- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: Tor Books; First edition (Dec 5 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 076530953X
- ISBN-13: 978-0765309532
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.2 x 21.6 cm
- Shipping Weight: 295 g
- Average Customer Review: 48 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #262,432 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom Paperback – Dec 5 2003
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“He sparkles! He fizzes! He does backflips and breaks the furniture! Science fiction needs Cory Doctorow.” ―Bruce Sterling, author of The Hacker Crackdown and Distraction
“This is science fiction for the non-SF reader as well as for hardcore fans of the genre--think Carl Hiassen crossed with Philip K. Dick, with just a dash of Disney magic” ―Kathryn Lively, author of Saints Preserve Us
“In a world of affluence and immortality, the big battles will be fought over culture, not politics. That's the starting-point of Wired contributor Doctorow's daring novel.... Few challenges to copyright giants are as entertaining as this book.” ―Wired
“Cory Doctorow is the most interesting new SF writer I've come across in years. He starts out at the point where older SF writers' speculations end.” ―Rudy Rucker, author of Spaceland
“A kinetic, immersive yarn...wholly entertaining.” ―The Onion AV Club
From the Back Cover
"He sparkles! He fizzes! He does backflips and breaks the furniture! Science fiction needs Cory Doctorow."
--Bruce Sterling, author of The Hacker Crackdown and Distraction
On The Skids In The Transhuman Future
Jules is a young man barely a century old. He's lived long enough to see the cure for death and the end of scarcity, to learn ten languages and compose three symphonies...and to realize his boyhood dream of taking up residence in Disney World.
Disney World! The greatest artistic achievement of the long-ago twentieth century. Now in the keeping of a network of "ad-hocs" who keep the classic attractions running as they always have, enhanced with only the smallest high-tech touches.
Now, though, the "ad hocs" are under attack. A new group has taken over the Hall of the Presidents, and is replacing its venerable audioanimatronics with new, immersive direct-to-brain interfaces that give guests the illusion of being Washington, Lincoln, and all the others. For Jules, this is an attack on the artistic purity of Disney World itself.
Worse: it appears this new group has had Jules killed. This upsets him. (It's only his fourth death and revival, after all.) Now it's war....See all Product description
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Reading "Down and Out," I was immediately reminded of the Culture universe created by Iain M. Banks in his sci-fi novels. Both authors deal with the questions of the nature of life in a post-scarcity society, when all of mankind's material needs are met. While Banks waxes philosophical, Doctorow has a little more fun, and in his world repuation, or "Wuffie," becomes the new currency. An intersting idea, to be sure, but one that is explored in only the most cursory way.
It is clear that Doctorow knows contemporary web-culture. His ideas about on-line collaboration and "ad-hoc" leadership are a logical extension of the blogosphere and the new norms that exist in the digital community. Again, the length of this novel is both its strength and weakness--I found myself wanting Doctorow to dig a little more deeply into these ideas, but was satisfied that the novel's pace was brisk. But, sadly, this is much the same ground William Gibson explored in his novels, and most recently in "Pattern Recognition."
My main complaint about this novel is that the main character is one of the least interesting characters in the novel. In a world populated by a campus Guru, a power-hungry theme-ride designer, and a 19 year-old in a world of centarians, Doctorow's lead seems, well, too "average Joe."
I look forward to reading Doctorow in the future--he is certainly a talent to watch, though I doubt that he is the second coming of William Gibson. "Down and Out" was entertaining, but if you're looking for something with depth, look elsewhere.
The other thing that makes this society unique is that they have succeeded in backing up and restoring people's thoughts and memories - thus eliminating death (technically you die and they restore you into a clone). Because of this, a new form of passing time called deadheading has evolved, where you are stored in a computer (your body is terminated) until a specified date, and then restored into a new clone.
Our protagonist, Julius, is a worker at Disney World who has earned a few doctorates and composed a few symphonies in his over-a-century of life. We follow him as he explores (and reflects on) life without fear of death (he is actually killed once - almost twice - during the story). We explore how the dynamics of a popularity-based economy make any sort of planning difficult (because any sort of change in perception can mean that you are no longer in the lead), while Julius tries to preserve the heritage of the Disney World Haunted Mansion (while necessarily improving it to compete). The book raises interesting questions about mortality and economics and is a fast read.
If you are interested in seeing where systems such as Amazon's reviewer rankings and eBay's feedback ratings are going, this book is for you.
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