Perry and Lester invent things: seashell robots that make toast, Boogie Woogie Elmo dolls that drive cars. They also invent entirely new economic systems. When Kodak and Duracell are broken up for parts by sharp venture capitalists, Perry and Lester help to invent the "New Work," a New Deal for the technological era. Barefoot bankers cross the nation, microinvesting in high-tech communal mini-startups. Together, they transform the nation and blogger Andrea Fleeks is there to document it.
Then it slides into collapse. The New Work bust puts the dot-bomb to shame. Perry and Lester build a network of interactive rides in abandoned Walmarts across the land. As their rides gain in popularity, a rogue Disney executive engineers a savage attack on the rides by convincing the police that their 3D printers are being used to make AK-47s.
Lawsuits multiply as venture capitalists take on a new investment strategy: backing litigation against companies like Disney. Lester and Perry's friendship falls to pieces when Lester gets the fatkins treatment, which turns him into a sybaritic gigolo.
Then things get really interesting.
|Publisher:||Unknown PTHE Pub|
|Product dimensions:||6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)|
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.
Read an Excerpt
By Cory Doctorow, Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2009 Cory Doctorow
All rights reserved.
Suzanne Church almost never had to bother with the blue blazer these days. Back at the height of the dot-boom, she'd put on her business-journalist drag — blazer, blue sailcloth shirt, khaki trousers, loafers — just about every day, putting in her obligatory appearances at splashy press conferences for high-flying IPOs and mergers. These days, it was mostly work at home or one day a week at the San Jose Mercury's office, in comfortable light sweaters with loose necks and loose cotton pants that she could wear straight to yoga after shutting her computer's lid.
Blue blazer today, and she wasn't the only one. There was Grimes from the NYT's Silicon Valley office, and Gomes from the WSJ, and that despicable rat-toothed jumped-up gossip columnist from one of the U.K. tech-rags, and many others besides. Old home week, blue blazers fresh from the dry-cleaning bags that had guarded them since the last time the NASDAQ broke five thousand.
The man of the hour was Landon Kettlewell — the kind of outlandish prep-school name that always seemed a little made up to her — the new CEO and front for the majority owners of Kodak/Duracell. The despicable Brit had already started calling them Kodacell. Buying the company was pure Kettlewell: shrewd, weird, and ethical in a twisted way.
"Why the hell have you done this, Landon?" Kettlewell asked himself into his tie-mic. Ties and suits for the new Kodacell execs in the room, like surfers playing dress-up. "Why buy two dinosaurs and stick 'em together? Will they mate and give birth to a new generation of less-endangered dinosaurs?"
He shook his head and walked to a different part of the stage, thumbing a PowerPoint remote that advanced his slide on the JumboTron to a picture of a couple of unhappy cartoon brontos staring desolately at an empty nest. "Probably not. But there is a good case for what we've just done, and with your indulgence, I'm going to lay it out for you now."
"Let's hope he sticks to the cartoons," Rat-Toothed hissed beside her. His breath smelled like he'd been gargling turds. He had a not-so-secret crush on her and liked to demonstrate his alpha-maleness by making half- witticisms into her ear. "They're about his speed."
She twisted in her seat and pointedly hunched over her computer's screen, to which she'd taped a thin sheet of polarized plastic that made it opaque to anyone shoulder-surfing her. Being a halfway-attractive woman in Silicon Valley was more of a pain in the ass than she'd expected, back when she'd been covering rust belt shenanigans in Detroit, back when there was an auto industry in Detroit. California was full of pretty girls, right? But that was the other California, south of San Luis Obispo, the part of the state where the women shaved their pits and straightened their hair. The women of Silicon Valley were only barely more attractive than their male counterparts.
The worst part was that the Brit's reportage was just spleen-filled editorializing on the lack of ethics in the valley's boardrooms (a favorite subject of hers, which no doubt accounted for his fellow-feeling), and it was also the crux of Kettlewell's schtick. The spectacle of an exec who talked ethics enraged Rat-Toothed more than the vilest baby killers. He was the kind of revolutionary who liked his firing squads arranged in a circle.
"I'm not that dumb, folks," Kettlewell said, provoking a stagy laugh from Mr. Rat-Tooth. "Here's the thing: the market had valued these companies at less than their cash on hand. They have twenty billion in the bank and a sixteen-billion-dollar market cap. We just made four billion dollars, just by buying up the stock and taking control of the company. We could shut the doors, stick the money in our pockets, and retire."
