Why I Read It: Heard lots of good things about Cory Doctorow from the Little Red Reviewer.
Where I Got It: Library.
Who I Recommend This To: Fans of William Gibson’s Blue Ant series would enjoy this book. Like cutting edge science and contemplating how it change society? Check this book out.
Narrator: Bernadette Dunne
Publisher: Books on Tape (2009)
Length: 18 hours 30 minutes
Suzanne Church is a California journalist who headed to Florida on a kind of bet. Brandon Kettlewell and his company had a brilliant idea to fun thousands of brilliant little start-up companies creating brilliant things. Lester and Perry are one of these start-up companies and they love to tinker. Living in a dilapidated condo complex in a dilapidated (think, ‘slum’ or ‘shanty town’) part of Florida, they build robots to make breakfast, reprogram kids’ toys to drive cars, and come up with ways to tag all household objects and make them easy to find. As part of the New Work era, their business grows and morphs into a communal effort, providing reason for nearby home businesses to grow. But then it crashes as investors lose their nerve and pull out. The book jumps a decade and finds that Lester and Perry have built a very unique ride inside a large abandoned Walmart. As this grows in popularity, even becomes duplicated in other major cities, jealousy rises in the heart of traditional competing rides.
This book was a little slow to start for me, but by Disc 4 I was full invested in reading this book. Indeed, the rest of the book flew by for me and I often didn’t want to put it down. I loved the very real way this story was told. The characters were right there in front of me with all their raw emotions, their hopes and dreams. Lester and Perry just want to make stuff and they don’t want to have to worry about the business side of things. You can practically breathe in Suzanne’s reluctance to get sucked into their story, but before she knows it, she is part of the story. Kettlewell brings a businessman in for Lester and Perry – Chen. He does his best to steer the guys into sound business practices, but it often goes against the natural instincts of the two.
Lester is a larger, large man. His little monologue concerning the food industry of America while they sit down to breakfast at IHOP was gruesomely amusing. this book not only incorporates cutting edge engineering, economics, and computer science, but also bio tech. And Lester is one of the first to give a new fat reducing treatment a try. Combining a some hummingbird metabolism DNA and stem cell treatment to grow muscle quickly, Lester becomes quite the eye catcher. His success and Suzanne’s journalistic coverage of it on her blog launches a whole generation of ‘fatkins’ who fork out a pretty penny to have the treatment. The catch? You have to consume roughly 10,000 calories a day for the rest of your life or you starve. Lester with his new sleek body becomes quite the man slut, much to the peturbment of Perry. I loved how this affected society, and since this book takes place over 20+ years, Doctorow was able to build in 2 generations’ reaction to this new tech.
Suzanne herself goes from ‘respectable’ journalist to blogger. And she does a good job, maintaining her distance and giving unbiased accounts of the birth of New Work, it’s brief rise to fame, and it’s collapse. Of course she goes on to cover other things and continues to be a main character to the end. Her nemesis throughout all this is Rat-toothed Freddie, a troll of a journalist looking to sink any organization, gut any individual he can with his ‘journalistic’ coverage. He was great to hate.
Perry…Ah, Perry. Well, with the duplication of the Florida ride, he meets Hilda in Wisconsin while visiting the ride created there. She is often the voice of reason, helping Perry break down a problem into small pieces. full of fire for the ride projects, she also becomes a driving force. While she only knows Death Waits peripherally, the two take up the activist roles for keeping the rides alive and growing. Death Waits and his Goth friends inadvertently influence the Florida ride and then befriend Perry and Lester. Death (also known as Darren but he hates the name) became one of my favorite side characters, even before he got his ass handed to him and became a minor celebrity over it.
This book is chock full of so much cool tech, cutting edge ideas concerning business, communal efforts, and the human story. Additionally, there is one sex scene, and it is quite worthy. The depth of the characters kept me hooked to the end. The plot was excellent and something I had not bumped into before. I loved how things were resolved in the end (with one small exception) and while the very ending was a little bitter sweet, it was also what it needed to be.
So, my one little criticism? To keep it vague, I felt one side character got shafted a bit and I wished their response had been captured by the end of the book. I wanted to know first hand how they took it. If you want details, then Spoiler Alert! Death took a major beating. Like potentially crippled for life. Arms and legs and ribs broken. His man parts kicked repeatedly to the point they needed multiple surgeries to restore to use, but perhaps never full use. So you get the picture: severe beating. OK, so he was blogging about Disney, etc. And his old Disney boss, Sammy, didn’t like it. So Sammy hired a thug to push him around bit. While Sammy didn’t order such a beating, it still happened because Sammy ordered a beating in the first place. Later in the book, Sammy seems to have a genuine change of heart and he makes good with Perry and Lester, and actually becomes Lester’s boss. We hear from Chen that Death got a nice settlement from Disney, but we never actually hear from Death what he thinks about Lester, Sammy, and the settlement. And that is the one little piece I really, really want to know. Sammy had him crippled, possibly for life, and now Sammy is the amicable boss of one of his idols, Lester. How does that really sit with him? END SPOILER
Narration: Bernadette Dunne was a perfect fit for this book. She was great as Suzanne Church, but she also pulled off Freddie’s light London accent, Perry’s soft but intense voice, and Lester’s friendly, tinker voice. The various emotions throughout the book came through clear and vivid.
What I Liked: Great story; great characters; cutting edge tech left and right; the social implications of said tech; the sex scene; nobody gets exactly what they want; the epilogue was perfect, bitter sweet, but perfect.
What I Disliked: It did take me a while to get into the book; there was one small dangling thread that I would have liked to be tied off in the end.
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