Bursting with cutting-edge speculation and human insight, Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is a coming-of-age romantic comedy and a kick-butt cybernetic tour de force
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 care of a network of volunteer "ad-hocs" who keep the classic attractions running as they always have, enhanced with only the smallest high-tech touches.
Now, though, it seems 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: war for the soul of the Magic Kingdom, a war of ever-shifting reputations, technical wizardry, and entirely unpredictable outcomes.
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About the Author
Cory Doctorow is a coeditor of Boing Boing, a special consultant to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an MIT Media Lab Research Associate and a visiting professor of Computer Science at the Open University. His award-winning novel Little Brother and its sequel Homeland were a New York Times bestsellers. Born and raised in Canada, he lives in Los Angeles.
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Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
By CORY DOCTOROW
TORCopyright © 2003 Cory Doctorow
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMy girlfriend was fifteen percent of my age, and I was old-fashioned enough that it bugged me. Her name was Lil, and she was second-generation Disney World, her parents being among the original ad-hocracy that took over the management of Liberty Square and Tom Sawyer Island. She was, quite literally, raised in Walt Disney World, and it showed.
It showed. She was neat and efficient in her every little thing, from her shining red hair to her careful accounting of each gear and cog in the animatronics that were in her charge. Her folks were in canopic jars in Kissimmee, deadheading for a few centuries.
On a muggy Wednesday, we dangled our feet over the edge of the Liberty Belle's riverboat pier, watching the listless Confederate flag over Fort Langhorn on Tom Sawyer Island by moonlight. The Magic Kingdom was all closed up and every last guest had been chased out the gate underneath the Main Street train station, and we were able to breathe a heavy sigh of relief, shuck parts of our costumes, and relax together while the cicadas sang.
I was more than a century old, but there was still a kind of magic in having my arm around the warm, fine shoulders of a girl by moonlight, hidden from the hustle of the cleaning teams by the turnstiles, breathing the warm, moist air. Lil plumped her head against my shoulder and gave me a butterfly kiss under my jaw.
"Her name was McGill," I sang, gently.
"But she called herself Lil," she sang, warm breath on my collarbones.
"And everyone knew her as Nancy," I sang.
I'd been startled to know that she knew the Beatles. They'd been old news in my youth, after all. But her parents had given her a thorough-if eclectic-education.
"Want to do a walk-through?" she asked. It was one of her favorite duties, exploring every inch of the rides in her care with the lights on, after the horde of tourists had gone. We both liked to see the underpinnings of the magic. Maybe that was why I kept picking at the relationship.
"I'm a little pooped. Let's sit a while longer, if you don't mind."
She heaved a dramatic sigh. "Oh, all tight. Old man." She reached up and gently tweaked my nipple, and I gave a satisfying little jump. I think the age difference bothered her, too, though she teased me for letting it get to me.
"I think I'll be able to manage a totter through the Haunted Mansion, if you just give me a moment to rest my bursitis." I felt her smile against my shirt. She loved the Mansion; loved to turn on the ballroom ghosts and dance their waltz with them on the dusty floor, loved to try and stare down the marble busts in the library that followed your gaze as you passed.
I liked it too, but I really liked just sitting there with her, watching the water and the trees. I was just getting ready to go when I heard a soft ping inside my cochlea. "Damn," I said. "I've got a call."
"Tell them you're busy," she said.
"I will," I said, and answered the call subvocally. "Julius here."
"Hi, Julius. It's Dan. You got a minute?"
I knew a thousand Dans, but I recognized the voice immediately, though it'd been ten years since we last got drunk at the Gazoo together. I muted the subvocal and said, "Lil, I've got to take this. Do you mind?"
"Oh, no, not at all," she sarcased at me. She sat up and pulled out her crack pipe and lit up.
"Dan," I subvocalized, "long time no speak."
"Yeah, buddy, it sure has been," he said, and his voice cracked on a sob.
I turned and gave Lil such a look, she dropped her pipe. "How can I help?" she said, softly but swiftly. I waved her off and switched the phone to full-vocal mode. My voice sounded unnaturally loud in the cricket-punctuated calm.
"Where you at, Dan?" I asked.