Suzanne took notes. She knew all this, but Kettlewell gave good sound bite, and talked slow in deference to the kind of reporter who preferred a notebook to a recorder. "But we're not gonna do that." He hunkered down on his haunches at the edge of the stage, letting his tie dangle, staring spacily at the journalists and analysts. "Kodacell is bigger than that." He'd read his email that morning, then, and seen Rat-Toothed's new moniker. "Kodacell has goodwill. It has infrastructure. Administrators. Physical plant. Supplier relationships. Distribution and logistics. These companies have a lot of useful plumbing and a lot of priceless reputation.
"What we don't have is a product. There aren't enough buyers for batteries or film — or any of the other stuff we make — to occupy or support all that infrastructure. These companies slept through the dot-boom and the dot-bust, trundling along as though none of it mattered. There are parts of these businesses that haven't changed since the fifties.
"We're not the only ones. Technology has challenged and killed businesses from every sector. Hell, IBM doesn't make computers anymore! The very idea of a travel agent is inconceivably weird today! And the record labels, oy, the poor, crazy, suicidal, stupid record labels. Don't get me started.
"Capitalism is eating itself. The market works, and when it works, it commodifies or obsoletes everything. That's not to say that there's no money out there to be had, but the money won't come from a single, monolithic product line. The days of companies with names like General Electric and General Mills and General Motors are over. The money on the table is like krill: a billion little entrepreneurial opportunities that can be discovered and exploited by smart, creative people.
"We will brute-force the problem-space of capitalism in the twenty-first century. Our business plan is simple: we will hire the smartest people we can find and put them in small teams. They will go into the field with funding and communications infrastructure — all that stuff we have left over from the era of batteries and film — behind them, capitalized to find a place to live and work, and a job to do. A business to start. Our company isn't a project that we pull together on, it's a network of like-minded, cooperating autonomous teams, all of which are empowered to do whatever they want, provided that it returns something to our coffers. We will explore and exhaust the realm of commercial opportunities, and seek constantly to refine our tactics to mine those opportunities, and the krill will strain through our mighty maw and fill our hungry belly. This company isn't a company anymore: this company is a network, an approach, a sensibility."
Suzanne's fingers clattered over her keyboard. The Brit chuckled nastily. "Nice talk, considering he just made a hundred thousand people redundant," he said. Suzanne tried to shut him out: yes, Kettlewell was firing a company's worth full of people, but he was also saving the company itself. The prospectus had a decent severance for all those departing workers, and the ones who'd taken advantage of the company stock-buying plan would find their pensions augmented by whatever this new scheme could rake in. If it worked.
"Mr. Kettlewell?" Rat-Toothed had clambered to his hind legs.
"Yes, Freddy?" Freddy was Rat-Toothed's given name, though Suzanne was hard-pressed to ever retain it for more than a few minutes at a time. Kettlewell knew every business journalist in the Valley by name, though. It was a CEO thing.
"Where will you recruit this new workforce from? And what kind of entrepreneurial things will they be doing to 'exhaust the realm of commercial opportunities'?"
"Freddy, we don't have to recruit anyone. They're beating a path to our door. This is a nation of manic entrepreneurs, the kind of people who've been inventing businesses from video arcades to photomats for centuries." Freddy scowled skeptically, his jumble of gray tombstone teeth protruding. "Come on, Freddy, you ever hear of the Grameen Bank?"
Freddy nodded slowly. "In India, right?"
"Bangladesh. Bankers travel from village to village on foot and by bus, finding small co-ops who need tiny amounts of credit to buy a cellphone or a goat or a loom in order to grow. The bankers make the loans and advise the entrepreneurs, and the payback rate is fifty times higher than the rate at a regular lending institution. They don't even have a written lending agreement: entrepreneurs — real, hard-working entrepreneurs — you can trust on a handshake."
"You're going to help Americans who lost their jobs in your factories buy goats and cellphones?"
"We're going to give them loans and coordination to start businesses that use information, materials science, commodified software and hardware designs, and creativity to wring a profit from the air around us. Here, catch!" He dug into his suit jacket and flung a small object toward Freddy, who fumbled it. It fell onto Suzanne's keyboard.
She picked it up. It looked like a key-chain laser pointer, or maybe a novelty lightsaber.
"Switch it on, Suzanne, please, and shine it, oh, on that wall there." Kettlewell pointed at the upholstered retractable wall that divided the hotel ballroom into two functional spaces.
Suzanne twisted the end and pointed it. A crisp rectangle of green laser- light lit up the wall.
"Now, watch this," Kettlewell said.
