Posted tagged ‘Cory Doctorow’

Review: Makers

December 23, 2009

Cory Doctorow’s latest, Makers is a loving tribute to mad invention and the people responsible for it.  It reminds me a lot of Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano with its world run by engineers scenario.  But unlike that dystopian view Makers is instead about the sheer joy of creation.

But this is not a purely optimistic book either.  The protagonists are far from perfect and spend just as much time ruining their lives as improving them.  But with one or two exceptions the characters aren’t terribly interesting anyway.  This just isn’t a book that’s really focused on people.  

Instead its about what people can acomplish when they are given the means to innovate.  When Doctorow gets lost in talking about people doing neat things his enthusiasm is infectious and the novel soars.  But the rest of the time the book is a bit of a misfire, feeling less like a novel than an extended essay on how large corporations are not conducive to creative thought.  Not a horrible book by any means, but probably Doctorow’s weakest novel to date.

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Year In Review: Books

December 15, 2008

A Decent year for the YA market, an awful one for everything else.  I could barely come up with 10 for this list, and two of the books I haven’t actually finished yet (although both of those I strongly feel will prove to deserve their slots by the time I’m done with them).

1) Nation

A labor of love from Terry Pratchett, the world’s greatest commentator on human behavior.

2) Little Brother

Cory Doctorow takes on the Department of Homeland Security and the culture of fear created by the Bush administration.  If you want to don’t want to get off your ass and take action after reading this YA gem than you weren’t paying attention.

3) The Kingdom On the Waves

The brilliant M.T. Anderson finishes his tale of Octavian Nothing, traitor to the nation.  The classically educated escaped slave heads south to join the British as the Revolutionary War breaks out around him.  One of those books I haven’t finished as of yet (give me another week), by the time I’m finished this could actually move up to the top spot.

4) More Information Than You Require

John Hodgman’s second book of false knowledge, this time supplimented with commentary of his newfound life as a minor television personality (and Battlestar Galactica fan).  It’s a real shame reality can’t measure up to the surreal world Hodgman creates.

5) Vicious Circle

Mike Carey’s second outing in his Felix Castor series is a huge improvement over the first book.  It still feels a bit like a story he didn’t have time to write when he was on Hellblazer, but the end result is a nice creepy supernatural mystery.

6) Graveyard Book

Neil Gaiman tries his hand at the Jungle Book, pretty much exactly what you’d expect given the title.

7) The Baum Plan for Financial Independance

My favorite Indy publisher, Small Beer Press, collects many of the best short stories of John Kessel.  

8) The Dragons of Babel

It took forever, but Michael Swanwick has finally completed his sequel to the Iron Dragon’s Daughter, possibly the greatest dark fantasy ever written.  Sadly the sequel, much of which is a series of intertwined short stories, doesn’t nearly live up to its predecessor.

9) Pirate Sun

Karl Schroeder continues his amazing space opera.  The set pieces in the book are as great as always, but I’m starting to suspect that Schroeder doesn’t actually have an end in mind for the story.

10) Philosopher’s Apprentice

James Morrow, the biggest heretic in literature (and yes that’s a very good thing), takes on philosophy in a pseudo-tribute to the Island of Dr. Moreau.

Rage!

October 17, 2008

Two posts from Boing Boing today that have already managed to totally ruin my day (as if the cold wasn’t enough to accomplish that feat).

First of all, there’s a report from Kentucky about a high school student who has been arrested for writing a zombie story taking place in a high school.  Evidentally officials have interpreted the story as being a death threat.  It’s a damn zombie story for crying out loud!  Man, everytime I think we can’t sink any lower someone surprises me.

And as if that wasn’t enough, the RIAA is at it again.  Awhile back they lost a case in which they attempted to prove that the first sale doctrine did not apply to promotional materials (yes libraries, you are allowed to use items marked as being for promotional use only).  So what is a greedy and corrupt industry to do?  Change the rules for resellers aparently.  According to the Boingboing post this morning a number of states have begun passing laws that do just that.  “In Florida, for example, anyone attempting to sell used CDs to a retailer must present identification and be fingerprinted, and any retailer looking to sell those same CDs must apply for a permit and submit a $10,000 bond with the Department of Agriculture and Human Services”.

Thank God for zombie video games let me tell you, I have got to blow off some steam.

Cory Doctorow comes to ALA

July 24, 2008

The ALA webiste has posted a good sized portion of Cory Doctorow’s privacy talk at ALA on their site.  Go watch it now.

Spotlight On: Charles Stross

July 12, 2008

The last few years have been a particularly good time to be a fan of hard s.f.  The latest crop of writers have been the strongest to hit the scene since the Golden Age, and the most prolific of these writers by far is Charles Stross.

Stross’ early works put him at the forefront of Singularity (the rapture of the geeks) stories and set him apart as a writer of incredible ambition.  Accelerando in particular was a novel with some lofty goals, which was doomed to failure.  The story is a generational saga that begins in a future that is at the outer reaches of human comprehension and then leaps forward from there, making it nearly impossible to read although worth the effort of trying.

His more recent novels have been far more controlled, and all the better for it.  Glasshouse, which was up for the Hugo last year but lost to Rainbow’s End, was one of the most enjoyable and imaginative reads I’ve encountered in years, combining the Singularity with Desperate Housewives and game theory.

In addition, Stross is also notable in that his stories tend to be focused largely on the economic aspects of the worlds he creates.  He’s not unique in this regard (Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom springs to mind), but he may be the first major s.f. writer to make it such a reoccuring theme of nearly all his novels.  Besides the economics 2.0 of Accelerando he’s also written of a bank heist in a virtual world (Halting State) and an entire series on Mercantilism (The Merchant Princes), all of which are well worth reading.

Stross has become a key part of any modern s.f. collection, and he’s only getting better.

Moving with the Times

May 26, 2008

First of all, I apologize again for the title.  Moving on, Linda Braun has once again directed me to a nice geeky focused article in the New York Times, this time an interview with Randall Monroe, creator of one of my favorite webcomics, XKCD.  The Times has become pretty savvy at pinpointing key aspects of the subculture and treating them respectfully (as opposed to say comic reviews with onomatopoeia’s in the titles).

Incidentally, today’s comic throws another gibe at BoingBoing’s Cory Doctorow, who quickly points out that the two will be joint guests of honor at 3-Pi Con, which will be in my neck of the woods in August.  Can’t wait to hear what the two of them together will have to say.

Little Brother

May 18, 2008

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (of BoingBoing fame) is probably the most important YA novel that will be released all year.  Doctorow has always been a huge proponent of the creative commons, and has always released his novels as free downloads.  But this time around he’s upped the ante.  Besides the free e-book on the site, there is also an audio version, and Doctorow has been asking fans to create remixes.  Furthermore Doctorow has started a program asking for people to donate copies to schools and libraries.

So if you work for one of those, and you haven’t already go to his site and sign up your organization for the list.  This is a book you should own.