Makers

( 23 )

Overview

"From the New York Times bestselling author of Little Brother, a major novel of the booms, busts, and further booms in store for America" "Perry and Lester invent things - seashell robots that make toast, Boogie Woogie Elmo dolls that drive cars. They also invent entirely new economic systems, like the "New Work," a New Deal for the technological era. Barefoot bankers cross the nation, microinvesting in high-tech communal mini-startups like Perry and Lester's. Together, they transform the country, and Andrea Fleeks, a journo-turned-blogger, is

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Overview

"From the New York Times bestselling author of Little Brother, a major novel of the booms, busts, and further booms in store for America" "Perry and Lester invent things - seashell robots that make toast, Boogie Woogie Elmo dolls that drive cars. They also invent entirely new economic systems, like the "New Work," a New Deal for the technological era. Barefoot bankers cross the nation, microinvesting in high-tech communal mini-startups like Perry and Lester's. Together, they transform the country, and Andrea Fleeks, a journo-turned-blogger, is there to document it." "Then it slides into collapse. The New Work bust puts the dot.combomb to shame. Perry and Lester build a network of interactive rides in abandoned Wal-Marts across the land. As their rides, which commemorate the New Work's glory days, gain in popularity, a rogue Disney executive grows jealous, and convinces the police that Perry and Lester's 3D printers are being used to run off AK-47s." "Hordes of goths descend on the shantytown built by the New Workers, joining the cult. Lawsuits multiply as venture capitalists take on a new investment strategy: backing litigation against companies like Disney. Lester and Perry's friendship falls to pieces when Lester gets the 'fatkins' treatment, turning him into a sybaritic gigolo." Then things get really interesting.

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Editorial Reviews

Sara Sklaroff
Doctorow…has an ear for geek-talk and corporate-speak…plus a Carl Hiaasen-like sense of caper.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
In this tour de force, Doctorow (Little Brother) uses the contradictions of two overused SF themes—the decline and fall of America and the boundless optimism of open source/hacker culture—to draw one of the most brilliant reimaginings of the near future since cyberpunk wore out its mirror shades. Perry Gibbons and Lester Banks, typical brilliant geeks in a garage, are trash-hackers who find inspiration in the growing pile of technical junk. Attracting the attention of suits and smart reporter Suzanne Church, the duo soon get involved with cheap and easy 3D printing, a cure for obesity and crowd-sourced theme parks. The result is bitingly realistic and miraculously avoids cliché or predictability. While dates and details occasionally contradict one another, Doctorow's combination of business strategy, brilliant product ideas and laugh-out-loud moments of insight will keep readers powering through this quick-moving tale. (Nov.)
Library Journal
After winning acclaim and awards for his YA novel Little Brother, Locus Award winner Doctorow (Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom) returns to adult sf. His latest involves a corporate executive who funds high-tech microprojects—they cost thousands of dollars instead of millions—a pair of inventors who can make anything out of anything, and a blogger who chronicles their careers. Doctorow isn't Pollyannesque about the effects of rapid technological change: change of such scope and force is often devastating—boom followed by bust, then boom again, then bust. The ending of this well-written, well-conceived novel is bittersweet. VERDICT In speculative fiction, too often the ideas outrun the writing, but not here. Doctorow's novel features a good, modest story, appealing characters, and extremely interesting ideas that will appeal to his fans and sf aficionados as well as readers interested in cogitating on the social consequences of cybertechnology's near-exponential growth. Enthusiastically recommended.—David Keymer, Modesto, CA
Kirkus Reviews
A strangely lifeless outing from Canadian author and blogger Doctorow. The author again combines cutting-edge technology with libertarian ideas in his latest novel, set in a near-future America. A group of corporate-funded hardware engineers in Florida perfect a three-dimensional printer that allows products of all kinds to be churned out with little effort. The corporation tanks, but the printer technology spreads throughout society, and the out-of-work engineers independently use it to create their own amusement-park rides. Walt Disney Company executives, unamused, use lawsuits and shady corporate espionage to try and bring the creators down. Doctorow rides several of his usual hobbyhorses, particularly focusing on open-source technology, intellectual-property law and crowdsourcing; his obsession with Disney goes back to his debut (Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, 2003). But while the brilliant Little Brother (2008) meshed similar ideas with appealing characters and a sharp, fast-paced thriller plot, this aimless follow-up lacks the visceral narrative drive of Doctorow's previous work. Indeed, many of its two-dimensional characters-techies, bloggers, corporate types and goth teenagers-seem to exist merely as mouthpieces for the author's views, while the plot drifts along with little urgency. Uncharacteristically bland and disappointing.
From the Publisher