"Down here, in Orlando. I'm stuck out on Pleasure Island."
"All right," I said. "Meet me at, uh, the Adventurer's Club, upstairs on the couch by the door. I'll be there in-" I shot a look at Lil, who knew the castmember-only roads better than I. She flashed ten fingers at me. "Ten minutes."
"OK," he said. "Sorry." He had his voice back under control. I switched off.
"What's up?" Lil asked.
"I'm not sure. An old friend is in town. He sounds like he's got a problem."
Lil pointed a finger at me and made a triggersqueezing gesture. "There," she said. "I've just dumped the best route to Pleasure Island to your public directory. Keep me in the loop, okay?"
I set off for the utilidor entrance near the Hall of Presidents and booted down the stairs to the hum of the underground tunnel-system. I took the slidewalk to cast parking and zipped my little cart out to Pleasure Island.
I found Dan sitting on the L-shaped couch underneath rows of faked-up trophy shots with humorous captions. Downstairs, castmembers were working the animatronic masks and idols, chattering with the guests.
Dan was apparent fifty-plus, a little paunchy and stubbled. He had raccoon-mask bags under his eyes and he slumped listlessly. As I approached, I pinged his Whuffie and was startled to see that it had dropped to nearly zero.
"Jesus," I said, as I sat down next to him. "You look like hell, Dan."
He nodded. "Appearances can be deceptive," he said. "But in this case, they're bang-on."
"You want to talk about it?" I asked.
"Somewhere else, huh? I hear they ring in the New Year every night at midnight; I think that'd be a little too much for me right now."
I led him out to my cart and cruised back to the place I shared with Lil, out in Kissimmee. He smoked eight cigarettes on the twenty minute ride, hammering one after another into his mouth, filling my runabout with stinging clouds. I kept glancing at him in the rear-view. He had his eyes closed, and in repose he looked dead. I could hardly believe that this was my vibrant action-hero pal of yore.
Surreptitiously, I called Lil's phone. "I'm bringing him home," I subvocalized. "He's in rough shape. Not sure what it's all about."
"I'll make up the couch," she said. "And get some coffee together. Love you."
"Back atcha, kid," I said.
As we approached the tacky little swaybacked ranch house, he opened his eyes. "You're a pal, Jules." I waved him off. "No, really. I tried to think of who I could call, and you were the only one. I've missed you, bud."
"Lil said she'd put some coffee on," I said. "You sound like you need it."
Lil was waiting on the sofa, a folded blanket and an extra pillow on the side table, a pot of coffee and some Disneyland Beijing mugs beside them. She stood and extended her hand. "I'm Lil," she said.
"Dan," he said. "It's a pleasure."
I knew she was pinging his Whuffie and I caught her look of surprised disapproval. Us oldsters who predate Whuffie know that it's important; but to the kids, it's the world. Someone without any is automatically suspect. I watched her recover quickly, smile, and surreptitiously wipe her hand on her jeans. "Coffee?" she said.
"Oh, yeah," Dan said, and slumped on the sofa.
She poured him a cup and set it on a coaster on the coffee table. "I'll let you boys catch up, then," she said, and started for the bedroom.
"No," Dan said. "Wait. If you don't mind. I think it'd help if I could talk to someone ... younger, too."
She set her face in the look of chirpy helpfulness that all the second-gen castmembers have at their instant disposal, and settled into an armchair. She pulled out her pipe and lit a rock. I went through my crack period before she was born, just after they made it decaf, and I always felt old when I saw her and her friends light up. Dan surprised me by holding out a hand to her and taking the pipe. He toked heavily, then passed it back.
Dan closed his eyes again, then ground his fists into them, sipped his coffee. It was clear he was trying to figure out where to start.
"I believed that I was braver than I really am, is what it boils down to," he said.
"Who doesn't?" I said.
"I really thought I could do it. I knew that someday I'd run out of things to do, things to see. I knew that I'd finish some day. You remember, we used to argue about it. I swore I'd be done, and that would be the end of it. And now I am. There isn't a single place left on-world that isn't part of the Bitchun Society. There isn't a single thing left that I want any part of."