NOW WATCH THIS
The words materialized in the middle of the rectangle on the distant wall.
"Testing one two three," Kettlewell said.
TESTING ONE TWO THREE
"Donde está el baño?"
WHERE IS THE BATHROOM
"What is it?" said Suzanne. Her hand wobbled a little and the distant letters danced.
WHAT IS IT
"This is a new artifact designed and executed by five previously out-of- work engineers in Athens, Georgia. They've mated a tiny Linux box with some speaker-independent continuous speech recognition software, a free software translation engine that can translate between any of twelve languages, and an extremely high-resolution LCD that blocks out words in the path of the laser pointer.
"Turn this on, point it at a wall, and start talking. Everything said shows up on the wall, in the language of your choosing, regardless of what language the speaker was speaking."
All the while, Kettlewell's words were scrolling by in black block caps on that distant wall: crisp, laser-edged letters.
"This thing wasn't invented. All the parts necessary to make this go were just lying around. It was assembled. A gal in a garage, her brother the marketing guy, her husband overseeing manufacturing in Belgrade. They needed a couple grand to get it all going, and they'll need some life support while they find their natural market.
"They got twenty grand from Kodacell this week. Half of it a loan, half of it equity. And we put them on the payroll, with benefits. They're part freelancer, part employee, in a team with backing and advice from across the whole business.
"It was easy to do once. We're going to do it ten thousand times this year. We're sending out talent scouts, like the artists and representation people the record labels used to use, and they're going to sign up a lot of these bands for us, and help them to cut records, to start businesses that push out to the edges of business.
"So, Freddy, to answer your question, no, we're not giving them loans to buy cellphones and goats."
Kettlewell beamed. Suzanne twisted the laser pointer off and made ready to toss it back to the stage, but Kettlewell waved her off.
"Keep it," he said. It was suddenly odd to hear him speak without the text crawl on that distant wall. She put the laser pointer in her pocket and reflected that it had the authentic feel of cool, disposable technology: the kind of thing on its way from a start-up's distant supplier to the schwag bags at high-end technology conferences to blister packs of six hanging in the impulse aisle at Fry's.
She tried to imagine the technology conferences she'd been to with the addition of the subtitling and translation and couldn't do it. Not conferences. Something else. A kids' toy? A tool for use by Starbucks-smashing anti-globalists planning strategy before a WTO riot? She patted her pocket.
Freddy hissed and bubbled like a teakettle beside her, fuming. "What a cock," he muttered. "Thinks he's going to hire ten thousand teams to replace his workforce, doesn't say a word about what that lot is meant to be doing now he's shitcanned them all. Utter bullshit. Irrational exuberance gone berserk."
Suzanne had a perverse impulse to turn the wand back on and splash Freddy's bilious words across the ceiling, and the thought made her giggle. She suppressed it and kept on piling up notes, thinking about the structure of the story she'd file that day.
Kettlewell pulled out some charts, and another surfer in a suit came forward to talk money, walking them through the financials. She'd read them already and decided that they were a pretty credible bit of fiction, so she let her mind wander.
She was a hundred miles away when the ballroom doors burst open and the unionized laborers of the former Kodak and the former Duracell poured in on them, tossing literature into the air so that it snowed angry leaflets. They had a big drum and a bugle, and they shook tambourines. The hotel rent-a-cops occasionally darted forward and grabbed a protestor by the arm, but her colleagues would immediately swarm them and pry her loose and drag her back into the body of the demonstration. Freddy grinned and shouted something at Kettlewell, but it was lost in the din. The journalists took a lot of pictures.
Suzanne closed her computer's lid and snatched a leaflet out of the air. WHAT ABOUT US? it began, and talked about the workers who'd been at Kodak and Duracell for twenty, thirty, even forty years, who had been conspicuously absent from Kettlewell's stated plans to date.
She twisted the laser pointer to life and pointed it back at the wall. Leaning in very close, she said, "What are your plans for your existing workforce, Mr. Kettlewell?"
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR YOUR EXISTING WORKFORCE MR KETTLEWELL
She repeated the question several times, refreshing the text so that it scrolled like a stock ticker across that upholstered wall, an illuminated focus that gradually drew all the attention in the room. The protestors saw it and began to laugh, then they read it aloud in ragged unison, until it became a chant: WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS — thump of the big drum — FOR YOUR EXISTING WORKFORCE thump MR. thump KETTLEWELL?
Suzanne felt her cheeks warm. Kettlewell was looking at her with something like a smile. She liked him, but that was a personal thing and this was a truth thing. She was a little embarrassed that she had let him finish his spiel without calling him on that obvious question. She felt tricked, somehow. Well, she was making up for it now.
