007. Makers by Cory Doctorow
Publication: Tor Books (October 27, 2009), ebook, 416pp / ISBN 0765312794
Read: January 9-12, 2013
Source: Freebie from author
Reading Challenge: Why Buy the Cow? (5/50)
Download it for free at Cory Doctorow’s site.
Perry and Lester invent things: seashell robots that make toast, Boogie Woogie Elmo dolls that drive cars. They also invent entirely new economic systems. When Kodak and Duracell are broken up for parts by sharp venture capitalists, Perry and Lester help to invent the “New Work,” a New Deal for the technological era. Barefoot bankers cross the nation, microinvesting in high-tech communal mini-startups. Together, they transform the nation and blogger Andrea Fleeks is there to document it.
Then it slides into collapse. The New Work bust puts the dot-bomb to shame. Perry and Lester build a network of interactive rides in abandoned Walmarts across the land. As their rides gain in popularity, a rogue Disney executive engineers a savage attack on the rides by convincing the police that their 3D printers are being used to make AK-47s.
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, which turns him into a sybaritic gigolo.
Then things get really interesting. (from Amazon)
Sooooooo this is my official notice that I’m DONE with Cory Doctorow’s books. EVERY time I read them1 I have more cons than pros, and there’s always something that either offends me or irritates me beyond belief. So: no more! I’d rather spend my time reading books which DON’T bug me.
Spoilers all over the place, btw. I can’t hold back if I want to have something to talk about, so: spoilers! You’ve been warned.
Makers is set in the near-future, which is something that tends to interest me. I like seeing what authors think our future is going to be like, and CD apparently thinks ours is going to basically be like it is now, only with people wearing fetus necklaces as fashion statements. (Seriously.)
Other things in this book: a serious anti-fat obsession2 culminating in a medical breakthrough that makes people un-fat with a few pills3, anti/pro-Disney flipflopping, people crying all over the place, a brief fling at a new way of running businesses that fails horribly4, a REALLY TERRIBLE sex scene that did nothing except gross me the hell out5, and various things CD is interested in, like blogging and inventing stuff out of garbage and so on.
The blogging and inventing stuff was the most interesting part of the book; the rest of it…oh, I don’t know. Like most of CD’s books, there’s a LOT packed in here. I don’t really want to unpack it all because I have other stuff to do, okay– but for once the multitudes of topics feels relatively even. Sometimes, in his earlier books, he’d go off on a tangent about wifi routers or whatever and it didn’t fit anywhere into the main plotline and made no sense in the context of the rest of the book. Here, everything fits. So huzzah for that!
The tone is pretty much the same throughout, which would be good except it’s a depressing one. The writing (or maybe editing?) is also pretty terrible: every time someone eats something, they either gobble it or eat like a pig. The same purple prose-y phrase was repeated in two subsequent paragraphs (and not for emphasis). One character ages three years after a timeskip of ten. Another character is described as someone who never cries when he does exactly that every frickin’ chapter. Ugh.
The more I write about Makers the more annoyed I get, but since I FINISHED it, I must like something, right? Right. So: I liked the characters, actually. Sometimes they did or said something stupid6 and I wanted to throttle them (or throw my Kindle against the wall), but on the whole they were interesting people. I think it was because I liked the characters so much that I kept reading the book, actually! I suppose that’s a point towards GOOD writing, really, because if you can write good characters you must be able to write (mostly) well.7
I also liked the parts about people taking THINGS and remaking them into other things. For instance, one character made a toaster out of mechanical seashells! That’s SO. COOL. And I loved the idea of people making their own interactive rides, changing things around and uploading the changes to a database for other people to use. I loved the collaborative thing going on in the second part of the book, where people worked together to make something amazing. And I liked that a blogger was super-famous and made tons of money at it.
So! While overall I DIDN’T like Makers, there was enough good stuff in it to keep me reading. And I can totally see the appeal for people who really like Boing-Boing and/or near-future sci-fi and/or hacker-y type stuff. But I don’t think this would be the book to start with if you’ve never read a Cory Doctorow book before. And I don’t think it’s his best book, either.8
I don’t regret reading Makers, because it DID made me think a lot about certain things. But I don’t see myself reading any other Cory Doctorow books any time soon, and I don’t really care if his next books is amazeballs. I’m done.
I mostly hated it, though there were some parts I liked.
Strange Horizons Reviews: “The resolution is an interesting one. We can adopt two approaches to the future: the contingent and the constructed. It’s the difference between the sewer rat and Mickey mouse. For most of human history, the future was largely a contingent affair, lurching from accident to consequence to accident. The constructed (or, more precisely, engineered) future, is a relatively new idea. Of course, these two viewpoints are not necessarily exclusive. But each leads to distinct worlds. One either has an Amazonian rainforest or an English garden. Designed worlds—Magic Kingdoms—may be safe, efficient, beautiful, moral, and humane; it is unlikely, however, that they will ever be rainforests. Doctorow suggests, I think, that it is possible to construct the future in a contingent way. His resolution of the conflict is plausible, though the epilogue indicates he doesn’t quite believe it’ll work.”
Confessions of a Science Librarian: “Doctorow has a definite world view, a world view that revolves around openness and sharing and a radical transformation of what work and production are becoming. His world view has black hats and white hats, good guys and bad guys. It’s possible for characters to grow, to show shades of grey, to be something other than perfect exemplars for one or the other side in his world view set piece, but it’s rare. Because, really, his novels are just parables set in his world view. And really, that’s ok. I share a fair number of principles with Doctorow but sometimes I just wish his novels weren’t “just so.” The plot follows too strongly from the world view.”
Prometheus Unbound: “When it comes to things, Cory has an expansive imagination and a deep understanding. When it comes to people and plotting, on the other hand, his imagination and understanding seem to me to be more limited.”
- well, any book written after Little Brother, actually. His earlier books are less annoying. ↩
- fat people are apparently disgusting and sexless and marshmallows with heads. Every time a fat person shows up in Makers, they’re described as disgusting. By multiple characters, including other fat people! Ugh. ↩
- SPOILER: which then screws them over at the end through HORRIBLE SLOW DEATH. ↩
- this is actually the main plot point, but it’s kinda boring. ↩
- SERIOUSLY. WTF IS WITH THE SEX SCENE. ↩
- see: anti-fat sentiments above. ↩
- I think this is true for most of CD’s books. Weird stories and mismatched plot points, but super-interesting characters. ↩
- His best one’s probably Little Brother, but my favorite is Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town, I think. ↩