"So deadhead for a few centuries," I said. "Put the decision off."
"No!" he shouted, startling both of us. "I'm done. It's over."
"So do it," Lil said.
"I can't," he sobbed, and buried his face in his hands. He cried like a baby, in great, snoring sobs that shook his whole body. Lil went into the kitchen and got some tissue, and passed it to me. I sat alongside him and awkwardly patted his back.
"Jesus," he said, into his palms. "Jesus."
"Dan?" I said, quietly.
He sat up and took the tissue, wiped off his face and hands. "Thanks," he said. "I've tried to make a go of it, really I have. I've spent the last eight years in Istanbul, writing papers on my missions, about the communities. I did some followup studies, interviews. No one was interested. Not even me. I smoked a lot of hash. It didn't help. So, one morning I woke up and went to the bazaar and said good-bye to the friends I'd made there. Then I went to a pharmacy and had the man make me up a lethal injection. He wished me good luck and I went back to my rooms. I sat there with the hypo all afternoon, then I decided to sleep on it, and I got up the next morning and did it all over again. I looked inside myself, and I saw that I didn't have the guts. I just didn't have the guts. I've stared down the barrels of a hundred guns, had a thousand knives pressed up against my throat, but I didn't have the guts to press that button."
"You were too late," Lil said.
We both turned to look at her.
"You were a decade too late. Look at you. You're pathetic. If you killed yourself right now, you'd just be a washed-up loser who couldn't hack it. If you'd done it ten years earlier, you would've been going out on top-a champion, retiring permanently." She set her mug down with a harder-than-necessary clunk.
Sometimes, Lil and I are right on the same wavelength. Sometimes, it's like she's on a different planet. All I could do was sit there, horrified, and she was happy to discuss the timing of my pal's suicide.
But she was right. Dan nodded heavily, and I saw that he knew it, too.
"A day late and a dollar short," he sighed.
"Well, don't just sit there," she said. "You know what you've got to do."
"What?" I said, involuntarily irritated by her tone.
She looked at me like I was being deliberately stupid. "He's got to get back on top. Cleaned up, dried out, into some productive work. Get that Whuffie up, too. Then he can kill himself with dignity."
It was the stupidest thing I'd ever heard. Dan, though, was cocking an eyebrow at her and thinking hard. "How old did you say you were?" he asked.
"Twenty-three," she said.
"Wish I'd had your smarts at twenty-three," he said, and heaved a sigh, straightening up. "Can I stay here while I get the job done?"
I looked askance at Lil, who considered for a moment, then nodded.
"Sure, pal, sure," I said. I clapped him on the shoulder. "You look beat."
"Beat doesn't begin to cover it," he said.
"Good night, then," I said.
Chapter TwoAd-hocracy works well, for the most part. Lil's folks had taken over the running of Liberty Square with a group of other interested, compatible souls. They did a fine job, racked up gobs of Whuffie, and anyone who came around and tried to take it over would be so reviled by the guests they wouldn't find a pot to piss in. Or they'd have such a wicked, radical approach that they'd ouster Lil's parents and their pals, and do a better job.
It can break down, though. There were pretenders to the throne-a group who'd worked with the original ad-hocracy and then had moved off to other pursuits-some of them had gone to school, some of them had made movies, written books, or gone off to Disneyland Beijing to help start things up. A few had deadheaded for a couple decades.
They came back to Liberty Square with a message: update the attractions. The Liberty Square ad-hocs were the staunchest conservatives in the Magic Kingdom, preserving the wheezing technology in the face of a Park that changed almost daily. The newcomer/ old-timers were on-side with the rest of the Park, had their support, and looked like they might make a successful go of it.
So it fell to Lil to make sure that there were no bugs in the meager attractions of Liberty Square: the Hall of the Presidents, the Liberty Belle riverboat, and the glorious Haunted Mansion, arguably the coolest attraction to come from the fevered minds of the old-time Disney Imagineers.
I caught her backstage at the Hall of the Presidents, tinkering with Lincoln II, the backup animatronic. Lil tried to keep two of everything running at speed, just in case. She could swap out a dead hot for a backup in five minutes flat, which is all that crowd-control would permit.
