Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Walkaway, by Cory Doctorow

Cory Doctorow has a brilliant and insightful view of the future.  His new novel Walkaway echos some of the themes from his prior novels--maker culture, wide-spread net technology and accompanying surveillance, growing disparities between cultural strata--while creating a future history that might be believable.

In this near-future North America, many people have chosen to become walkaways, turning their backs on default society, living in open and deserted land, creating communal living communities.  It's a culture of abundance, where needs can be met by manufacturing plants and 3D printers fed by scavenged raw materials.  The economy of the walkaways relies on gifts, plenty, and voluntary participation.

Doctorow makes some interesting economic and philosophical points about capitalism, meritocracy, and society.  When the daughter of a very wealthy family decides to walkaway and embraces the walkaway culture, the flip sides of society come into contact and inevitable conflict.  Their family squabble becomes emblematic of and central to a larger global conflict. 

With Doctorow's style and thoughtfulness, there was enough in Walkaway to keep me interested and reading.  But overall, I didn't love the story.  The motives and actions of the big war against the walkaways were not compelling to me.  The manufacturing tech was contrived.  The explicit sex scenes were gratuitous and did not add to the story.  The homosexual coupling and transgenderism seemed out of place, a blatant attempt to push a cultural agenda.

Walkaway is not Doctorow's worst book, but, unlike some of his other fiction, it's not one I think I'd like to read again.

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