Simon Bisson (sbisson) wrote,
Simon Bisson

  • Mood:
  • Music:

A Thursday Evening "What, More Whuffie?" Review: Down And Out In The Magic Kingdom

Cory Doctrow calls Down And Out In The Magic Kingdom "Nerdcore". I'm still not sure if that's the right name for his high-energy mix of information-dense post-scarcity SF for the slashdot generation, but for now it'll have to do.

Where to begin?
"I lived long enough to see the cure for death; to see the rise of the Bitchun Society; to learn ten languages; to compose three symphonies; to realize my boyhood dream of taking up residence in Disney World; to see the death of the workplace and of work."
Set the scene. In a post-scarcity world of free energy and nanotech, the only currency is respect - catalogued in your peer-to-peer Whuffie score. Jules has earnt his Whuffie over a century or so of life. Now he's earning more by hanging out in Disney World with a group of like minds who maintain the Haunted Mansion ride. It's an ad-hoc solution in an ad-hoc world, and it's being threatened by the new guys in town - the folk who've just moved into the Hall Of Presidents with their new hi-tech ways. Jules is a Magic Kingdom purist - and what they're doing is anathema to everything he believes. But that's not all - an old friend has turned up, ready to die for good - and then the new folk seem to have just had him killed. It's just not Jules' year.

Cory's viewpoint character is telling a story to himself - or at least telling it to a possible future self, seeing as all his implants are fried and any death is going to have a big gap - and the only cure for his brain damage is resurrection. It's the story of how he came to value life in a world were death is meaningless, where people choose to cryogenically skip through time and being shot is a matter of waking up the next day in hospital, minus the memories you gained after your last backup (though you can have them faked up from other people's memories and camera footage). And it's the story of how one man can lose friends and influence when driven into a monomaniac hyperfocus.

Down And Out In The Magic Kingdom is an excellent first novel, tipping a wink at its precessors, and then driving out in its own direction. Cory drops us into a world, and then takes us to a place he loves, and then slowly takes it apart, alomg with Jules' sanity. Jules' monomania is carefully reflected in his friends' and lovers' concern, and yet while we can see the rate he's losing Whuffie, it's only a minor concern to him. Cory's take on the geek hyyperfocus is accurate and, perhaps, even a little chilling. There's something terribly sad in watching a viewpoint character throw everything that gives his life value away on a quixotic quest that we know he stands no chance of completing - but Cory embodies Jules' fall with some hope, and brings us out the other side and on into a limitless future free from earthly concerns.

Take John Varley's Eight Worlds, dash it with Paiul di Filippo's Ribofunk and a touch of James Patrick Kelly (and perhaps some of Charlie Stross' Accelerando) and you may get a feel for Cory's Bitchun future. It may not be a world we want to live in, but it looks like fun, and is a hell of a lot more pleasant than many of the worlds we face.

A higly recommended read (and downloadable as an e-book under a Creative Commons licence from here, though you really should buy the physical book as well!).
  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

  • 1 comment