On the stage, the surfer boys in suits were confabbing, holding their thumbs over their tie-mics. Finally, Kettlewell stepped up and held up his own laser pointer, painting another rectangle of light beside Suzanne's.
"I'm glad you asked that, Suzanne," he said, his voice barely audible.
I'M GLAD YOU ASKED THAT SUZANNE
The journalists chuckled. Even the chanters laughed a little. They quieted down.
"I'll tell you, there's a downside to living in this age of wonders: we are moving too fast and outstripping the ability of our institutions to keep pace with the changes in the world."
Freddy leaned over her shoulder, blowing shit-breath in her ear. "Translation: you're ass-fucked, the lot of you."
TRANSLATION YOUR ASS FUCKED THE LOT OF YOU
Suzanne yelped as the words appeared on the wall and reflexively swung the pointer around, painting them on the ceiling, the opposite wall, and then, finally, in miniature, on her computer's lid. She twisted the pointer off.
Freddy had the decency to look slightly embarrassed, and he slunk away to the very end of the row of seats, scooting from chair to chair on his narrow butt. On stage, Kettlewell was pretending very hard that he hadn't seen the profanity, and that he couldn't hear the jeering from the protestors now, even though it had grown so loud that he could no longer be heard over it. He kept on talking, and the words scrolled over the far wall.
THERE IS NO WORLD IN WHICH KODAK AND DURACELL GO ON MAKING FILM AND BATTERIES
THE COMPANIES HAVE MONEY IN THE BANK BUT IT HEMORRHAGES OUT THE DOOR EVERY DAY
WE ARE MAKING THINGS THAT NO ONE WANTS TO BUY
THIS PLAN INCLUDES A GENEROUS SEVERANCE FOR THOSE STAFFERS WORKING IN THE PARTS OF THE BUSINESS THAT WILL CLOSE DOWN
Suzanne admired the twisted, long-way-around way of saying "the people we're firing." Pure CEO passive voice. She couldn't type notes and read off the wall at the same time. She whipped out her little snapshot and monkeyed with it until it was in video mode and then started shooting the ticker.
Excerpted from Makers by Cory Doctorow, Patrick Nielsen Hayden. Copyright © 2009 Cory Doctorow. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Born to invent and create, Perry and Lester go together like peanut butter and jelly. When they invent a whole new world with someone taking notes of every move, life becomes a little hectic. Then, when their baby crumbles, the whole world is watching. These friends are draw to the limit and it's no surprise that the company and the friendship, may be doomed for ever. Will they be able to redeem themselves? This is a witty novel that will appeal to nerds everywhere. I'm including myself in this nerd category. So to all you dorks out there, this is a book written just for you. (And me.)
Garage hackers Perry Gibbons and Lester Banks receive enormous funding (in their minds that is) from corporate America to develop a 3D printer capability that is easy to use. Their success reaches the attention of reporter Suzanne Church., but the firm fails. However the technology explodes throughout society as the ease of use makes it a winner. Gibbons and Banks back to unemployment and garage technology begin creating amusement rides from their printing capability. However, the industry and other corporate raiders object and sue the New World order while Goths invade Florida and Suzanne blogs; as for the two garage hackers who started the endeavor with a whisper their story turned into a big bang bubble that bursts. Using stereotypes to represent a cross section of self indulging Americans like the techies, the suits, the Goth teens, the bloggers, Cory Doctorow once again mocks Wall St, Main St and the Internet St. with an amusing acerbic satire of free enterprise as a fraud. The story line is humorous but also tends to wander as Makers lampoons economic prosperity bubbles that make the rich richer, the poor poorer and the middle class stagnant. That is until the burst when the rich retain their gains and obtain a bailout, the poor retains their loss and receive a cut in needed services to pay the bailout, and the middle class eats the collapse as the victims of free market capitalism, the American way. Harriet Klausner
Not my favorite book by Corey at all. There is a cool story built around the maker culture in here, but it gets dragged down by bad relationship drama,and one overly long and poorly done sex scene that should have started with, 'Dear Penthouse Letters."
Fun read, SF based on interpolating where the internet and file-sharing are headed. Fun ideas, but the characters were not exactly memorable.
Loved the futuristic technonerd main characters and the funny, edgy yet beautifully constructed story. Doctorow is a master of the writer's craft; he imports machine functions as verbs and nouns-- quite casually--to mirror the minds of his protagonists and yet when you're reading, you can't think of a better way to express it. It's a new literary style (to me anyway) both in content and form that stops just short of seeming glib and goes far beyond techno-drivel.It's funny, inventive but in the end, tooooo long, thus it received only 3 stars. 100 pages shorter would have merited 4 stars!
