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"Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom"

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There seems to be a cult status type feeling about the group of people that really like Cory Doctorow's writing, and especially his novel "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom". It seems to get grouped into the science fiction genre. Though it does have quite a few science fiction ideas to it, I would call it more speculative fiction. To me, science fiction gets more involved in the technology and explains it.

Here is a rundown on the plot using part of the review by Publishers Weekly:


Jules, a relative youngster at more than a century old, is a contented citizen of the Bitchun Society that has filled Earth and near-space since shortage and death were overcome. People are free to do whatever they wish, since the only wealth is respect and since constant internal interface lets all monitor exactly how successful they are at being liked. What Jules wants to do is move to Disney World, join the ad-hoc crew that runs the park and fine-tune the Haunted Mansion ride to make it even more wonderful. When his prudently stored consciousness abruptly awakens in a cloned body, he learns that he was murdered; evidently he's in the way of somebody else's dreams. Jules first suspects, then becomes viciously obsessed by, the innovative group that has turned the Hall of Presidents into a virtual experience. In the conflict that follows, he loses his lover, his job, his respect-even his interface connection-but gains perspective that the other Bitchun citizens lack.


This novel is a very fast read. Told from first person perspective, it's all about Jules and his story. As I said, it is light on complex explanations of the technology, so this helps it cruise along. Also, Jules' vocabulary is pretty much in the range of an "everyday Joe." The characters are too terribly deep either, though there is enough to make them more then just people to move along the plot. All of these factors play into the basic writing style.

One of the main concepts of the future in this books intrigues me, yet Doctorow used it in other manners. The fact that people gain respect for what they do, and that is how they are judged and treated, meaning that money means nothing (actually, there is no money in this society), it's the respect factor (called "Whuffie"), is a great concept. But the characters gain it from doing things that are underhanded, too. For instance, the leader of that innovative group that takes over the Hall of Presidents is oozing with Whuffie, but she's a backstabber and a mini-dictator. You can gain it from people that think you are doing the right thing or something amazing, even if it is something others would despise. It's a shame that a great concept was still skewed.

The idea of the story I thought was great. Even adults love Disney World! But the execution comes off a bit childish. Not to say that it isn't a good story. But there seemed to be so much more that Doctorow could have done with the story. Quite honestly, if it wasn't for the few sexual connotations between some of the characters, and the few bits of vulgar language, this could have been considered a "young adult" novel. I think it could have been better to go into greater depth with these issues, the politics between the groups playing the game of control, and the technology that was running the society.

Again though, it is an entertaining story. Since I got the book for free through BookMooch, and it only took me three days to read, I certainly didn't waste my time with it. Just expected a bit more then I got.

Added by Scott
10 years ago on 6 March 2008 14:58

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