It had been two weeks since Dan's arrival, and though I'd barely seen him in that time, his presence was vivid in our lives. Our little ranch-house had a new smell, not unpleasant, of rejuve and hope and loss, something barely noticeable over the tropical flowers nodding in front of our porch. My phone rang three or four times a day, Dan checking in from his rounds of the Park, seeking out some way to accumulate personal capital. His excitement and dedication to the task were inspiring, pulling me into his over-the-top-and-damn-the-torpedoes mode of being.
"You just missed Dan," she said. She had her head in Lincoln's chest, working with an autosolder and a magnifier. Bent over, red hair tied back in a neat bun, sweat sheening her wiry freckled arms, smelling of girl-sweat and machine lubricant, she made me wish there were a mattress somewhere backstage. I settled for patting her behind affectionately, and she wriggled appreciatively. "He's looking better."
His rejuve had taken him back to apparent twenty-five, the way I remembered him. He was rawboned and leathery, but still had the defeated stoop that had startled me when I saw him at the Adventurer's Club. "What did he want?"
"He's been hanging out with Debra-he wanted to make sure I knew what she's up to."
Debra was one of the old guard, a former comrade of Lil's parents. She'd spent a decade in Disneyland Beijing, coding sim-rides. If she had her way, we'd tear down every marvelous Rube Goldberg in the Park and replace them with pristine white sim boxes on giant, articulated servos.
The problem was that she was really good at coding sims.
Excerpted from Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by CORY DOCTOROW Copyright © 2003 by Cory Doctorow. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
While Cory Doctorow always comes off as pedantic, perhaps that is just because I know his themes and his mindset and it transfers very obviously to his works of fiction to the point that they stop being fiction and more like a roundabout way to brainwash people. Yet I can't deny he knows how to spin a tale, and this is a quick, interesting little mystery with enough real thoughtfulness to balance out the catchphrases.
On campus, they called him Keep-A-Movin' Dan, because of his cowboy vibe and because of his lifestyle, and he somehow grew to take over every conversation I had for the next six months. I pinged his Whuffie a few times, and noticed that it was climbing steadily upward as he accumulated more esteem from the people he met.I'd pretty much pissed away most of my Whuffie¿all the savings from the symphonies and the first three theses¿drinking myself stupid at the Gazoo, hogging library terminals, pestering profs, until I'd expended all the respect anyone had ever afforded me. All except Dan, who, for some reason, stood me to regular beers and meals and movies. In the post-scarcity Bitchun Society your status is based on your interactions with other people. If they respect you or your work your Whuffie score goes up, and if they don't your score goes down. The concept of Whuffie was interesting but how it works wasn't explained in enough detail. Strangely for a book set in Disney World, there were no child characters at all, and I was left wondering how Whuffie applied to children and teenagers. Would they be linked to their parents' Whuffie and if so would their actions affect their parents' Whuffie levels? At what age do they get their own Whuffie, and do they start from an average level, or from zero? As it wasn't much more than 100 years since the Bitchun Society had beaten death, it is surprising that so many people had already decided that this living forever thing was getting boring and either committed suicide or deadheaded (went into cold storage), asking to be woken in a few hundred years, or ten thousand years, or even just when something interesting happens. It seems that boredom must be a big issue, since people also deadhead for much shorter periods, even to avoid experiencing a two-hour journey. Unfortunately I have never been particularly interested in Disney and the author didn't succeed in rousing my interest, so I really couldn't have cared less whether Debra and her ad-hoc took over the whole of Disney World. The story did pick up towards the end and I enjoyed the last 10% more than the rest. I don't like protagonists who behave stupidly and irrationally, but in this case it turned out that there was a reason for Julius behaving so strangely, so I forgave him for it in the end.
You have a lot of people saying this is a great book. I do agree that you should check it out, but I wasn't quite blown away by it. I was impressed how Mr. Doctorow extrapolated from current technology--the internet and its subculture--and built a whole new milieu where people have direct interface to the web and death has been circumvented by the ability to restore a person to their most recent back-up. The story itself, however, wasn't quite as fascinating. Perhaps I'm a bit handicapped by the fact that I've never been to any of the Disneylands. I don't know.--J.
