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Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town Paperback – May 30, 2006

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; Reprint edition (May 30, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765312808
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765312808
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,475,069 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. It's only natural that Alan, the broadminded hero of Doctorow's fresh, unconventional SF novel, is willing to help everybody he meets. After all, he's the product of a mixed marriage (his father is a mountain and his mother is a washing machine), so he knows how much being an outcast can hurt. Alan tries desperately to behave like a human being—or at least like his idealized version of one. He joins a cyber-anarchist's plot to spread a free wireless Internet through Toronto at the same time he agrees to protect his youngest brothers (members of a set of Russian nesting dolls) from their dead brother who's now resurrected and bent on revenge. Life gets even more chaotic after he becomes the lover and protector of the girl next door, whom he tries to restrain from periodically cutting off her wings. Doctorow (Eastern Standard Tribe) treats these and other bizarre images and themes with deadpan wit. In this inventive parable about tolerance and acceptance, he demonstrates how memorably the outrageous and the everyday can coexist. Agent, Russell Galen. (May 5)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Middle-aged entrepreneur Alan, for whom mother is a washing machine and father is a mountain, has moved into one of Toronto's more interesting neighborhoods. The brother Alan and his other brothers killed years ago has returned to hound the family, and those other brothers, who are nesting dolls, show up on Alan's doorstep starving because the innermost brother has vanished. A next-door neighbor has wings that her boyfriend cuts back regularly so she can pass for normal. In the midst of such ordinary oddness, getting involved in a scheme to provide free wireless Internet to the neighborhood and eventually the city seems reasonable, even when it's masterminded by a crusty punk whose gear comes from Dumpster diving. Eventually, Alan concludes that he must go back to the mountain, a home he hasn't visited in years. The combination of Alan facing up to his family and their strangeness, the damage his dead brother will do to everything Alan cares about, and Doctorow's inescapable technological enthusiasm eventuates in a lovely, satisfying tale. Regina Schroeder
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

I found this distracting and annoying, and not very interesting.
Fiction Reader
Give this book a try, I did, despite my initial indifference and am very thankful for one of the better birthday gifts in recent memory.
A. Greene
Maybe it was kind of late at night when I read the ending, but I felt like he had run out of time and needed to finish up fast.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By doomsdayer520 HALL OF FAME on July 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
Cory Doctorow really has his finger on today's high-tech pulse, leading to great sci-fi ideas. I have read one of his earlier efforts, "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom," and that novel was damaged by too much reliance on techno geekery and not enough story. In this book, Doctorow has endeavored more to construct an engaging plot and more interesting characters, with the high-tech acting as more of a backdrop. This book is fun to read and even suspenseful, and the reading experience is an overall success. However, there are some glaring gaps here. The lead character (usually known as Alan) and his brothers are weird extra-human constructs, with a mountain for a father and a washing machine for a mother, and come from a supernatural cave looked over by golems. Alan enters the world of average humans, trying to escape his one evil brother, and protect his other brothers, while meeting a winged woman named Mimi who may or may not come from the same extra-human realm.

This may all sound eccentrically creative on Doctorow's part, but the problem is that these weird characters and bizarre backgrounds are simply presented as a given, and never actually explained. Are they supernatural demigods, weird mutant freaks, aliens, or what? Their function in the world of regular humans is never explored, nor is there any explanation for the supporting characters who know their secrets (Krishna) or can accept them without judgment or questioning (Kurt). Also, the characters go about their actions with no underlying motives or motivations being made clear to the reader. This problem applies especially to Mimi and the evil brother.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Chris B on July 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I want to say I loved this book. I really dig urban fantasies, especially ones that stay away from the tired tropes of the form, which this book managed to do with great form. Unfortunately the story never really came together for me. Yes, parallel plots and timelines and narratives but even in its resolution I felt it lacking.

Part of it was the feeling that the book was padded by lectures on the viability of wireless networks or the internet v. cell phones inserted solely to pad out the work and give Doctorow an opportunity to share his thoughts on the subject at hand. Which is fine when I'm reading an article or his posts on his blog or at BoingBoing, but in the novel they brought the story to a screeching halt. One moment I'm reading two characters discussing coffee, the next is a three page Socratic dialogue on the nautre of some gadget somewhere.

But mostly I never really felt that I was reading characters, just mannequins who were constructed and (barely) fleshed out so Doctorow could put them through their paces as he needed them. That's the nature of fiction, of course, but the characters that grip me have more to offer the story than the necessary plot coupons or Maguffins. These were mannequinsm artlessly brought into and out of the story as required. I never felt they had any inner life or any glimmer of personality that I would want to read about outside of the story.

The one exception was Mimi, who had a particularly juicy series of secrets to tell, but even she came and went seemingly at the author's whims.

I finished the book to finish it, not because I really cared. Much like Doctorow's other work, it had a strong start that was lost in the face of its own cleverness. I'd suggest giving this one a miss.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Elisabeth Carey on August 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Even after my disappointment with Eastern Standard Tribe, this still looked really interesting, and this time I wasn't disappointed.

Alan (Andy, Adrian) is the son of a mountain and a washing machine, and he has seven brothers. Alan (Alex, Andreas) is the oldest, and also the one who can pass for human the most easily and comfortably. In fact, only gradually do we learn that there's anything unusual about him at all, except for his parentage and his casual attitude about what name he gives people-as long as it starts with "A". Billy (Bob, Ben) can see the future, Carlo is an island, Doug (Danny,) was a perfectly human-appearing monster until his brothers killed him (which hasn't slowed down his career much), and Ed, Fred, and George are nesting dolls. Alan got his early-childhood care and education from the golems provided by his father, the mountain, and then discovered school and the library. After a childhood attempting to raise his brothers (except for Carlo) with decent educations and the ability to blend in to human society, and after a truly horrific experience ending in the death of Doug, Alan takes off on his own. When we meet him, he's a middle-aged, semi-retired entrepreneur living in Toronto, renovating the house he just bought and getting acquainted with the college-age neighbors next door.

His illusions of normality are about to take a nasty hit.

On the one hand, he's getting sucked into a new project, making free wireless internet access available to the neighborhood, the city, and eventually the world. On the other hand, his brothers, Ed, Fred, and George come to visit, with the news that Doug, whom they thought was safely dead, is back and coming after them. And on the third hand, the kids next door aren't as normal as they look, either.
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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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