DIdn't like this one as well as some of Doctorow's other books. It felt a little unbalanced, jumpy, and long. If you're really into maker culture, then it's probably a good read.
I wish I liked science fiction! I like science and fiction but the combination of the two rarely works out for me. I do keep trying though. I tried this book because I have, in the past, been an avid reader of Cory Doctorow's Boing Boing blog, and I like his Guardian columns on digital rights, and I basically agree with most of what he says. This book has tons of interesting future technology ideas in it. The main story is about creating objects with 3d printers and the story contains lots of other assays into the future of economics, biotechnology, mass media, fitness, all kinds of stuff. However it just didn't work for me. I just got fed up with it all. There was nothing much wrong with the plot, and I thought the central characters were well written - especially in the later parts of the book after more time had passed and the relationships between them changed. Just overall the book wasn't my cup of tea. LibraryThing tells me "LibraryThing thinks you probably won't like Makers (prediction confidence: high)" and it was about right I'm afraid.
I tried very hard to like this book. I loved the pretext and I really wanted to like it, but it¿s so hard going, nothing much seems to happen and it¿s much, much too long.Focussing on a very near, wholly believable future, the story kicks off brilliantly, the characters start out interesting but then - nothing. The characters quickly merge and become indistinguishable, so that you have to work rather too hard to keep up with who¿s doing what, where and why. What story there is is so heavily padded with inconsequential detail and irrelevant sub plots that it quickly becomes very confusing.The technology rules, as you¿d expect in a story from Cory Doctorow; I get the feeling that the technology is far more interesting to him than his characters ¿ at times they feel like `carriers¿ for all the `fun stuff¿ Cory really wants to write about.Which is not to say it's a bad book, there are some great ideas, some gripping sections; the chapters set in the shanty towns that have sprung up in Florida¿s ruined condos and abandoned gated communities were a highlight, but these are small islands of interest in a vast ocean of seemingly endless lawsuits and technological detail and not nearly enough character development or plot to truly engage my interest.In short, the ideas are great but they need a stronger story and better characters to hang them on. It would benefit hugely from a really good edit.
Cory Doctorow tells the story in the near future of a two hardware hackers who fall in with microfinancing venture capitalists and invent the ¿New Work¿ economy, and then find themselves swimming with corporate sharks, fighting with each other, and leading a band of global techno-revolutionaries.The New Work economy is small groups of entrepreneurs producing their wares. The origination comes from the private equity leader who combines Kodak and Duracell together. But he is not looking to rebuild these manufacturing giants. He is looking to use their platform to enable those small groups of entrepreneurs.Those entrepreneurs are the Makers in the title. Backyard hobbyists cobbling stuff together, using the internet to make their products more widely available. The two lead makers, Perry and Lester, work in an abandoned mall that has been turned into a junkyard. They cobble together their initial ideas from the stuff in the junkyard.Doctorow digs into capitalistic corporate economics, social networking, sociology, culture, abundance, waste, and poverty, in addition to the maker culture.I first ran into Mr. Doctorow in a Harvard Business Review interview. One of his quotes on piracy or obscurity stood out: ¿Of all the people who didn¿t buy one of my books today, the majority of them didn¿t buy it because they never heard of me, not because someone gave them a free copy.¿I like what he has to say. Unfortunately, his fictional storytelling is not as good. Most of the characters in this book are only minimally developed. I mostly liked Perry and Lester as loveable underdogs. The rest of the characters were very flat.The story has some interesting vignettes, but seems disorganized. There are lots of ideas and subplots threaded throughout the book. The book is generally entertaining to read, although a bit clunky. I liked it enough to finish all 400+ pages in a few days.
