Backup: a review

A reader's review of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom


Frankly, after growing up with the classics I didn't expect a modern SF novel to draw much of my attention. Especially one coming from a guy with the bizarre name — Cory Doctorow — better known as a celebrity blogger. But it was free (check out and seemed to have gathered a lot of attention. I transferred it to my PDA with some apprehension. Then... well... I began reading.

Imagine a future where energy is unlimited and free, death is strictly optional, as for taxes, suffice to say that the only currency is personal reputation. And since this isn't Star Trek, there is no dark secret to make this utopia a lie. Oh, the utopia is all too real, and has its own problems. Each more interesting than the next one.

Potential readers beware: to understand the book, good knowledge of the digital culture is required, from Usenet to the Open Source movement. Otherwise the central conflict of the book might seem alien. On the other hand, old-time SF readers will be pleasantly (or not...) reminded of Roger Zelazny's delightful style. The story is told in first person. with humor and self-irony. Under this veneer, though, you'll find a lot of depth. The novel's not light. There's a murder (with temporary effects), a detective mystery, sudden reversals, flashbacks, the whole package. But beyond these lie major human dramas. The characters, not necessarily memorable, are warm and surprisingly complex.

In conclusion, here's a new but good (!) book, an excellent introduction to post-singularity science fiction (a recent, less-known subgenre), and a troubling preview of things the future is already cooking for us...