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Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom: A Novel Paperback – May 22, 2018
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“As much fun as Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, and as packed with mind-bending ideas.” ―Tim O'Reilly
“Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is black-comedic sci-fi prophecy on the dangers of surrendering our consensual hallucination to the regime. Fun to read, but difficult to sleep afterwards.” ―Douglas Rushkoff, author of Cyberia and Media Virus!
“Cory Doctorow is one of our best new writers: smart, daring, savvy, entertaining, ambitious, plugged in, and as good a guide to the wired world of the twenty-first century that stretches out before us as you're going to find anywhere.” ―Gardner Dozois, editor, Asimov's SF
About the Author
Canadian-born Cory Doctorow is the author of the New York Times bestselling young adult novel Little Brother, and the co-editor of the popular blog BoingBoing. His other YA novels include Pirate Cinema and Homeland, the sequel to Little Brother.
His adult novels and short stories have won him three Locus Awards and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. He has been named one of the Web’s twenty-five “influencers” by Forbes Magazine and a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. He lives in London with his wife and daughter.
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.
" "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...
Most recent customer reviews
But I always enjoy a good near future science fiction story.