The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow by Cory Doctorow
When we meet Jimmy Yensid, the hero of Cory Doctorow's novella The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow, he is aboard his giant mecha and hunting down a wumpus in the abandoned city of Detroit, until he comes under attack from a rival group of mechas. The resulting action scene is spectacular — and really made me want to dig out my ancient Mechwarrior games — but as you'd expect from Doctorow, there's much more going on than meets the eye.
Jimmy is a transhuman boy, genetically engineered to be as close to immortal as you can get. The wumpuses are ravenous mechanical monsters who consume any non-organic matter they find and recycle it into arable soil. Meanwhile, Jimmy's father is actually trying to preserve Detroit, the last standing city in the United States, as a historical artifact.
The Great B... Read More
Cory Doctorow(1971- )
Cory Doctorow is a coeditor of Boing Boing and a columnist for multiple publications including the Guardian, Locus, and Publishers Weekly. He was named one of the Web’s twenty-five influencers by Forbes magazine and a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. His award-winning novel Little Brother was a New York Times bestseller. He lives in London with his wife and daughter.
The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow by Cory Doctorow
Context by Cory Doctorow
When you consider the entirety of Cory Doctorow's creative output, it's actually a bit surprising that the first title in his bio (on his own site) is "science fiction novelist." After all, if you add up the amazing amount of blog posts, magazine articles, newspaper columns, speeches and various other non-fiction he produces, I'm pretty sure that they would add up to more words per calendar year than his fiction, and in terms of visibility it's quite possible that more people have seen his name connected to a blog post or newspaper column than on the cover of a novel.
Adding some balance to Doctorow's bibliography, Tachyon Publications just released Context, his second collection of essays after 2008's Content. Fans of the author will know what to expect, and for readers who are only familiar wit... Read More
Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse edited by John Joseph Adams
John Joseph Adams assembles a wide variety of apocalypse-related fiction in Wastelands. some of which are older than I am, while others are more recent. What you end up with is a diverse anthology covering topics such as religion, war, and exploration while containing horror, comedy, and a sense of wonder.
The majority of the stories are easy to get into. Some stories are more subtle than others. Overall, Wastelands is an enjoyable read and the selection seems balanced. Having said that, here are my top three stories:
"Bread and Bombs" by M. Rickert is one of the more horrifying stories in this anthology, and this is achieved through her characterization and commentary on society. It's easy to jump into Rickert's text and there is a foreboding established early on w... Read More
Brave New Worlds: Dystopian Stories edited by John Joseph Adams
Even people who don’t usually read science fiction will often be familiar with a few classic titles in the “dystopian SF” sub-genre. After all, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and of course the famous Aldous Huxley novel Brave New World are some of the few SF titles that have entered the mainstream literary canon to such an extent that they’ve become assigned school reading for many students. However, novel-length dystopian SF didn’t stop with those venerable classics, and can even be said to be thriving at the moment. See, for example, the recent success of Paolo Bacigalupi’s debut The Windup Girl Read More
Steampunk!: An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant (eds.)
Steampunk!: An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories is a new young adult collection edited by veteran anthologists Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant. Featuring twelve conventional short stories and two graphic entries, Steampunk! showcases a wide variety of ideas and styles that fall under the steampunk umbrella. The collection is entertaining and is lent extra freshness by the variety of settings explored by the authors: none of the stories are set in Victorian London.
The book begins with “Some Fortunate Future Day” by Cassandra Clare. This is a creepy little story about a rather warped young girl who desires love but knows very little about it. Th... Read More
Brave New Worlds (second edition) edited by John Joseph Adams
This anthology of dystopian fiction, edited by John Joseph Adams, contains stories from some of the greatest names in fantasy and science fiction, including Ursula K. LeGuin, Paolo Bacigalupi, Cory Doctorow and Kim Stanley Robinson. The first edition was reviewed by Stefan Raets and earned a five-star rating. I picked up the second edition to see what the new volume added.
What I found was that the entire first edition was intact. Three stories were added, along with a study guide featuring questions for some of the stories if you wanted to use this in a book club (I w... Read More
Little Brother — (2008-2013) Publisher: Marcus, a.k.a “w1n5t0n,” is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works — and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems. But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they’re mercilessly interrogated for days. When the DHS finally releases them, Marcus discovers that his city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: to take down the DHS himself.
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom — (2003) Publisher: On The Skids In The Transhuman Future. Jules is a young man barely a century old. He’s lived long enough to see the cure for death and the end of scarcity, to learn ten languages and compose three symphonies…and to realize his boyhood dream of taking up residence in Disney World. Disney World! The greatest artistic achievement of the long-ago twentieth century. Now in the keeping of a network of “ad-hocs” who keep the classic attractions running as they always have, enhanced with only the smallest high-tech touches. Now, though, the “ad hocs” are under attack. A new group has taken over the Hall of the Presidents, and is replacing its venerable audioanimatronics with new, immersive direct-to-brain interfaces that give guests the illusion of being Washington, Lincoln, and all the others. For Jules, this is an attack on the artistic purity of Disney World itself. Worse: it appears this new group has had Jules killed. This upsets him. (It’s only his fourth death and revival, after all.) Now it’s war….