Makers, set sometime in the near future, explores how technology, creativity and business will continue to shape and change our lives. Suzanne Church, a journalist, has seen it all , the fall of the automobile companies in Detroit;the dot com boom and bust; and most recently the merger of Kodak and Duracell whose products have become obsolete, but their processes and infrastructure are still valuable products to people like Landon Kettlewell. Kettlewell has a vision to use Kodacell, Kodak and Duracell's merged name, infrastructure to support small start-ups and make it possible for them to thrive. Enter Perry and Lester who are creative and intelligent with great ideas, but lack the business skills to make a living. Kodacell supports them and their products while Suzanne reports on the new businesses of Kodacell and others know as the New Work Movement. As New Work grows, changes and even fails the cast of characters experience a variety of emotions which the reader can't help but feel if they are able to look beyond the tech jargon.Makers is not only the story of these young entrepreneurs as they explore their dreams, it is a commentary on the future of corporate America, journalism, technology's effect on society and even the American Dream.Cory Doctorow, the author, is a tech blogger and has written a young adult novel, Little Brother. The appeal of Doctorow's two novels is the discussibiltiy and geek factor. Readers might get bogged down in the tech jargon, but if they get beyond that the ideas presented are thought provoking and interesting. Makers might appeal to readers of Carl Hiaasen's Team Rodent and some of his novels dealing with the development of South Florida.
While idea inspiring from a technological perspective I still find Doctorow's writing style disjointed. His transitions from paragraph to paragraph are clumsily executed and never quite reach the level of a Gibson or Stevenson. In addition the characters embody much of what I dislike of the Modernist and Post-Modernist movements which is selfishness and unabashed individualism with no concern to the larger society. In all honesty I didn't even finish the epilogue so this is a generous rating of three stars based solely on the ideas within. If you want to read a book by Doctorow pick up "Little Brother". Many of the same problems exist but it's a better overall story.
The last couple of years has seen the charge by a few in literary circles that too many authors today are taking refuge in historical fiction. Their point seems to be there is nothing wrong with historical fiction but it can lead to a dearth of writers writing about the world we live in at present. Understanding and describing our times can be like trying to mold water into a sculpture. Nothing stays as it was for more than a microsecond. Change is constant and accelerating.Cory is a writer at ease in contemporary time. His fiction and essays have worked this territory for decades now. The early age SF writer A.E. VanVogt wrote with the rule that a reader should be hit with a new idea every 800 words. I'm not sure if CD is aware of this rule but his style suggests it. Makers is a novel of ideas. But it's not just a novel of ideas. He's digging deeper into capitalistic corporate economics, social networking, sociology, culture, abundance, waste, and poverty among other subjects. It is a wild ride from the start until the finish.The main characters are two techno-geek friends and a reporter/blogger that chronicles their efforts. They like to make things, thus the title. In the process they help create a new economy based on New Work. Things do good and they are riding high. It crashes. Now they are not riding so high. The story follows them into old age with all kinds of ups and downs. When is the last time you read of old techno-geeks literally playing Calvinball? The game from Calvin and Hobbes where the same rule can never be used twice.Cory is a successful (Boing Boing) blogger. He can string some snarky irreverent passages together like some politician's do spin. He's writing near-future that takes place in about the next five hours and seven minutes. He also lives what he writes. When the Canadian SF writer Peter Watts was recently beaten, pepper sprayed by and turned out into a snowstorm with no coat by the US Border Patrol, CD blogged about it, set up a legal defense fund, and PayPal-ed him $1,000 Canadian. Not a bad guy to have in your corner during these times. He writes a pretty good book too.
I liked the idea of this book and I would have enjoyed the main story and the geekery of it, but there is an odd obsession with weight and obesity starting on the first page that I found very off-putting. I suppose the idea is not inappropriate in a "near-future fable", given current political and social views, but the way it's handled made me cringe. Frequently. Fat people are (ironically) 2-dimensional characters, called "the obese" or, later "the fatkins", no matter who's talking. Doctorow assumes that all fat people want the same thing (to be thin) and will do any idiotic, untested thing to get it. And to assume that being thin will make people happy is just plain stupid. But of course they get what they deserve in the end, right?I think I would have liked this book without that (unnecessary and cringe-inducing) subplot but it was so annoying and distracting that it overwhelmed many of the good aspects. I won't be reading it again and I don't recommend it.
