Book: Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

Cory is a relatively new writer, but he’s doing great things with science fiction, whilst doing equally great things out here in the real world with his other jobs and hobbies. Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is a nice enough little story, but it’s the world in which it’s set that really made me keep reading – a society where scarcity and death have been cured, and a look at how this changes things.

Buying It

First thing – you don’t have to buy it. You can just download it from Cory’s site in lots of different formats. You can print it if you like. You can copy it for friends, and (as long as you credit Cory) even change it if you think you can do better. This isn’t because he couldn’t get a publisher – he’s got one, and it’s also available as a ‘real’ book – but Cory thinks that giving the book away won’t hurt his sales. So far, he seems to be right – he’s doing ok out of it.

If you want to buy the actual printed paper version of it, you can follow these links to get it from Amazon UK or Amazon US, and I’ll get a little cut.

What’s it About?

The story is set in Disneyland, in the future. It’s the story of political in-fighting between groups controlling different attractions. Much more than that, though, it’s the story of the society of the time in which that story takes place. There’s no scarcity any more – there’s plenty of everything we need. Death has been cured – if you die, you just restore yourself from your last backup into a new body, coming back looking like whatever age you like. There’s no money any more – that was only a valuable idea when there was scarcity – people get by on their Whuffie levels – a global reputation system that lets you see immediately if someone you meet is respected by others or not.

Worth Reading?

Yes. Definitely. There’s ideas brought up that make you think, and really explore extensions of some of the ways our society is already starting to move in small ways. Add to that a decent little story to wrap it all up in, and you’ve got a good read. I found the book difficult to put down in a way I’ve not found with a fiction book for quite a while. One of my favorite authors when I was younger was Isaac Asimov, and Cory has a lot of Asimov’s style – the stories are more there as ways of exploring ideas than as anything too important in themselves. Cory perhaps builds the people better, though, which helps to make you care more about what happens.

Other Books

Cory has written a few other short stories, and another novel – Eastern Standard Tribe – which I’ve not read yet. I’m currently reading his collection of short stories ‘A Place So Foreign and Eight More‘.