BooksOfTheMoon

The Rapture of the Nerds

By Cory Doctorow

Rating: 4 stars

At the tail end of the 21st century, after the Singularity has resulted in all but about a billion humans uploading into a transformed solar system, neo-technophobe Huw Jones is called up for jury duty. Not for passing judgement on criminals, but deciding whether or not ideas, memes, technology etc beamed (or spammed) down from the cloud should be allowed on earth. It doesn’t start off well, as he is infected with some sort of technological virus and his day goes rapidly downhill from there.

There are an awful lot of ideas in this book. Stross and Doctorow gleefully throw them at you rapid fire and if one or two don’t stick, well, never worry, there’s another one coming at you before you have a chance to think about it. Overnight home gender reassignment surgery and AI genies in lamps are just some of the tamer ideas. The book is very much split into three sections, each of which feels like they were possibly independent novellas before being combined. The first starts with Huw’s original jury duty, the second picks up as he crash lands in the isolated, fundamentalist remains of the USA on the way home and the final part takes place in the cloud, after Huw is forcibly uploaded.

The first section is interesting as it’s introducing the world and the idea of this council for protecting earth from unwanted technologies, the third has a pretty strong story but I found the middle bit unsatisfying. The ideas just didn’t really gel for me and Huw was altogether too passive as our PoV character which I found frustrating.

Still, there’s lots in here to enjoy, particularly in the final section, as the authors indulge in a little existential philosophy, about what makes up an individual, what happens when it’s possible to fork off copies of yourself, diff and merge and the ethics of shutting down instances. There’s a whole lot of fun in the book, but you may have to swim through the deluge of ideas to find the gems.

Book details

ISBN: 9781781167441
Publisher: Titan Publishing Company
Year of publication: 2012

Content: Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright, and the Future of the Future

By Cory Doctorow

Rating: 4 stars

This is a collection of Doctorow’s writing on copyright, DRM and the internet. It is, like the rest of his work, available for free under a CC licence online, but I got the paper version, being the old-fashioned book-lover that I am. Doctorow acknowledges that he probably loses some sales through putting his work online for free, but his contention is that the publicity and goodwill he gains from it generate more paper sales than he loses. This has certainly worked for him, although I don’t know how viable a general model it is.

The essays that I thought worked best were the general informational ones where he wasn’t being especially polemic about DRM or his other hobby horses. These are always interesting, but they just make me angry without there seeming to be any real solution to the problems they raise.

The book was published in 2008 and although some things have changed, notably ebooks are finally starting to take off, through things like tablets and specialist devices like the Kindle, much of what he says is still relevant today. The most interesting article is probably his interview with futurist Ray Kurzweil, someone I don’t necessarily agree with, but who paints a picture of a future I want to live in.

Book details

ISBN: 9781892391810
Publisher: Tachyon Publications
Year of publication: 2008

Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present

By Cory Doctorow

Rating: 3 stars

This is a short collection of just six stories by Doctorow, including the flash piece Printcrime, about a man with a printer and a dream; the quite excellent I, Row-Boat about a sentient row-boat who follows the creed of Asimovism getting along on a post-Singularity Earth with hardly any humans left; and the moving After the Siege about a city under siege in more ways than one.

I enjoyed most of these stories, but Doctorow’s politics were always present, and some of them could feel a bit preachy. My favourites were I, Row-Boat and Anda’s Game, an examination of MMORPGs and the companies that set up sweatshops in the third world to repeatedly ‘grind’ characters, building them up so they can be sold to Westerners who don’t want to have to play up through the ‘dull’ stuff. That one is probably the most grounded story in the collection, throwing up a lot of issues which are currently having to be dealt with by the online gaming community.

Mostly a fun collection, but only a couple of the stories have the staying power that might make me want to read them again.

Book details

ISBN: 9781560259817
Publisher: Running Press
Year of publication: 2007

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

By Cory Doctorow

Rating: 3 stars

Julius is a young man barely past his first century of life in the post-scarcity, post-death Bitchun Society. He’s now settled down in Disney World in an ad-hoc looking after some of the classic attractions, but there’s a new ad-hoc in the Magic Kingdom, and they’re trying to muscle in on the Haunted Mansion…

The scope of this story is pretty narrow, amounting to little more than an administrative dispute over a few rides at Disney World, but the world that the story is set in is the real draw. Doctorow posits a post-scarcity economy, where the only currency of note is “wuffie”, a measure of reputation which is interesting. In a society saturated with electronics and ubiquitous personal network access, this can change from moment to moment as your actions cause ripples in those around you and beyond, depending on the scope of the actions.

Maybe not a riveting plot, but certainly good world-building.

Book details

ISBN: 9780765309532
Publisher: Tor Books
Year of publication: 2003

Powered by WordPress