A Place So Foreign: And Eight More — (2003) Publisher: Considered one of the most promising science fiction writers, Cory Doctorow’s name is already mentioned with such SF greats as J.G. Ballard, Michael Moorcock, William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. He was awarded the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Science Fiction Writer at the 2000 Hugo Awards. Cory’s singular tales push the boundaries of the genre, exploring pop culture, trash, nerd pride, and the nexus of technology and social change. His work is a roadmap to the possible futures that may arise in our lifetimes. Additional stories include “Craphound”, “All Day Sucker”, “Shadow of the Mothaship”, “The Superman and the Bugout”, “Home Again, Home Again”, and “Return to the Pleasure Island”.
Eastern Standard Tribe — (2004) Publisher: Art is a member of the Eastern Standard Tribe, a secret society bound together by a sleep schedule. Around the world, those who wake and sleep on East Coast time find common cause with one another, cooperating, conspiring, to help each other out, coordinated by a global network of Wi-Fi, instant messaging, ubiquitous computing, and a shared love of Manhattan-style bagels. Or perhaps not. Art is, after all, in the nuthouse. He was put there by a conspiracy of his friends and loved ones, fellow travelers from EST hidden in the bowels of Greenwich Mean Time, spies masquerading as management consultants who strive to mire Europe in oatmeal-thick bureaucracy. Eastern Standard Tribe is a story of madness and betrayal, of society after the End of Geography, of the intangible factors that define us as a species, as a tribe, as individuals. Scathing, bitter, and funny, EST examines the immutable truths of time, of sunrise and sunset of societies smashed and rebuilt in the storm of instant, ubiquitous communication.
Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town — (2005) Publisher: With Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom and Eastern Standard Tribe, Cory Doctorow established himself as one of the leading voices of next-generation SF: inventive, optimistic, and comfortable with the sheer strangeness of tomorrow. Now Doctorow returns with a novel of wrenching oddity, heartfelt technological vision, and human pity set on the streets of Toronto today. Alan is a middle-aged entrepreneur in contemporary Toronto, who has devoted himself to fixing up a house in the bohemian neighborhood of Kensington. This naturally brings him in contact with the house full of students and layabouts next door, including a young woman who, in a moment of stress, reveals to him that she has wings — wings, moreover, which grow back after each attempt to cut them off. Alan understands. He himself has a secret or two. His father is a mountain; his mother is a washing machine; and among his brothers are a set of Russian nesting dolls. Now two of the three nesting dolls, Edward and Frederick, are on his doorstep — well on their way to starvation, because their innermost member, George, has vanished. It appears that yet another brother, Davey, who Alan and his other siblings killed years ago, may have returned… bent on revenge. Under such circumstances it seems only reasonable for Alan to involve himself with a visionary scheme to blanket Toronto with free wireless Internet connectivity, a conspiracy spearheaded by a brilliant technopunk who builds miracles of hardware from parts scavenged from the city’s dumpsters. But Alan’s past won’t leave him alone — and Davey is only one of the powers gunning for him and all his friends. Wildly imaginative, constantly whipsawing us between the preposterous, the amazing, and the deeply felt, Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town is unlike any novel you have ever read.
Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present — (2007) Publisher: Have you ever wondered what it’s like to get bitten by a zombie? To live through a bioweapon attack? To have every aspect of your life governed by invisible ants? In Cory Doctorow’s collection of novellas, he wields his formidable experience in technology and computing to give us mindbending sci-fi tales that explore the possibilities of information technology — and its various uses — run amok. “Anda’s Game” is a spin on the bizarre new phenomenon of “cyber sweatshops,” in which people are paid very low wages to play online games all day in order to generate in-game wealth, which can be converted into actual money. Another tale tells of the heroic exploits of “sysadmins” — systems administrators — as they defend the cyber-world, and hence the world at large, from worms and bioweapons. And yes, there is a story about zombies, too.