Summary: Living in Disney World isn't all it's cracked up to be when someone is trying to kill you.The Take-Away: What if you could live forever without aging? What if the opponents to this plan were eliminated simply because they died and you didn't?Cory Doctrow explores what happens when humankind is "perfect." Wuffie, or popularity, is important because that regulates your basic necessities, but work is only what you "want" to do, since you use it to increase your Wuffie. Sounds like high school, right?And then there's the real drawback to this futuristic high school. To combat aging, a back of your memories and body can be made and uploaded into a clone whenever you want. No more illness or disease. If you get sick, just grow a new you. Changing your looks is easy too, including age lines, wrinkles, and bad joints. But what if something goes wrong with a back-up? Or you don't have the most recent one on file?I can't say more without giving away a major plot point (and I might have said too much as it is) but it was this twist that I loved.The other thing that I really liked was how Doctrow is managing his electronic rights. He has made an electronic copy available through DailyLit.com. A short segment is delivered to your inbox on a schedule you set-up. The next fragment is always a click a way.Recommendation: I liked it, but it's not for everyone, I'm sure.
It was good until I realized that this is blatant wish fufillment fantasy. One star.
I found the technological ideas in Cory Doctorow's first novel fascinating and thought-provoking. The concept of 'Whuffie' - a reputation system by which anybody can award points to anybody for any reason, and everybody's score is public knowledge - is particularly memorable. There's not much of a plot, but the book is more about exploring a world in which want has been eradicated, and the ways in which people then choose to interact. There's a healthy dose of wonder, too. It's released under a Creative Commons license, so anybody can share, perform or copy the novel without permission.
An easy read, and enjoyable enough, but I finished it out of boredom rather than eagerness. The characters are, without exception, tortilla-flat, and the course of the story is pretty obvious by the second chapter or so. Gee-whiz tech-speculations aren't enough to save the narrative. I get the feeling that this should have been a short story, a novella at most--the book only reached 200 pages with the aid of a large font and several glaringly needless flashbacks and digressions.
Very different is all I can say. Some great ideas about the future of theme parks, or at least, Walt Disney World.
The debut novel by one of the co-founders of BoingBoing. I liked his book Eastern Standard Tribe, but not this one so much ¿ possibly because it¿s set in Disneyland and written with an obsessive enthusiasm for the place that I simply don¿t share. It doesn¿t help that Doctorow¿s a little too good at creating protagonists that are, basically, annoying single-minded assholes. That¿s my problem, not his, and it¿s a decent story, but I just couldn¿t get into it.
A competently written techno-mystery SF book. I should have been more interested in it than I was, given that I generally like attempts to envision future post-scarcity anarchist societies. But this one envisions social credit being run via reputational economics a la every Web 2.0 person-rating site out there. That wasn't a new idea in 2003, it's not a new idea now, and it smells like the usual attempt to fence in something free that so enlivened the Internet bubble. Since the people in the book evidently are mostly satisfied with it without being under duress, you have to feel that they're really pretty dull.
I wanted more out of this book. I was uncomfortable with the shallowness of the characters. I found myself bored and wishing that the main character would make some sort of decision.
"I lived long enough to see the cure for death; to see the rise of the Bitchun Society; to learn ten languages; to compose three symphonies; to realize my boyhood dream of taking up residence in Disney World; to see the death of the workplace and of work."This was my first book by Cory Doctorow, who has a good reputation, and whose work in internet-land I admire. I was looking forward to it, but I came away disappointed.The ideas, as you'd expect, are great. The book is a clever look at a fairly plausible post-scarcity society. Luxury items are purchased with a currency based on respect and contribution -- the more you do for people, and the more they like what you do, the richer you get. I'd have liked more detail (Only basic sustenance is free -- but why? Is everywhere similar to the America he portrays?), more history of how society got to where he shows it -- but still, it's good stuff.The characterisation, though, is poor. Jules, the protagonist, spends much of the book uncertain of his own motivation, possibly mad, certainly angry and obsessive. It's possible for a novel to succeed with an unlikeable hero, but it takes a very good writer to pull it off. Doctorow doesn't manage it. You often feel that Jules ought to fail, because he's being such an idiot.He also misses a great opportunity with another character -- Dan, who's struggling for motivation in his life, who's only thrived when outside the comfort and safety of the have-it-all society. He has been visiting communities which have stayed isolated out of fear or mistrust or ideology, living with them, and convincing them to join everyone else. When he's convinced them all, he runs out of interest in living. But how does he feel about what he's done? Can he not see the conflict there? Doctorow doesn't even glance at these questions.Also, Disney World as the rock upon which defenders of the "real" base their fight against the virtual? What's up with that? If it's meant to be ironic, the idea needed to be given more bite.Cory Doctorow is great to have around, but on this evidence, he's not a great novelist.
