- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: Tor Books; First edition (December 5, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 076530953X
- ISBN-13: 978-0765309532
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 129 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #247,706 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom Paperback – December 5, 2003
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“He sparkles! He fizzes! He does backflips and breaks the furniture! Science fiction needs Cory Doctorow.” ―Bruce Sterling, author of The Hacker Crackdown and Distraction
“This is science fiction for the non-SF reader as well as for hardcore fans of the genre--think Carl Hiassen crossed with Philip K. Dick, with just a dash of Disney magic” ―Kathryn Lively, author of Saints Preserve Us
“In a world of affluence and immortality, the big battles will be fought over culture, not politics. That's the starting-point of Wired contributor Doctorow's daring novel.... Few challenges to copyright giants are as entertaining as this book.” ―Wired
“Cory Doctorow is the most interesting new SF writer I've come across in years. He starts out at the point where older SF writers' speculations end.” ―Rudy Rucker, author of Spaceland
“A kinetic, immersive yarn...wholly entertaining.” ―The Onion AV Club
From the Back Cover
"He sparkles! He fizzes! He does backflips and breaks the furniture! Science fiction needs Cory Doctorow."
--Bruce Sterling, author of The Hacker Crackdown and Distraction
On The Skids In The Transhuman Future
Jules is a young man barely a century old. He's lived long enough to see the cure for death and the end of scarcity, to learn ten languages and compose three symphonies...and to realize his boyhood dream of taking up residence in Disney World.
Disney World! The greatest artistic achievement of the long-ago twentieth century. Now in the keeping of a network of "ad-hocs" who keep the classic attractions running as they always have, enhanced with only the smallest high-tech touches.
Now, though, the "ad hocs" are under attack. A new group has taken over the Hall of the Presidents, and is replacing its venerable audioanimatronics with new, immersive direct-to-brain interfaces that give guests the illusion of being Washington, Lincoln, and all the others. For Jules, this is an attack on the artistic purity of Disney World itself.
Worse: it appears this new group has had Jules killed. This upsets him. (It's only his fourth death and revival, after all.) Now it's war....
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" "Who'd want to do this?" I asked, hating the self-pity in my voice. It was the first time I 'd been murdered, but I didn't need to be a drama queen about it."
It's that sort of easy-going yet mind-blowing passage that characterizes the book best. The whole concept of a society that manages to remove the intermediate step of money and values everything directly on reputation is well-presented, and appealing. The business about practical immortality based on rapid cloning and memory-recording is cleanly done, but if you've read early John Varley (which you should), then there's nothing new there... Varley did it better a long time ago, and I have a feeling Doctorow may have borrowed a bit. Not complaining, just mentioning. It's nice to see this tied together with the reputation-based society so well.
Anyway, I've got several other titles by Doctorow on my reading list, and I'm looking forward to seeing if the others are as easy to read, and entertaining in their presentation of unusual ideas...
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.
Most recent customer reviews
But I always enjoy a good near future science fiction story.