Makers is a story of the near future where Cory Doctorow envisions a ¿New Work¿ economy that takes the Web 2.0 and mashups and extrapolates it to the physical world. What would happen if lots of little groups of very driven, creative people were able to take off-the-shelf (or off the dump as the case may be) hardware as well as software and put it together in some new and unexpected way to fill some need. And then move on to the next thing and the next and the next? What if anyone could start to contribute to the creative process? And what if that New Work economy ran head-on into the remaining giants of the old economy? And while playing with those ideas Doctorow has a lot of other ideas to try out and oxen to gore along the way. Artificial investment instruments (Commoditizing lawsuits?), the fickleness of wall street, bloggers, intellectual property law, the differences and similarities between sub-cultures, homelessness, the benefits of lots of small businesses over a few big ones, fad diets, personal responsibility, and the benefits of big corporations just to name a few. All of that makes for a pretty substantial novel with quite a number of sub-plots, some better than others. But what I found myself thinking about most at the end of the novel was how it all tied back in to the title: Makers. What does he mean by a maker? Certainly the dedication to "the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things." says something, but I don't think it is as simple as that might sound. In a lot of Fantasy and SF The Maker is some special hero or wizard or scientist or engineer that creates some great thing or idea. Perry and Lester are that. A couple of nerdy engineers that build completely new and incredibly creative, sometimes useful stuff out of nothing (quite literally junk in this case). They also help build the shanty town of squatters into a community.But another kind of maker is the story teller, who makes the unreal or far away real here and now. Suzanne the tech journalist turned independent blogger is that. By covering the activities of Lester and Perry she spreads the idea of New Work and makes a couple of guys who might otherwise be obscure semi-successful geek artists into the gurus of a new way of life. And when they invent an interactive ride/display where the riders at instances of the ride all around the country can modify the artifacts in the display, then a whole community of people who ride the ride become makers. Out of nothing at all they create a shared idea, a story that they are telling together, a living community independent of the people who initially created it.And, of course, there are the false makers and the anti-makers. The snake-oil salesmen of wall street and law offices who create illusions of things only long enough to profit from them and run. Intellectual property and patents and obscure investment strategies. And playing the role of the destroyers, the anti-makers are a vindictive, bitter blogger who only exists to sling mud, tear down the works of the real makers, and gloat over the wreckage and the giant corporation living in the past and so intent on preserving that past it will destroy anything and anyone that threatens its dying way of life. Which is not to say that you're being beaten over the head with symbolism and metaphor. And not every plot thread is a winner. As several people have noted, the ¿fatkins¿ one is weak, and the extrapolation of the TSA into an incredibly localized Kafkaesque gestapo is a little too unbelievable. But with everything that Doctorow has packed in there is still plenty to like and a lot of meat on the bones.
Part 1 was good, Part 2 seemed to run on.
This story takes place only a few years in the future, but a lot has changed. The economy is still in the tank. After Kodak and Duracell merge, the chief executive decides to invest money in new technology, funding inventors who make things using existing parts for components, in creative ways. This gets the name, New Work. He hires a technology reporter to write the story, Suzanne Church, promising her full access. She finds the most talented of the inventors in Florida, Perry and Lester, and they get a lot of attention because of Suzanne's blog posts about them. They have great success for a while, producing a large percentage return on investment, but the investments were never large enough to make the company that profitable. New Work eventually crashes. Perry and Lester stay together, creating an amusement ride whose exhibits can be altered by the customers votes as they experience the ride. This is wildly popular. But, eventually, they get into legal tangles with Disney.The story is revealed through about this point in the book's dust cover, which promises that things then get really interesting. I found that to be a false promise. I found the last part of the book to be something of a trudge. I still enjoyed it overall. I enjoyed the characters and the humor, but I was hoping for more.There is of course more to the story than the simple outline stated above. There are lots of other interesting aspects to the future society that Doctorow creates. And, it is all told with good humor. Over all the book is an engrossing read, just not as fully satisfying as I was expecting.
I always feel like Doctorow's long books seem to drag on forever. He is a fantastically fun author to read, but he seems to do a better job with balancing his short stories.Finding out how Doctorow will drag a Big Corporation into his stories (especially his beloved Disney) is always fun. Overall I enjoyed being pulled along through the story, and will doubtlessly read it sometime again in the future. It will have to wait until I've revisited some of his other works that I like much more.
