on June 27, 2005
It's hard for me to know exactly what to say about "Someone..."
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.
on December 21, 2005
I don't read much science fiction; I'm not sure this *is* science fiction (although it's certainly speculative); but I read this, and I'll read it again soon. It's a sensitive -- although not sentimentally told -- narrative about characters struggling to figure out who they are. Often we conceive that as a struggle to be human. In Doctorow's novel, though, that category is expanded, just as it should be in real life. Is it okay to be the son of a mountain and a washing machine? To love a girl with wings who does not love herself? To be an undead and loathesome creature or a set of Russian dolls? Is it possible to be an anarchist who gets along with a telecom executive?
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.
on July 29, 2005
This book is complete nonsense. Read it online first. If you can make sense of it and like it then buy it, otherwise you'll be kicking yourself for believing the author would create something similar to his previous works.
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.