“I know many science fiction writers engaged in the cyber-world, but Cory Doctorow is a native. We should all hope and trust that our culture has the guts and moxie to follow this guy. He’s got a lot to tell us.” —Bruce Sterling

“A rousing tale of techno-geek rebellion—as necessary and dangerous as file sharing, free speech, and bottled water on a plane.” —Scott Westerfeld on Little Brother

“A terrific read…. It claims a place in the tradition of polemical science-fiction novels like 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 (with a dash of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington).”

The New York Times Book Review on Little Brother “Enthralling…. One of the year’s most important books.” —Chicago Tribune on Little Brother

The Barnes & Noble Review
I would imagine that for any writer to be repeatedly referenced in public as the last, best hope of the future of genre fiction must feel like an extremely heavy and wearisome burden to carry -- rather like the alluringly poisoned mantle worn by Barack Obama right up to his actual election. The sensations experienced by the unfortunate icon are probably a mix of those of Shakespeare's King Henry IV in his speech that culminates with the line "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown," and those of the clichéd veteran gunslinger constantly watching over his shoulder for an even Younger Hombre ready to challenge him.

Michael Chabon and Jonathan Lethem have both undergone this unasked-for savior treatment, with regards to mainstream/slipstream literature -- to the point where they were parodied in comic strip form as the only superheroes who could rescue the fair maiden fiction from extinction. But contemporary fiction is so sprawling and diffuse that there are always additional foci of hope, and a Dave Eggers or a Zadie Smith can be summoned by signal-watch to share the duties, acting as a kind of Justice League of Literature.

In science fiction, however, the pool of hip, youthful, happening, fresh-eyed, keen-witted, media-savvy, broad-shouldered, accomplished, extroverted and talented writers, blending both revolution and tradition in just the right proportions, is noticeably shallow at the moment. There's Neal Stephenson, but he's rather too distant and hermetic, with a low profile and unfathomable, mutating goals. So these days, when pundits and fans alarmed over the prospect of SF's demise want to point to a knight in shining prose who can defeat all the dragons besetting the genre and guide it to the Shining City on the Hill, they invariably point to Cory Doctorow.

Not that Doctorow's comandeering of the spotlight is due only to the absence of rivals from the stage. He'd stand out even if suitable candidates were thronged thick as locusts, he's that good. And despite all the generally unsolicited attention and hype and expectations, Doctorow remains, to all outward appearances, an optimistic, sanguine, hyperactive, enthusiastic, altruistic, whimsical whirlwind of creativity. This is, after all, a man who, with rock-star audacity, chose to name his firstborn child Poesy Emmeline Fibonacci Nautilus Taylor Doctorow.

It's enough to make you think he really is the Chosen One.

Doctorow's Makers will certainly confirm his high standing in the forefront of a fresh school of science fiction that is attempting simultaneously to honor the long lineage of its speculative ancestors and to reclothe all the old tropes in ultramodern dress, tossing out shabby conceits and shopworn attitudes.

Unlike Michael Chabon or Jonathan Lethem, who express a reverence for pulp and pop culture that extends only to its classiest elements -- homages to Philip K. Dick are fine, but any reference to A. E. van Vogt, a predecessor whom Dick admired and learned from, is considered déclassé -- Doctorow unabashedly embraces the totality of science fiction, working hard to extricate its core storytelling virtues, predictive techniques and accumulated wisdom from the garish debris of lazy hacks that encumber the medium's ability to offer a clear and interesting vision of the future.