My feelings about Down and Out are a little ambivalent. I thought it had wonderful ideas and in many ways the writing seemed of even higher caliber than in Jennifer Government. It all came down to plot and execution in the last quarter or third of the book. It felt rushed somehow near the end or anti-climactic or something. I haven't been able to put a finger on what exactly it was that disappointed me with the end of this book but I ended up that way. It was still very much worth reading because of the wonderfully inventive ideas and the interesting characters but don't expect a boffo finish.
This very short, approaching novella length, novel is an amusing piece of writing by a highly acclaimed young writer of the "new" generation. While it was entertaining, I found it to be little more than that. The premise involves a future society in which "death" has been abolished along with currency. All means of subsistence (food, clothing, shelter) are available without the need to work. Items of scarcity are allocated through the accumulation of "Whuffie", a currency substitute. Essentially, Whuffie is accumulated through the good will and good deeds which you perform for others. The brains and memories of the inhabitants are frequently "backed up". In the event of death or disfigurement, a clone is generated and the downloaded memories installed therein. Those tiring of immortality can elect to "deadhead", essentially entering a state of suspended animation for periods of time. There are apparently no corporations as such. All "production" and services are provided by "adhocracies", commune like organizations. This story is set in a future Disney World, where various ad hocs manage the theme park through a division of labor. A power struggle between two such ad hocs is the central theme of the story. An interesting concept, presented in an entertaining manner, but not in any way remarkable in my opinion. Nevertheless, it is worth the 3-4 hours it takes to polish off.
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom was an extremely engrossing read for me. As a small, futuristic, science fiction book it did a wonderful job. Doctorow did not build up a complete picture of the entire world during these events, or show all the pieces to the system, but he did a wonderful job of telling the main character's story and laying out his experiences. I was pulled in as the story unfolded, and satisfied with the length, style, and writing.
Doctorow's debut science fiction/post-cyberpunk novel is a short but engaging read. It's one of those SF works where the author focuses on quickly establishing several technological advancement premises and a unique setting, and then allows the characters to explore the resulting ramifications of the setup. Almost more thought experiment than novel, but definitely interesting.
The underlying ideas are good (an entirely reputation-based economy, immortality, built-in electronics) but I didn't find the plot compelling. Not surprisingly, it may appeal more to people with a fascination for the Disney theme parks.
Very enjoyable read about how social networking can be taken an extreme that enables it to replace the financial economy an allows people to live in new ways. The novel follows the life of a guy as he lives in Disney land, which is run using an ad-hoc consensus process.I found it a little predictable and naive, but thoroughly enjoyed the ideas that he explores.
Tight, imaginative sci-fi. Cool approach to future computing systems. Don't tell anyone that it got me kind of choked up a bit.
Disneyworld has apparently been colonized in the near future, becoming its own city-state with factions residing in the different lands. Julius is a cast member overseeing the Haunted Mansion, who falls into a political struggle with Debra, who maintains the Hall of Presidents. As Julius fights to be heard in the supposed meritocracy (very clique-y and not so different from politics today) the story becomes a satirical look at what entertainment means, as a crowd pleaser versus having a basis in actual merit - or what 'merit' or reputation actually even mean.The book is chock-full of classic sci-fi conventions: death has been eradicated, everyone has a brain feed to everything all the time, there's space travel and ray guns and everything. And all of the characters are terribly unlikeable and make some pretty inscrutable decisions. Unfortunately these detract from a fun concept that could have been crafted into a good story.