Makers (2009) — Publisher: From the New York Times bestselling author of Little Brother, a major novel of the booms, busts, and further booms in store for America. Perry and Lester invent things—seashell robots that make toast, Boogie Woogie Elmo dolls that drive cars. They also invent entirely new economic systems, like the “New Work,” a New Deal for the technological era. Barefoot bankers cross the nation, microinvesting in high-tech communal mini-startups like Perry and Lester’s. Together, they transform the country, and Andrea Fleeks, a journo-turned-blogger, is there to document it. Then it slides into collapse. The New Work bust puts the dot.combomb to shame. Perry and Lester build a network of interactive rides in abandoned Wal-Marts across the land. As their rides, which commemorate the New Work’s glory days, gain in popularity, a rogue Disney executive grows jealous, and convinces the police that Perry and Lester’s 3D printers are being used to run off AK-47s. Hordes of goths descend on the shantytown built by the New Workers, joining the cult. Lawsuits multiply as venture capitalists take on a new investment strategy: backing litigation against companies like Disney. Lester and Perry’s friendship falls to pieces when Lester gets the ‘fatkins’ treatment, turning him into a sybaritic gigolo. Then things get really interesting.
For the Win — (2010) Publisher: In the virtual future, you must organize to survive. At any hour of the day or night, millions of people around the globe are engrossed in multiplayer online games, questing and battling to win virtual “gold,” jewels, and precious artifacts. Meanwhile, others seek to exploit this vast shadow economy, running electronic sweatshops in the world’s poorest countries, where countless “gold farmers,” bound to their work by abusive contracts and physical threats, harvest virtual treasure for their employers to sell to First World gamers who are willing to spend real money to skip straight to higher-level gameplay. Mala is a brilliant 15-year-old from rural India whose leadership skills in virtual combat have earned her the title of “General Robotwalla.” In Shenzen, heart of China’s industrial boom, Matthew is defying his former bosses to build his own successful gold-farming team. Leonard, who calls himself Wei-Dong, lives in Southern California, but spends his nights fighting virtual battles alongside his buddies in Asia, a world away. All of these young people, and more, will become entangled with the mysterious young woman called Big Sister Nor, who will use her experience, her knowledge of history, and her connections with real-world organizers to build them into a movement that can challenge the status quo. The ruthless forces arrayed against them are willing to use any means to protect their power — including blackmail, extortion, infiltration, violence, and even murder. To survive, Big Sister’s people must out-think the system. This will lead them to devise a plan to crash the economy of every virtual world at once — a Ponzi scheme combined with a brilliant hack that ends up being the biggest, funnest game of all. Imbued with the same lively, subversive spirit and thrilling storytelling that made LITTLE BROTHER an international sensation, FOR THE WIN is a prophetic and inspiring call-to-arms for a new generation.
With a Little Help — (2011) Publisher: A DIY short story collection, by award-winning science fiction writer Cory Doctorow. Full text and other Creative Commons licensed downloads at http://craphound.com/walh.
Chicken Little — (2011) Publisher: A story with a product designer, jetpacks and an immortal quadrillionaire living in a vat. ”Chicken Little” also appears in the collection “With a Little Help”.
Pirate Cinema — (2012) Publisher: Trent McCauley is sixteen, brilliant, and obsessed with one thing: making movies on his computer by reassembling footage from popular films he downloads from the net. In the dystopian near-future Britain where Trent is growing up, this is more illegal than ever; the punishment for being caught three times is that your entire household’s access to the internet is cut off for a year, with no appeal. Trent’s too clever for that too happen. Except it does, and it nearly destroys his family. Shamed and shattered, Trent runs away to London, where he slowly he learns the ways of staying alive on the streets. This brings him in touch with a demimonde of artists and activists who are trying to fight a new bill that will criminalize even more harmless internet creativity, making felons of millions of British citizens at a stroke. Things look bad. Parliament is in power of a few wealthy media conglomerates. But the powers-that-be haven’t entirely reckoned with the power of a gripping movie to change people’s minds….
The Rapture of the Nerds: A tale of the singularity, posthumanity, and awkward social situations — (2012) Publisher: Welcome to the fractured future, at the dusk of the twenty-first century. Earth has a population of roughly a billion hominids. For the most part, they are happy with their lot, living in a preserve at the bottom of a gravity well. Those who are unhappy have emigrated, joining one or another of the swarming densethinker clades that fog the inner solar system with a dust of molecular machinery so thick that it obscures the sun. The splintery metaconsciousness of the solar-system has largely sworn off its pre-post-human cousins dirtside, but its minds sometimes wander… and when that happens, it casually spams Earth’s networks with plans for cataclysmically disruptive technologies that emulsify whole industries, cultures, and spiritual systems. A sane species would ignore these get-evolved-quick schemes, but there’s always someone who’ll take a bite from the forbidden apple. So until the overminds bore of stirring Earth’s anthill, there’s Tech Jury Service: random humans, selected arbitrarily, charged with assessing dozens of new inventions and ruling on whether to let them loose. Young Huw, a technophobic, misanthropic Welshman, has been selected for the latest jury, a task he does his best to perform despite an itchy technovirus, the apathy of the proletariat, and a couple of truly awful moments on bathroom floors.