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Walkaway: A Novel Hardcover – April 25, 2017
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Praise for Walkaway
“Is Doctorow’s fictional utopia bravely idealistic or bitterly ironic? The answer is in our own hands. A dystopian future is in no way inevitable; Walkaway reminds us that the world we choose to build is the one we’ll inhabit. Technology empowers both the powerful and the powerless, and if we want a world with more liberty and less control, we’re going to have to fight for it.”―Edward Snowden
“The darker the hour, the better the moment for a rigorously-imagined utopian fiction. Walkaway is now the best contemporary example I know of, its utopia glimpsed after fascinatingly-extrapolated revolutionary struggle. A wonderful novel: everything we’ve come to expect from Cory Doctorow and more.”―William Gibson
“The Bhagavad Gita of hacker/maker/burner/open source/git/gnu/wiki/99%/adjunctfaculty/Anonymous/shareware/thingiverse/cypherpunk/LGTBQIA*/squatter/upcycling culture...zipped it down into a pretty damned tight techno-thriller with a lot of sex in it.”―Neal Stephenson
“Cory Doctorow is one of our most important science fiction writers, because he’s also a public intellectual in the old style: he brings the news and explains it, making clearer the confusions of our wild current moment. His fiction is always the heart of his work, and this is his best book yet, describing vividly the revolutionary beginnings of a new way of being. In a world full of easy dystopias, he writes the hard utopia, and what do you know, his utopia is both more thought-provoking and more fun.”―Kim Stanley Robinson
"Thrilling and unexpected....A truly visionary techno-thriller that not only depicts how we might live tomorrow, but asks why we don’t already." Kirkus (starred review)
"Doctorow has envisioned a fascinating world...This intriguing take on a future that might be right around the corner is bound to please." ―Library Journal
"Memorable and engaging. ...Ultimately suffused with hope." ―Booklist
About the Author
Cory Doctorow is a co-editor of Boing Boing and a columnist for the Guardian, Publishers Weekly, and Locus. His award-winning novel Little Brother was a New York Times bestseller. Born and raised in Canada, he lives in Los Angeles.
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In Walkaway he tries to say that we live in an embarrassment of riches and that the 0.01% fool us into believing we need jobs and money to get stuff when if we just walk away and make things that are cool because they are cool, then we'll all have enough to eat, a place to live, and fulfilling activities to occupy our lives. Once you build something cool, someone is bound to want it, so you just walk away again and build something else. 3D printers are ubiquitous, as are plans for things to make because of the net (handwave). Of course, the 0.01% don't like people walking away, and paint them as terrorists, criminals, and all around bad people. Lots of walk away people die, but the others just keep walking away into harsher environments like a terribly contaminated asbestos and chemical spill site where the walkaways are printing their own space suits and practicing (kind of) to become Martians.
Oh, and the big breakthrough is that the walkaways discover how to record consciousness, effectively making people immortal as long as you have the server capacity and storage to run them. This pisses off the 0.01% to no end, because if that technology is available to everyone then they can't become immortal oligarchs ruling mankind forever.
Huge grains of salt are needed here, because Doctorow's people seem to be perfect communists, and I'm pretty sure those don't exist. Doctorow has substituted "people will do it because of points" with "people will do it because they'll see it's the right thing to do."
For all that he's writing about near-future dystopias, he's really an optimist.
CONS: The book meanders with no real coherent plot or viewpoint character. I think the author intended this like a "found footage film", following along people experiencing an alternate-history in more or less realtime. But it comes across as a loosely-connected series of vignettes instead. This makes the book hard to get through at times, and hard to finish. And it's made worse by a time-jump ending that makes it seem like the author wrote it just because his publisher threatened legal action for lack of delivery.
OVERALL: Worth your time for the new ideas and concepts. But don't expect to finish this one in one sitting or feel compelled to turn every page.
I enjoyed the beginning of the book immensely and the end was good but the middle was much more of a slog and there were several jumps of many years that was quiet disorientating. The book itself was definitely dystopian and scary in how easily I could see our world heading that direction.
Doctorow does a great job of fleshing out this premise via the conflicts that arise as the Zottas (zillionaires) begin to treat the Walkaways as a threat to be dealt with by any means necessary. I found the parallel plot of digital immortality somewhat distracting, but I appreciate that he uses it as a broader analogy to the idea of walking away not only from an economic system but from our physical shells as well.
If you are wondering what it might take to get from our present to a post-money Star Trek type future, this book will give you plenty of ideas to think about, and entertain you along the way.