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Makers Paperback – October 12, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In this tour de force, Doctorow (Little Brother) uses the contradictions of two overused SF themes—the decline and fall of America and the boundless optimism of open source/hacker culture—to draw one of the most brilliant reimaginings of the near future since cyberpunk wore out its mirror shades. Perry Gibbons and Lester Banks, typical brilliant geeks in a garage, are trash-hackers who find inspiration in the growing pile of technical junk. Attracting the attention of suits and smart reporter Suzanne Church, the duo soon get involved with cheap and easy 3D printing, a cure for obesity and crowd-sourced theme parks. The result is bitingly realistic and miraculously avoids cliché or predictability. While dates and details occasionally contradict one another, Doctorow's combination of business strategy, brilliant product ideas and laugh-out-loud moments of insight will keep readers powering through this quick-moving tale. (Nov.)
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.
Covering the transformation of Kodacell (formerly Kodak and Duracell) into a network of tiny teams, journalist Suzanne Church goes to Florida and the inventors behind it all, Lester and Perry, who have more ideas than they know what to do with. The New Work (i.e., the network) takes off, with a mini-startup in every abandoned strip mall in America. But suddenly, it crashes, and things get really interesting. Lester and Perry build an interactive ride in an abandoned Wal-Mart, a nostalgia trip through their glory days, that catches the eye of a vicious Disney exec—and the old corporate giants fight their last battle against the new economic order. Doctorow’s talent for imagining the near future is astonishing, and his novels keep getting better. His prognostications are unnervingly plausible and completely bizarre, obviously developed from careful observation of what’s going on at the bleeding edge of technology and culture. The characters are simultaneously completely geeky and suave, lovable and flawed. Even the suits, marketing people and lawyers, are interesting. --Regina Schroeder --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Some examples of the lazy, bad writing: one of the villains, Freddy, is ugly, lecherous, and has bad breath; the other villain is named Sammy (Freddy and Sammy. Really?), and starts of seemingly as a sort of nebbishy middle manager worried about the fact that he isn't reimbursed by his employer for mileage when traveling, then turns out to be quite high up in the Disney chain of command -- he is in charge of Fantasyland. Then he turns out to be a violent psychotic. And in the end he's sympathetic to the mission of our heroes (Perry and Lester), and just wants to make cool stuff, like they do. I guess that could be a character arc.
More lazy writing: people in this book double over laughing all the time; at one point someone literally rolls on the floor laughing. Have you ever seen an adult rolling around on the floor laughing? Maybe I live a humorless life, but I haven't.
On the other hand, the plot keeps racing along, and I felt compelled to run after it to see where it would go next. And the book is stuffed with ideas. And there are those flashes of brilliance in the writing that make me think that Doctorow could be a wonderful writer if he'd just slow down a bit.
But if you are aware of who he is and what he does, that doesn't seem likely.
Despite not being able to recommend this book, I'll read another Cory Doctorow. Probably Little Brother.
What this "cool stuff" actually is, the novel never really does a good job of imagining because all of the supposed inventions, on consideration, fail to live up to their in-narrative hype. While fiction is allowed much leeway, a work dedicated to technology, and one that tries to be so explicit about all of its gadgets, at least ought to provide what it advertises- neat technology. But absent ground breaking ideas, when the narrative started throwing around 'billion dollar' deals, the 'next big thing', the 'next New Deal' etc. my suspension of disbelief utterly collapsed. And no, bloggers don't shape the world, sorry. Considering the actual tech marvels that are currently being cranked out at an incredible pace, the things this book extols as groundbreaking appear laughable, at best something that belongs in a modern version of 19th century Paris "Arcades", or simply modern carnival chachkas.
My greatest disappointment, however, is the fact that the latter part of the book reads like something written by a rather literate teenager or, alternatively, specifically aimed at targeting anti-authoritarian teenagers as its audience: 'Nerds' (I use the term loosely) of course are always misunderstood but do awesome stuff nonetheless because they are awesome, even while the novel's characters in actuality behave like emotionally stunted boring dupes. Suits always want to ruin everything, which is never actually demonstrated but merely concluded at the outset. Predictably, a big evil company, here Disney theme park (that's right the theme park, not the actual company) is the greatest menacing evil known to man, and will resort to anything to retain its... theme park attendance?!? This part made me laugh out loud... in fact this was the only time this book had a funny moment, albeit unintentionally. Otherwise the novel takes itself incredibly seriously to the point of being a painful slog. The evil corp. is of course run by the talentless sociopathic hack who is only missing a white cat and a maniacal laugh to complete the full package. Every character has to have a romantic interest, conflict, resolution, and obligatory sex scene with any member of the opposite sex, 'cause you know, if it's got an outie it must fit with an innie.
Lastly, the book is overly verbose without the actual language itself being interesting. There's nothing wrong with a thorough narrative per se, but it has to be engaging. A perfunctory detailing of scene by scene only makes a novel longer, not better.
Again, my great disappointment with the novel is that it pitches itself as complex and sophisticated story about "the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things" (see dedication), but in actuality it comes off as someone's poorly concocted teenage fantasy about how awesome it would be to live on a commune surrounded by chicks, fiddling around with left over parts while making bucketfuls of money without care or effort, allthewhile throwing around a fair amount of 'righteous' disdain for any and all 'squares'.