- Hardcover: 208 pages
- Publisher: Tor Books; 1st edition (February 1, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0765304368
- ISBN-13: 978-0765304360
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 133 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #975,666 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom Hardcover – February 1, 2003
Garth Brooks: The Anthology Part 1 | Limited Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
A lot of ideas are packed into this short novel, but Doctorow's own best idea was setting his story in Disney World, where it's hard to tell whether technology serves dreams or vice versa. Jules, a relative youngster at more than a century old, is a contented citizen of the Bitchun Society that has filled Earth and near-space since shortage and death were overcome. People are free to do whatever they wish, since the only wealth is respect and since constant internal interface lets all monitor exactly how successful they are at being liked. What Jules wants to do is move to Disney World, join the ad-hoc crew that runs the park and fine-tune the Haunted Mansion ride to make it even more wonderful. When his prudently stored consciousness abruptly awakens in a cloned body, he learns that he was murdered; evidently he's in the way of somebody else's dreams. Jules first suspects, then becomes viciously obsessed by, the innovative group that has turned the Hall of Presidents into a virtual experience. In the conflict that follows, he loses his lover, his job, his respect-even his interface connection-but gains perspective that the other Bitchun citizens lack. Jules's narrative unfolds so smoothly that readers may forget that all this raging passion is over amusement park rides. Then they can ask what that shows about the novel's supposedly mature, liberated characters. Doctorow has served up a nicely understated dish: meringue laced with caffeine.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Welcome to Bitchun society, where all today's commonplace problems have been solved: even death is a minor inconvenience, since one can make regular backups. Our hero has gone to Disneyland--his habit at times of major personal crisis--where he works for the ad-hocracy that runs the Haunted Mansion and the Hall of Presidents. It is a great honor to be working on the pinnacle of late-twentieth-century cultural and artistic achievement--Disneyland, that would be--and it inspires great loyalty. Our man begins feeling the pressure of change, however, after a cookie-cutter teenybopper shoots him dead for apparently no reason at all. Convinced that a new ad-hocracy on the block used his death to take over the Hall of Presidents, he vows to sabotage their plans and protect the sanctity of the Haunted Mansion. Thus begins a cycle of destruction and conflict with unexpected ramifications for the park--and his personal life. An excellent ride, entertaining and unpredictable. Regina Schroeder
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
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Doctorow presents a society where resources are plentiful and where the respect of others (measured as "whuffie") has replaced money as the currency of the realm. But the biggest change is the idea that death has been overcome. Oh, people can die, but then their minds are just "decanted" into a new body, a clone prepared for them. Minds are digitally stored, and death is no more than a minor inconvenience and perhaps the loss of a few days/weels of memories since the last backup was done.
Jules, a 100+ year old who has spent his life writing symphonies and earning advanced degrees, currently is living at Disney World, where ad-hoc committees are running things, having taken over the place from the shareholders. He's primarily concerned with making the Haunted Mansion an even better experience, mostly by cutting seconds off the queue to exit time, and increasing the ride's capacity. But another ad-hoc has set its sights on some classic attractions, and they have a new technology that is mind blowing. (Almost literally.)
When Jules is killed, and rebooted into a clone, he finds that the time has been used by that other ad-hoc to take over the Hall of Presidents, and Jules becomes convinced that they had something to do with his death. He becomes preoccupied with solving the mystery and preventing them from taking over what he believes is their ultimate target - his beloved Haunted Mansion.
But ultimately, this is less a story about Disney World (a major character as well as a setting, it seems to me) or the technology and sociology of this new society, and more a story about figuring out what makes life worth living. What is there out there than exists to motivate people, to keep them "interested" in living this life? Is it advanced degrees? Enhancing and expressing creativity? Is it "art" like Disney World?
I'm not sure Doctorow answers any of this satisfactorily, but then again, I don't think it affects the story. The questions are there to be asked, and examined, and that doesn't change once the book is closed. The rest is just background. In this story, it's "the way it is".
I may have liked this book more than some because I am an SF fan AND a Disney fan. But I still recommend it wholeheartedly, for the fast, engrossing read that it is.
If you are looking for an exploration of how an "ultra-society" might function (infinite wealth, immortality, no obligation to work) the Culture novels are a much better place to go and The Player of Games (Culture) a great place to start.
Most recent customer reviews
But I always enjoy a good near future science fiction story.