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.
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