Symbolically befitting its subject matter, Makers incorporates bits and pieces from almost every era of SF's history into its innovative bricolage, along with a journalistic topicality and trendiness. The result is a synthesis that is at once traditional and revolutionary, an upgrade or rebirth of the genre that still leaves the product recognizable yet improved. But before identifying some of the historical components of this sparkling new machine, a precis of its plot.

The time is the day after tomorrow. America's economy is in shambles, hollowed out, leaving millions in poverty and homeless. Suzanne Church is a fiesty middle-aged journalist who pokes around in odd corners of the cultural wreckage. At the behest of eccentric millionaire Landon "Kettlebelly" Kettlewell, she takes on the assignment of covering two young genius "makers" in their Florida favela: Perry Gibbons and Lester Banks. Before you can say "venture capitalist," Perry and Lester, bankrolled by Kettlewell, have radicalized 20 percent of the faltering U.S. economy with a paradigm called the "New Work." But even their best efforts can't stem the domino cascade of global failures, and their enterprise collapses.

Several years pass, with the principals of the New Work all scattered. But the gang gets back together again around the nucleus of a strange kind of amusement-park ride invented by Perry and Lester, a ride that conveys a subliminal story of the zeitgeist to the tourists. But because the successful, quickly franchised ride incidentally incorporates bits of proprietary Disney merch, the tinkerers end up against Uncle Walt's corporate behemoth, in the form of nasty Sammy Page, VP for Fantasyland. The realpolitik, culture-jammer war that follows culminates in unexpected fashion, and a coda, set some 15 years later, wraps up emotional loose ends.

The armature on which these events are soldered is an amalgam of so many essential SF touchstones, here presented in historical order.

The utopianism is pure H. G. Wells, while the scattershot myriad-ideas-per-page is all Hugo Gernsback. Suzanne's descent from privilege into the shabby world of the oppressed workers summons up silent scenes from Metropolis. From the pulp era, John Campbell's Arcot, Morey and Wade, peerless breadboarding, scrapheap-searching inventors, salute Perry and Lester with a wink. (This "bromantic" motif finds expression in the current work of Rudy Rucker as well, a figure allied to Doctorow's sensibilities.) Meanwhile Doc Savage and his merry band of variegated followers applaud the similar familial vibe that the tribe of makers exudes.

Of course, Robert Heinlein sits Buddha-like at the core of this novel, as he does of all SF, even that which protests and denies his influence. His famous "competent man" archetype has actually been fractionated here: Perry and Lester possess the technical smarts, but are naïve otherwise; Suzanne sports the media, social-engineering chops; and Kettlewell boasts the financial acumen. (It should be noted that "Kettle Belly Baldwin" was an actual Heinlein character, found in "Gulf" [1949] and Friday [1982].) Damon Knight's A for Anything (1959) deals with some of the same issues of social upheaval via distributed means of production found here, and the insidious animatronic toys in Dick's short-story "War Game" are evoked almost specifically in Doctorow's "Disney in a Box" gimmick. William Gibson's cyberpunk maxim that "The street finds its own uses for things" embodies the maker ethos as pithily as any formulation. Finally, some of Vernor Vinge's succinct futurism found in his novel Rainbows End (2006) seems inspirational as well.

But to adduce the usage of all these templates and models is not to diminish Doctorow's insights and originality and skillful handling of his material. He has simply adapted these older SF tools and tropes to an insightful exegesis of our current dilemma, a highly entertaining fictional modeling of a path forward from our current sociopolitical, cultural impasse. To have generated the deep insights into our dilemma and then found clever ways of dramatizing his findings is Doctorow's unassailable accomplishment.

