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A Place So Foreign and Eight More Paperback – September 8, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Running Press (September 8, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568582862
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568582863
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,642,155 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Wunderkind Cory Doctrow continues to display his orientation skills at the intersection of Humanity and Technology with the collection of short stories A Place So Foreign and 8 More. In the collection's titular tale, "A Place So Foreign," a 19th-century boy travels with his father, the Ambassador to 1975. But when Pa meets with an accident, young James becomes a living anachronism in 1898. Doctrow twists the time travel tale into a parable of data mining, as mysterious forces work to plunder the past for corporate gain. In one of several stories about a mysterious alien race who offers to give Earthers a hand up, he documents the adolescent rage of those left behind when the "mothaship" takes the anointed few into the brave new world. Finally, in "0wnz0red", Doctrow explores the dark side of Silicon Valley's connection to the military industrial complex by posing the question: What happens when hackers learn to hack the human body?

Doctrow is a new breed in an increasingly literate and valid subgenre of science fiction. He uses the traditional allegories of the form to explore more human and fragile connections. As the 21st century rockets ahead, he examines the consequences of our frenzy to embrace technology and predicts outcomes that are both charmingly optimistic and bleakly hollow. --Jeremy Pugh

From Publishers Weekly

Postcyberpunk Doctorow, a rising Canadian SF star, follows his Orwellian Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (2003) with nine too-near-future tales of aliens and the human alienated-and it's often hard to tell the difference. In "Craphound," the author posits an Earth taken over by "bugouts," aliens obsessed with trading technological expertise for human junk, the ephemera that momentarily defines a society and then becomes silly or naive when some new and more soul-destroying technological amusement arrives. That Faustian central metaphor of the thirst for technology as the ultimate source of spiritual corruption almost guarantees Doctorow's other absorption, his vision of Disneyland in "Return to Pleasure Island," a horrifying sidewise glimpse of the children's entertainment industry. Since the short story form seems somewhat restrictive for him, his best pieces, like his achingly funny reflections on adolescence ("The Year of the Hormone") and a Jewish superman in the era of the Pax Aliena ("The Super Man and the Bugout"), need at least novella-size room. His closing story, "OwnzOred," a shockingly original glimpse of 21st-century mankind tottering at the brink of a mortally steep cliff, is a polemic on fair-use freedom. By relentlessly exposing disenchanted Silicon Valley dwellers caught in a military-industrial web of khaki money, Congress-critters and babykiller projects, Doctorow explores the intersection of social concern and technology-Never-Never land, or 2084?
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

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A good collection, from a fine writer, early in his career.
Peter D. Tillman
The one thing I really like about Doctorow's writing is how he doesn't have to explain things... he SHOWS them.
SirTheory
Thoughtful and often funny are these powerful nine short stories.
Midwest Book Review

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Caster Jack on January 10, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I suppose I'll lose points on cleverness and critique, but...I read the first page of the first story, and bought the book on that alone; halfway though, it provoked a rare "damn, I'm really glad I bought this book" moment. That's all I'm really looking for in a book anyhow.
***UPDATE 4/18: driving in to work I started randomly thinking about the story "craphound" from this collection...so I guess you could say Doctorow has stay-time, considering it's been a year since I read it and it still occasionally bounces around my brain.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Michael K. Smith TOP 500 REVIEWER on October 24, 2005
Format: Paperback
Doctorow (no provable relation to E. L., by the way) made his first big splash with his off-the-wall short stories -- especially the last one in this collection, "Ownz0red," which is a Leet Geek work of narrative art about taking copyright commons to the next level, by way of the personal biosphere. "Craphound," on the other hand, while it's a well-written and entertaining story about junk-hawks, is almost the sort of thing you might have found in the old Analog. "To Market, to Market: The Rebranding of Billy Bailey," has a strong Gibsonian flavor and is probably the second-best thing in this collection. The title story is a not entirely successful time travel yarn that seems to lose its way at several points. "Return to Pleasure Island" is just strange, and also not enitrely successful. The remaining three stories are sort of a set, sharing a future in which the aliens have come and are shaping us up whether we like it or not, but none of the three shares characters. This is the best single-author collection I've read in several years.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By SirTheory on June 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
Short story collections tend to frustrate me, as it seems the story hardly gets into the swing of things before a conclusion is hastily tapped on. The best short story collection I have read is "Welcome to the Monkey House" by Kurt Vonnegut, which is one of the most dazzling displays of "modern" writing I've stumbled upon. "A Place SO Foreign and 8 More" does not quite reach Vonnegut level, but is still a very enjoyable collection of stories.

Most of the time I really enjoyed Doctorow's prose. There were a few times he fell into the trap of trying to use too many "smart" phrases in one place, however, overall the writing is sharp and interesting.

The one thing I really like about Doctorow's writing is how he doesn't have to explain things... he SHOWS them. For example, in the story "Return to Pleasure Island," the main character is not human, but Doctorow avoids blantantly saying so. Instead he throws in "clues." Since the story is from the creature's perspective, regular humans are "soft ones." When he takes off his coat, he notices a lot of brown dirt-- a sign he is getting along in age. It's all very nonchalant which allows it to work.

The best story in the collection is "Home Again, Home Again," which is a look at life in a future "bat-house"... a home for mentally unstable people. While Docotorow tinkers with the idea that switching between first person and third person in reference to the same guy is powerful, it's really just confusing and it would have been better in first person only. I understand the concept he was going for, but it just wasn't working. That small bit aside, the story it's self was a stunning peep into different relationships which AREN'T real, but through Doctorow's writing sure do feel like they are.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By reader from maryland on October 17, 2004
Format: Paperback
I like Cory Doctorow's writing style and have been a fan since reading 'In the Shadow of the Mothaship'. I was glad to find this compilation so I did not have to hunt down old SciFi magazines. The stories are almost all near future settings that have an element of the fantastic but not scientific, with the exception of the story '0wnz0red' which is the book's capstone piece. Doctorow writes in fast, hip, word-mashing style that others have copied, but at which he excels. Subjects usually revolve around a theme of youthful rebellion and, the young characters while very involved in their own world, tend to dismiss or miss larger issues. This is fine but he never examines it in any detail. All the characters are young or young minded and seem to be in on the joke. It is hard to had empathy with these characters.

Each story is preceded by author notes. The information given is historical, humorous, or biographical. And he talks about issues important to him such electronic rights and 'sampling'. Some of these subjects need more than just a paragraph. On the issue of sampling he asserts that writers should be able to 'lift' pieces of other authors stories; backdrops, character sketches et cetera. Other authors simply claim to have been inspired by books they have read, Doctorow takes this idea a step further. In 'A place so foreign' he admits to having read Fitzgerald's 'The Great Brain' children's books and copies the entire setting of Mormon Utah in the 1860s. Also in 'The Superman and the Bugout' he copies the comic hero Superman; right down to the tights, trunks and cape. These stories are yawnfests. When he uses his own ideas the stories are MUCH better, memorable even.
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More About the Author

Canadian-born Cory Doctorow has held policy positions with Creative Commons and the Electronic Frontier Foundation and been a Fulbright Fellow at the University of Southern California. He is a co-editor of the popular weblog BoingBoing (boingboing.net), which receives over three million visitors a month. His science fiction has won numerous awards, and his YA novel LITTLE BROTHER spent seven weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

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