I like the Magic Kingdom in Florida, having visited there a number of times in my life. When I saw this Science Fiction novel centering around Disney World, and even more specifically the Haunted Mansion, I had to give it a read. It was a good book with some interesting ideas. Definitely an adult read.Jules is your typical citizen, he lives in a world that is not run by money but by Whuffie. Whuffie is a currency based on what people around you think about you and how much joy you bring them. If you have lots of Whuffie lots of people love you and you get lots of perks. In this future everyone can survive and gets the basics of food and shelter, but only Whuffie allows you to live in style. This is also an age where people back themselves up on computer, this is awesome because if something happens to your body then you can just upload yourself into a new clone whenever you want...at least as long as your backup is up to date. Well, Jules is at a point in time where him and his girlfriend Lil are helping to keep the Hall of Presidents running in Liberty Square in Disney World. Suddenly Jules is murdered, not a huge deal, but when a top-notch computer ride designer uses the opportunity of his death to step in and redo the Hall of Presidents, Jules is out for blood. More specifically he has decided that he will protect the Haunted Mansion from this designer's clutches no matter what it takes and sets out to redesign the Haunted Mansion himself in a way that lets it stay true to its original form.There were a lot of things I liked about this book. Doctorow has come up with an interesting society and a very creative way at looking at human aging. Things like the ability of humans to deadhead for a few centuries and then be reinserted into a new clone when the world becomes more interesting to them, are very creative and really bring this society alive for the reader. The whole Whuffie system is in itself also very creative and a pleasure to immerse oneself in. The fixation that Jules had with the Haunted Mansion was interesting and Doctorow's description of the ride dead-on. The twist the story takes at the end was fascinating and made for a good read. The story and writing style were easily readable.As far as things I didn't like about the book there were a few. I didn't really like Jules as a character too much, neither did I like Lil. They were almost too human; neither of them really showed any heroic qualities. Also things like suicide and deadheading were taken in stride, which might bother some people, but makes sense in a society where people are centuries old. The novel is plagued by a lot of throwing scientific terms around that the reader doesn't understand in the beginning; this is resolved as the novel continues but is a bit frustrating at first. Also sometimes Jules takes diversions in the story that don't seem necessary (for instance in the part where he goes off talking about a marriage he had to this crazy lady with fur, it had some impact on the story but not enough to go on as long as it did). Lastly the problem of overpopulation of Earth (in a society where people are born but never die) was mentioned briefly in the beginning, but then was never dealt with as the story progressed.While this novel isn't necessarily a fun read, it is an interesting read. I would recommend it if you are interested in the downfalls of a Utopian society, or if you are crazy about the Haunted Mansion, or if you just like reading about various future versions of Earth. A good book. I will definitely check out more of Doctorow's books in the future.
I really liked this book. Being a fan of the Disney parks and ideals helped for sure. I liked the cyberpunk aspect of the book, while maintaining a very real perspective. I am sure that this sort of life is not something we will see in the very far future, but I do like the idea. Don't like what happened last year, go back to a time when it was better with no worries.A recommended book for fans of Neal Stephenson in my opinion.
I had high expectations for this book after what I'd heard about it, so was a little let down.The beginning and end were nice and exciting, the middle a little boring. At one point I found myself thinking that I didn't like a single character in the book except the one who was trying to separate himself from this future society. And the idea of all these people obsessed with Disney World was a little spooky. Perhaps the author is suggesting that in a post-scarcity world nothing else matters but fun and games. That being said the technology was cool and there were some exciting parts and twists to the book. It's a short read, so if you get a chance you might check it out.
I enjoyed this. I've never been to the Magic Kingdom, but the feeling of wistful nostalgia for a thing that cannot be perfectly frozen in time is familiar enough.
I wanted to love this book - Doctorow won my admiration with his wonderful Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town - but I couldn't quite do it. I can't even identify why, but it just didn't sing. Well written? Check. Interesting premise and worldbuilding? Check. Original, fresh ideas? Several big checks. Some combination of the characterization and plotting just didn't quite work.