I found Doctorow's characters to be a well-fleshed assortment of folks, and their interactions plausibly non-linear. Although they do all possess an identical fluidity of gab that seldom leaves them wordless. He has an empathy for Kerouackian actors, "the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, etc., etc." Makers = techno-beatniks is an easy, albeit facile equation. And indeed, the epilogue that reunites Perry and Lester proves surprisingly touching. Doctorow's overstuffed plot never leaves the reader buffing her nails. His prose is always colorful and humorous. In fact, his sense of the comic and a propensity for satire are two of his secret weapons that seduce the reader into falling easily into this future.

In the end, Makers feels like a personal, cultural, and literary milestone: an employment of the full literary toolbox of SF, in the service of a portrait of how the world actually works.

If only every genre author set out with the same high ambitions, there would be no talk of SF's failures, only triumphs. --Paul DiFilippo

Author of several acclaimed novels and story collections, including Fractal Paisleys, Little Doors, and Neutrino Drag, Paul Di Filippo was nominated for a Sturgeon Award, a Hugo Award, and a World Fantasy Award -- all in a single year. William Gibson has called his work "spooky, haunting, and hilarious." His reviews have appeared in The Washington Post, Science Fiction Weekly, Asimov's Magazine, and The San Francisco Chronicle.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765312815
  • Publisher: Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
  • Publication date: 10/12/2010
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 683,293
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Cory Doctorow

Canadian-born Cory Doctorow is the author of the science fiction novels Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, Eastern Standard Tribe, and Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town, as well as two short story collections. He is also the author of young adult novels including the New York Times bestselling Little Brother and For the Win. His novels and short stories have won him three Locus Awards and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. He is co-editor of the popular blog BoingBoing, and has been named one of the Web’s twenty-five “influencers” by Forbes Magazine and a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 23 )
Rating Distribution

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(12)

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(5)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 23 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 28, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Bridget's Review

    Born to invent and create, Perry and Lester go together like peanut butter and jelly. When they invent a whole new world with someone taking notes of every move, life becomes a little hectic. Then, when their baby crumbles, the whole world is watching. These friends are draw to the limit and it's no surprise that the company and the friendship, may be doomed for ever. Will they be able to redeem themselves?

    This is a witty novel that will appeal to nerds everywhere. I'm including myself in this nerd category. So to all you dorks out there, this is a book written just for you. (And me.)

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Fabulous

    Garage hackers Perry Gibbons and Lester Banks receive enormous funding (in their minds that is) from corporate America to develop a 3D printer capability that is easy to use. Their success reaches the attention of reporter Suzanne Church., but the firm fails.

    However the technology explodes throughout society as the ease of use makes it a winner. Gibbons and Banks back to unemployment and garage technology begin creating amusement rides from their printing capability. However, the industry and other corporate raiders object and sue the New World order while Goths invade Florida and Suzanne blogs; as for the two garage hackers who started the endeavor with a whisper their story turned into a big bang bubble that bursts.

    Using stereotypes to represent a cross section of self indulging Americans like the techies, the suits, the Goth teens, the bloggers, Cory Doctorow once again mocks Wall St, Main St and the Internet St. with an amusing acerbic satire of free enterprise as a fraud. The story line is humorous but also tends to wander as Makers lampoons economic prosperity bubbles that make the rich richer, the poor poorer and the middle class stagnant. That is until the burst when the rich retain their gains and obtain a bailout, the poor retains their loss and receive a cut in needed services to pay the bailout, and the middle class eats the collapse as the victims of free market capitalism, the American way.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 26, 2014

    The Makers is a near-future business school case study compendiu

    The Makers is a near-future business school case study compendium meets the end of civilization as we know it.  The only thing lacking is zombies.

    I very much enjoyed the book.

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  • Posted February 15, 2013

    Interesting Read!

    I'm not finished yet but, I think I can recommend this book. The story is complex, and keeps evolving and changing as it goes. The characters are interesting and lively. I read a short story by Cory Doctorow and was intrigued by his style. That's what led me to this purchase. I have not been disappointed. Thumbs up!

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