By November 17, 2009 0 Comments Read More →

Authors You Should Try: Cory Doctorow

Even if you haven’t read books by Cory Doctorow, you probably know the name. His blogs, essays, and opinions seem to be everywhere, particularly in regards to digital culture, intellectual property, or technology. Doctorow almost always has an opinion, and whether or not one agrees with him, (like me, you’ll probably find yourself siding with him on one issue, against him on the next) it’s hard not to respect his passionate and eloquent arguments.

Because it takes on contemporary and near-future issues, Doctorow’s brand of science fiction will be relevant to readers who don’t normally read that genre. If you are interested in where technology is taking us, in the creative life, or in questions of intellectual property, you will find him worth your time.

down-and-out-in-the-magic-kingdomMy introduction to Doctorow came with Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, a light, fast look at a future where a kind of eternal life is available, where ad-hoc work groups of like-minded folk control the workplace, and collective public opinion is translated into the main kind of currency. Protagonist Julius joins an ad hoc at Disney World but is promptly assassinated. Ported into a new body but still wracked with a variety of personal problems, Julius must try to solve his murder, keep his ad hoc afloat, and navigate a love triangle.

Doctorow’s press reached new heights with last year’s Little Brother, a young adult novel about a tech-loving Bay Area teen in the near future. He and his friends are first captured, then released under heavy surveillance by thelittle-brother government after they are in the vicinity when a terrorist’s bomb destroys the Bay Bridge. While the protagonist, Marcus, may be a bit off-putting to some older readers, one can’t help but sympathize with his dilemmas. Shadow forces within the government use the terrorist act as an excuse for new levels of technological privacy invasion and control of citizens. Marcus chooses to fight back through a variety of digital means. The the resulting cat-and-mouse game between his youthful following and the homeland security folks is fascinating, scary, sometimes just too plausible.

Doctorow’s newest book is Makers. If put on a timeline, it would occur sometime between Little Brother and Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, still in the near future, but set in a world where the economy has really bottomed out makersand many Americans are reduced to squatting in emptied malls. The book follows a group of close friends–business people, journalists, and most of all inventors–as they try to turn the shell of a dying Fortune 500 monolith into a nimble network of grass roots collectives who rapidly turn new ideas into marketable products. In particular, the book follows Suzanne Church, a middle-aged journalist turned blogger who decides to follow one of the best of the new collectives for a year. That decision begins her lifetime relationship with Perry and Lester, two creative geniuses. Events related to their first inventions in Florida tie the group to a local shantytown and an ongoing battle with the Disney corporation. Doctorow explores future battles between small and large companies, the impact of digital culture, the effects of future health supplements, the joys and defects of all things Disney, and myriad other subjects. Most exciting to me, Doctorow is learning to create more complex characters. Even if you don’t care much about the issues he explores, you’ll care about Perry, Lester, Suzanne, Kettlewell, Tjan, Francis, and Hilda. Like many driven, creative people, these characters are torn between committing to their latest pursuits and to long-term relationships. Along the way, I found many celebrations, many heartaches.

Give Doctorow a look. These books and his others are all quick to read. Even readers who don’t like them will find plenty of worthwhile ideas to engage them.

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About the Author:

Neil Hollands is an Adult Services Librarian at Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia, where he specializes in readers’ advisory and collection development. He is the author of Read On . . . Fantasy Fiction (2007) and Fellowship in a Ring: a Guide for Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Groups (2009).

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