laborious search "to find the obvious way to do things." But beyond that, he's also a secret agent of the ESTribe working for (and undermining) a conglomerate in the UK. He has a friend and business partner who is also his handler, and he has a semi-flaky girlfriend from L.A. whom he ought not to trust. Actually, I'll stop there since it appears that an adequate description of this very readable, very fun book would require a review longer than the original text. And you can even download it (and all Doctorow's other work) from the author's website!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sharp writing, good plot, excellent read. May 22 2004
If you read the author's debut novel, "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom," then you already know that he is an immensely talented writer - quirky, humorous, edgy and brimming with the kind of future ideas that are keeping the genre fresh. His sharp writing and creativity have produced another superb novel in "Eastern Standard Tribe." Borrowing a few tricks from Wm. Burroughs, and inventing a few of his own, Doctorow tales a magnificently complex tale of humanity in the deceit-ridden near future, where instantaneous wireless communications and omnipresent computer systems are the warp and weft that make up the fabric of everyday life.

Art, the protagonist, is brilliantly portrayed as the interface designer who is on one hand a defacto industrial spy - screwing those he works for in the name of his Tribe. Unfortunately, what goes around, comes around in the karmic way his partner and girlfriend make use of Art's revolutionary ideas.

One last comment, the gifted way Cory Doctorow portrays Art as he sits atop the sanatorium, contemplating homebrew lobotomies and the difference between being smart vs. being happy - well, it is some of the most vivid writing I have read this year, bordering on genius, and ringing true to those of us who have also had the hamster wheel spinning in our head. Highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars High Speed Connection! April 24 2004
Art is some kind of really wired techno-geek, from Toronto but working in London. Linda is his new girlfriend (they met when he knocked her down with his car), exciting but emotionally unstable. Fede is his boss. Art and Fede have come up with a really far out scheme to make money by pirating music from the computer systems of cars on the Mass. Turnpike. They stand to make millions, but now the deal is unraveling. Is Fede trying to doublecross him? And what about Linda? Who can you trust? Especially when you find yourself committed to a mental institution. Worse yet, trapped on the roof.
I can't explain it any better than that. You'll just have to read the book. Author Cory Doctorow writes a fast paced, adrenaline-soaked novel of a world like ours but faster, more driven, more wired, more sleepless. People are constantly interacting with communication devices but hardly anyone really communicates. Author Doctorow creates a kind of cyber-babble language full of odd abbreviations and acronyms that is perfectly suited to such a world. You may not understand it but you keep reading.
This is a frenetic page-turner. You may not understand all the intricacies of the plot, or the snip-snap, slangy cyberspeak, but you will find yourself quickly engaged with this quirky, entertaining story. I can recommend this one for an entertaining read. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber
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4.0 out of 5 stars wild satire March 7 2004
Eastern Standard Tribe
Cory Docterow
Tor, Mar 2004, $23.95, 224 pp.
ISBN: 0765307596
While working for an international monolith that either files employees away or deletes them, interface designer Art Berry is developing a data flow management program. His objective is to create the most user-unfriendly software ever promulgated on an ill-cyber public. Art is an underground operator for the global Eastern Standard Tribe though he resides in the heartland of the Greenwich Mean Tribe.
In a world when boundaries exist in the twilight mind of the bureaucrat, only power matters, but how to achieve and hold authority in a boundless orb is the question of the competing tribes trying to foster their time zone on an unsuspecting people still used to the influence of DAC (delete, alternate control). Art believes that his hostile program will embarrass the rivals, but soon after hitting his current squeeze with his car he finds he has doubts about the truth as venerated by tribal leaders. Now Art stands on a Boston insane asylum's rooftop thinking of using that ancient communication device the stubby pencil to escape from his current scenario.
Like his first Berry novel, DOWN AND OUT IN THE MAGIC KINGDOM, Cory Docterow provides a wild satire of the shrinking yet increasingly complex world. The zany story line is crazier than the lead protagonist making it difficult to follow and requiring extra time beyond the standard for this size novel, but it is also amusing as many icons are skewered. Art is a terrific anti-hero struggling with whom and what to believe as those he held sacred prefer spins rather than honesty. Fans of intelligent humorous but weird, not easy to track satires will join Art's quest for what is right.
Harriet Klausner
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Raises a lot of Questions
Eastern Standard Tribe by Cory Doctorow was my selection for my local book club read this month. It had been sitting on my shelf for over a year and I was still curious. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Heather Pearson
2.0 out of 5 stars Slightly Better Than DAOITMK...
...but not a whole lot. I wrote a poor review of this book already, just a day after the book came out - it was able to download and read it from his site - and strangely enough,... Read more
Published on April 30 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars Technical Accuracy
Cory achieves an unprecedented level of precision and accuracy in his technical references.
In past mainstream works of varying media, some attempts at techie appeal have... Read more
Published on March 29 2004 by Mark
5.0 out of 5 stars Clever and imaginative
Closer to today than _Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom_. Doctorow's world is a convincing glimpse of what the world might well become. Read more
Published on March 22 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is great!
I really liked this novel. Though it may not be as masterfully written as some other modern day novels, it is still incredibly captivating and the book is hard to put down once you... Read more
Published on March 6 2004
2.0 out of 5 stars Pretty Average
After the success of "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom" and "A Place so Foreign and Eight More" I expected better from this work. Read more
Published on March 2 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars Old and New
I really found this book to be a wonderful mix of old and new. The story telling, to me, smelled very strongly of some very classic literature. I'm not really sure why. Read more
Published on Feb. 15 2004 by jason
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