- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Tor Books; First Edition edition (July 1 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0765312786
- ISBN-13: 978-0765312785
- Product Dimensions: 14.8 x 2.8 x 21.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 449 g
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,580,792 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town Hardcover – Jul 1 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. It's only natural that Alan, the broadminded hero of Doctorow's fresh, unconventional SF novel, is willing to help everybody he meets. After all, he's the product of a mixed marriage (his father is a mountain and his mother is a washing machine), so he knows how much being an outcast can hurt. Alan tries desperately to behave like a human being—or at least like his idealized version of one. He joins a cyber-anarchist's plot to spread a free wireless Internet through Toronto at the same time he agrees to protect his youngest brothers (members of a set of Russian nesting dolls) from their dead brother who's now resurrected and bent on revenge. Life gets even more chaotic after he becomes the lover and protector of the girl next door, whom he tries to restrain from periodically cutting off her wings. Doctorow (Eastern Standard Tribe) treats these and other bizarre images and themes with deadpan wit. In this inventive parable about tolerance and acceptance, he demonstrates how memorably the outrageous and the everyday can coexist. Agent, Russell Galen. (May 5)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Middle-aged entrepreneur Alan, for whom mother is a washing machine and father is a mountain, has moved into one of Toronto's more interesting neighborhoods. The brother Alan and his other brothers killed years ago has returned to hound the family, and those other brothers, who are nesting dolls, show up on Alan's doorstep starving because the innermost brother has vanished. A next-door neighbor has wings that her boyfriend cuts back regularly so she can pass for normal. In the midst of such ordinary oddness, getting involved in a scheme to provide free wireless Internet to the neighborhood and eventually the city seems reasonable, even when it's masterminded by a crusty punk whose gear comes from Dumpster diving. Eventually, Alan concludes that he must go back to the mountain, a home he hasn't visited in years. The combination of Alan facing up to his family and their strangeness, the damage his dead brother will do to everything Alan cares about, and Doctorow's inescapable technological enthusiasm eventuates in a lovely, satisfying tale. Regina Schroeder
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top Customer Reviews
Much of Doctorow's novel seems to explore the difficulties and possibilities of communication across categories, experiences, and multiple identities. His disparate characters work on building a free, city-wide guerilla, wireless network built out of scavenged electronic parts. His identity-seeking (and thus ambivalently named) protagonist tries to rescue himself by saving others. Telecommunications, books, back alleys, and trip(s) back home to the mountain are vehicles for the characters' explorations of identity and belonging.
I felt as though this novel was written for me. This is a rare experience, but it's a rare novel. You can download the novel, but I recommend buying a copy so you can read it on the subway or while sitting in Bellevue Square park. It's a very good Toronto novel, but should be read in every city.
If I have one criticism, it is that the novel could have used a stronger edit. This is a minor criticism, though: Doctorow's novel is a more than worthwhile read and re-read.
If you're looking for other Toronto fiction to read alongside Doctorow's novel, I'd recommend Dionne Brand's What We All Long For. Both are powerful and even moving explorations of how identity is mediated across memory and space. I like both books well enough that I've designed a undergraduate literary geography course around them.
It's as though James Joyce met Alfred Bester and they channeled
through Russell Hoban. This is a combinatorial product of
"Finnegans Wake" and "Fondly Fahrenheit." And, like the Wake,
it ain't easy. But it is wonderful. And about half of it
takes place in Toronto's Kensington Market area. I don't know
what it is. I don't think it's SF. Buy it anyway. Read it
and enjoy it.
This is not a description of the workings of a fantastic fictional world, a la "Down and out.." and "Truncat". There is no consistent world presented, just odd stuff happening all around.
This is not a person's creating technology in a world near today a la "Eastern Standard...".
This is not awe inspiring tech of "0wnz0red".
This is like "A place so foreign" devoid of meaning and with the weirdness meter jammed past eleven.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com
A chapter later he says the same thing and adds another very curious observation. I just read along a bit nonplussed. Then another and I was totally hooked and.. Spooked in a fascinating way. It's all fabulous reading from that point.
This was my first book by the author, I had read a novella before so I liked the way with words he had.
After this... What a story, and what a strange man he must be. :-)
The story moves around and each segment sucks you in further.
My only mild criticism is that the symbolism around one the characters and her relationships is so obvious I was literally embarassed at times while reading the book.
The book iteslf is a great size to hold and read.
If you allready have a taste for Mr. Doctorows works, this is not one to miss.
Kudos to Doctorow for fearlessly creating this fuzzy, hyperreal universe that bends and stretches all conventional narrative technique. Doctorow must see himself as some sort of latter-day literary infidel (after all, the protagonist's parents are a washing machine and a mountain) on a torch-blazing mission to the stars.
But with all the experimenting going on here, all the lip-smacking, throw-it-to-the-wind risk-taking in the writing, I found neither the characters nor the storyline compelling enough (or developed enough) to make this book interesting or enjoyable in the least.
This book is mainly comprised of lots and lots of technobabble, with very little substance. Is that what "next generation SF" really is? Isn't that kind of pretentious?
Plus, there's a pretty tangible mean streak in the text that is given neither thematic justification nor a much-needed irony; there are flippant bouts of violent atrocities on almost every page, and I began to tire quickly of all this bitter malice and revenge.