This Cory Doctorow novel takes us to the very near future, a pretty bleak, economically depressed landscape. Into this landscape, Doctorow drops two tech nerds (Lester and Perry), an English venture capitalist (Kettlewell), a blogger (Suzanne Church) and a mid-level Disney exec (Sammy) in a story of how unfettered high tech capitalism and bio-technology might shape the near future, a future in which many of our previous bellwether economic engines, companies such as Kodak, Duracell and Westinghouse have found themselves to be obsolete.This is a vastly entertaining read, one in which very, very many current economic trends are followed to their potential conclusions, some good and some not so good (think airport security). The wealth of potential new inventions which Doctorow has imagined is staggering. Imagine a world in which obesity is eliminated through biochemical altering of metabolism (with the proviso that the altered individual must consume 10,000 calories a day or starve to death!). Imagine what might happen to Disney World when patrons can undergo similar or superior experiences through virtual reality in one¿s own home or at a fraction of the cost. Rest assured, Mickey will not go quietly into that good night. As an aside, what is it with Doctorow and Disney?This is a story told in three parts: First, an attempted conversion of the old economy into a vibrant, creative ¿New Work¿ economy in which micro cells of technologically proficient, highly creative inventors are identified, organized and capitalized; second, 5-10 years following collapse of the ¿New Work¿ economy, our heroes (Perry and Lester) create a nostalgic look back through construction of a ¿ride¿, in which participants not only experience the contents, but grade and ultimately reconfigure it through their collective experiences. Such rides sweep the nation, and are connected and remain identical through technical networks; third, is the clash between the ¿rides¿ and the ultimate ¿ride¿, Disney World. The Empire Strikes Back, as it were. Suits, countersuits, trademark infringement, industrial espionage all ensue.Doctorow is clearly no fan of multi-national corporations, bureaucracy, ¿suits¿ or even mid-level management. One would almost picture his Utopia as a near anarchical society in which the individual creative genius is given complete control, unfettered by law (intellectual property) or administrative control. Of course, both in real life and in Doctorow¿s novel, such a society is not sustainable. At each level of the story, a predictable progression of creativity, success and growth is followed by chaos, control, litigation and ultimately collapse. It¿s a wild ¿ride¿ and one well worth the time.
A dark, important look forward veiled in techno-sensawunda optimism. I fear Cory is growing up. The plot and prose is not particularly impressive, but if you come for the ideas, you'll agree with me that it deserves an extra star (4 out of 5).
Cory Doctorow¿s book Markers is a roller coaster ride (reference intended) of the ups and downs of the ¿New Work¿ era and beyond.The main characters Lester Banks and Perry Gibbons have an infectious energy for the future and the creative process that is energizing and Suzanne Church¿s chronicles of Lester¿s and Perry¿s adventures gives this story an uncanny raised hair on the back of the neck vision of what our own future could hold.Although the book is a SF novel, I often found myself thinking, this isn¿t science fiction, this is just around the corner technology.I personally loved the laser translator. Imagine getting the job on the merits of your skills and talent rather than language requirements. And the earbuds, snitch-tags and the self-modifying robots were pretty mind-blowing too.The story moves at a fast clip and when the characters crash, you crash right along with them, and when they pick themselves up, you dust yourself off too and move forward.The only disturbing aspect of the story is the biotechnology angle. Oh, I hope that as a society we don¿t go down that path, but the temptation for some to become fatkins may just be too strong.I enjoyed Markers thoroughly and recommend the book highly.
Born to invent and create, Perry and Lester go together like peanut butter and jelly. When they invent a whole new world with someone taking notes of every move, life becomes a little hectic. Then, when their baby crumbles, the whole world is watching. These friends are draw to the limit and it's no surprise that the company and the friendship, may be doomed for ever. Will they be able to redeem themselves?This is a witty novel that will appeal to nerds everywhere. I'm including myself in this nerd category. So to all you dorks out there, this is a book written just for you. (And me.)
I enjoyed this book for a while. I found the "3D printer spawns a new era of creativity" to be a very believable and fantastic basis for a near-future sci-fi novel. But I never really got into the character development or plot development. The concept was great, the storytelling only mediocre.I think this would have been better done as a work of short fiction, highlighting the vision but omitting much of the back story.
Cory Doctorow has given us another foreseeable, and very believable, future in Makers. The premise of the book is an extension of trends we see around us now, at the close of the first decade of the 21st century. Mashups and hardware recycling is taken to the next level by bored, out of work dot com people paired with venture capitalists looking to make a quick turnaround on profit, create new gadgets by combining old gadgets, pump them out until knock-offs reduce the profit margin. The process is then repeated with something new.What saves this book from becoming boring is an almost Frankenstein type of transformation: one of the projects becomes bigger than the sum of its parts and takes on a momentum, a life style rather than a life, of its own that no one saw coming. Along with this, Doctorow creates another group of lifestyle trends based on the rapid globalization of the tech world and fitness trends, some of which, like medical tourism, are already here, just not to the degree presented in Makers.While you don¿t have to be a technophile to appreciate what is presented here, it helps. Technophobes, on the other hand, may be totally turned off by some of the ideas presented and may not get some of the more subtle humor offered. Makers is well worth the read and well worth more than 4 stars, but not quite brilliant enough to get that elusive fifth star.
Very interesting to see the conflict of open source in the world we have. There are many problems but some hope as well.
More interesting ideas from Doctorow and his fascination with Disney. With 3D printers getting more commonplace this seems the right book to be reading now.