A lot of ideas are packed into this short novel, but Doctorow's own best idea was setting his story in Disney World, where it's hard to tell whether technology serves dreams or vice versa. 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. Jules's narrative unfolds so smoothly that readers may forget that all this raging passion is over amusement park rides. Then they can ask what that shows about the novel's supposedly mature, liberated characters. Doctorow has served up a nicely understated dish: meringue laced with caffeine. (Feb. 14) Forecast: A blurb from Bruce Sterling, plus the author's connections in the cyber world (he co-founded the Internet search-engine company OpenCola.com), should give this one a lift. Doctorow was the winner of the 2000 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
In a postdeath, postwork world in the late twenty-first century, where everyone is wired to the 'Net, the only currency is Whuffie, or personal popularity. Julius has plenty of it; after all, he is on the inside track at the Haunted Mansion thanks to the fact that his girlfriend, Lil, was born and raised at Disney World, now run by volunteers. Julius has friends, Lil, and the admiration of the Disney World guests-his Whuffie needs no help. Then he finds himself murdered, which "sucks," as Julius sees it. "It was the first time I'd been murdered but I didn't need to be all drama queen about it," he says, hating his tendency toward self-pity. Fortunately, he has just made a backup, so he does not lose any memory when he gets revived. Who would do such a thing to him? Signs point to Debra, who wants to reengineer the Hall of Presidents, dispensing with the old audioanimatronics and imprinting the presidents' experiences directly onto visitors' brains. Julius fears she will turn to the Haunted Mansion next, so the race is on for control of Disney World-just as Julius finds himself going sporadically, inexplicably, off-line, as his relationship with Lil crumbles and his Whuffie plummets. Fans of M. T. Anderson's Feed (Candlewick, 2002/VOYA December 2002) will like this fast-paced story. In both books, the narrator uses a jargon-filled, humorous slang that masks serious philosophical questions. The stakes-the nature of Disney World's rides-are not high enough, however, to inspire the emotions Doctorow wants readers to feel. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P S A/YA (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult and Young Adult).2003, Tor, 208p,
A young man barely 100 years old, Jules is working at his dream job, running the Haunted Mansion ride at Disney World (along with a bureaucracy of hundreds) when he is killed for the fourth time. He suspects a competing group at Disney that has designs on the Hall of Presidents. With the help of two friends, Jules fights the impending coup but struggles more with his relationships in an era when people routinely store their memories for centuries to avoid boredom or unpleasantness. Doctorow has created a fun, breezy read that belies the darker apects of a world without money, illness, or death. Much near-future sf suggests that technology will ruin our lives; Doctorow adds a little Disney cheer to his dystopian vision. Doctorow won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and coedits the popular Boing Boing weblog, which may translate into demand. A good purchase for all sf collections.-Devon Thomas, Hass MS&L, Ann Arbor, MI Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Walt Disney's vice-like grip on the American imagination continues unabated, even many long years into the future when one might hope that people would know better. Cyber culture maven and first-novelist Doctorow (no relation to E.L.) sets his perky little dystopia in a future world where the regular old society of today has been taken over by the Bitchun (pronounced, one would imagine, "Bitchin' ") Society. In the Bitchun world, everyone is wired within an inch of their lives and their personalities are backed up several times a year so that if their current body dies, a cloned one is simply grown for them and programmed with their last backup. Further, everyone has a Whuffie score, a constantly updated log of how much respect is afforded to you by your peers (it's an insecure type of meritocracy). In this time of endless luxury, and a ridiculously endless buffet of life choices, Disney World remains a primary tourist attraction, and its most ardent supporter is clueless protagonist Jules, who works there with girlfriend Lil. When a new team of engineers plan to remake the old-school Disney attractions like the Hall of Presidents and the Haunted Mansion into virtual reality all-sensory assaults, Jules feels strangely protective. He's already died and been rebooted three times, so it's not that big a deal, but when Jules's competitors have him shot and killed, it's still irritating. Meanwhile, Jules is trying to help out his suicidal friend Greg and also wondering why he shouldn't just do like more and more of the bored population and simply deadhead-go intro cryogenic sleep until the world gets more interesting.
The language has pop and the ideas are launched from the page with plentyof fizz, but Doctorow ultimately hamstrings himself with a monumentally trivial storyline.
“As much fun as Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, and as packed with mind-bending ideas.” Tim O'Reilly
“Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is black-comedic sci-fi prophecy on the dangers of surrendering our consensual hallucination to the regime. Fun to read, but difficult to sleep afterwards.” Douglas Rushkoff, author of Cyberia and Media Virus!
“Cory Doctorow is one of our best new writers: smart, daring, savvy, entertaining, ambitious, pluggedin, and as good a guide to the wired world of the twenty-first century that stretches out before us as you're going to find anywhere.” Gardner Dozois, editor, Asimov's SF