"Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is not for everyone," Rick Whitten-Klaw writes of Cory Doctorow's debut novel. "If you prefer your literature linear or your ideas staid, then give this one a pass."
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdomby Cory Doctorow
Tor, 208 pp., $22.95
Cory Doctorow's first novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, heralds the arrival of a major literary talent. On the surface just another science-fiction novel, Doctorow's prose practically crackles with intriguing ideas.
Jules is barely a century old. He is living his dream of working in and maintaining Disney World. Yes, that Disney World. In this future of no money, no worries, people work together in ad-hocs (groups that meet for a specific purpose). Leaders are determined by their Whuffie, essentially a popularity rating as determined by everyone living. In this future of fantastic concepts, the two most interesting and important are that everyone backs up their minds in a huge collective computer, and that immortality through cloning is not just a reality, but an everyday occurrence.
Early in the book, Jules gets murdered, which turns out to be the fourth time he has died. But it's the first time he has been killed. Jules' murder is just part of a fascinating plot centering around a war between two ad-hocs for the soul of the Magic Kingdom.
Cory Doctorow meshes all of these outlandish ideas into a novel of power and skill. His story is told on many levels, with a surprising complexity and the perfect touch of humor. Like all good science fiction, Doctorow tackles the issues of today, tomorrow. Morality, cloning, socialism, poverty, right to die, freedom of choice, pratfalls of hubris, and the cult of celebrity are all explored in what may be the best debut science-fiction novel since Neuromancer.
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is not for everyone. If you prefer your literature linear or your ideas staid, then give this one a pass. Using the tropes of the genre to blaze a new path, it showcases the talents and skills that popular literature needs to survive and thrive in the 21st century.
Cory Doctorow will participate in "The Hollywood Agenda" at SXSW Interactive on Tuesday, March 11, at 11:30am in the Convention Center, Rm.15.