The Barnes & Noble Review
The madman/genius who calls himself Cory Doctorow (Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, Eastern Standard Tribe, et al.) is at it again, this time with a brilliantly bizarre novel about a "man" (the son of a mountain and a washing machine!) who, while trying to both evade and murder his undead brother, is on a holy mission to build a free wireless Internet in Toronto.
Alan appears to be a middle-aged entrepreneur who has just moved into a bohemian section of Toronto with the dream of writing. He is goodhearted, outgoing, and -- unbeknownst to most -- totally inhuman. With a family that is "uncatalogued and unclassified in human knowledge" (his father is a gigantic heap of dirt; his mother is an appliance; and his brothers include Russian nesting dolls, an island, and a sadistic zombie), Alan has his fair share of secrets. But so, too, does his neighbor. An enigmatic young woman with wings growing out of her back, she gets drawn into Alan's search for his vengeance-obsessed brother, as Alan becomes involved in her struggle to somehow remove her wings permanently and escape the clutches of an abusive boyfriend.
To read Doctorow is to love Doctorow. From his classic short story "Craphound," about a junk collector and his alien sidekick, to Eastern Standard Tribe, a novel about an agent provocateur in a secret society who may or may not be nuts, every story he writes is practically guaranteed to be witty, irreverent, challenging, and completely outrageous. Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town is no different: It's classic Cory. Paul Goat Allen
It's only natural that Alan, the broadminded hero of Doctorow's fresh, unconventional SF novel, is willing to help everybody he meets. After all, he's the product of a mixed marriage (his father is a mountain and his mother is a washing machine), so he knows how much being an outcast can hurt. Alan tries desperately to behave like a human being or at least like his idealized version of one. He joins a cyber-anarchist's plot to spread a free wireless Internet through Toronto at the same time he agrees to protect his youngest brothers (members of a set of Russian nesting dolls) from their dead brother who's now resurrected and bent on revenge. Life gets even more chaotic after he becomes the lover and protector of the girl next door, whom he tries to restrain from periodically cutting off her wings. Doctorow (Eastern Standard Tribe) treats these and other bizarre images and themes with deadpan wit. In this inventive parable about tolerance and acceptance, he demonstrates how memorably the outrageous and the everyday can coexist. Agent, Russell Galen. (May 5) FYI: Doctorow won the 2000 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
When Alan moves to an eccentric part of town hoping to write a story to be published posthumously, he introduces himself to his next-door neighbor Mimi, who shows him her deepest secret-the wings that protrude from her back only to be cut four times a year to hide their presence. Alan, too, is an oddity, the son of a mountain and a washing machine, with a set of nesting Russian dolls for brothers. Doctorow (Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom) breaks new ground in his latest novel, a nonlinear tale of the relationship between the fantastic and the freakish, of real life and cyberspace. The cast of name-shifting characters whose reality transcends the peculiarities of their circumstances and a search for identity in a world of impermanence and utter strangeness calls into question the nature of truth in a world where knowledge is both instantaneous and unreliable. Magical realism and literary iconoclasm abound in a novel that should appeal to fans of experimental fiction in a near-future setting. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Fine modern fantasy from up-and-coming SF writer (Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, 2003) and happening Web editor (boingboing.net) Doctorow, with the potential to please both SF and mainstream readers. This chimera of a novel takes a plot with the geek appeal of a Neal Stephenson story and combines it with a touching family tale built out of absurdist elements that could have come from Italo Calvino or Kurt Vonnegut. We first meet Alan in Toronto, after he's made some money running a series of vaguely bohemian enterprises-bookstores, used-clothing stores, etc. He has painstakingly renovated a house in the student district as the perfect setting for writing, but he's distracted by his neighbors, primarily the sadistic punk Krishna, who is immediately hostile, and Krishna's girlfriend, Mimi, an attractive young woman who's revealed to have a set of wings, which Krishna regularly hacks off so that Mimi might pass among us. Both recognize Alan as something other than normal, and in the story's other thread, they're proven right. His mother was a washing machine, his father the mountain in which he grew up. Among his brothers are an island and three nesting-doll-like creatures, all of whom help Alan murder their resentful and dangerous brother David. Alan is further distracted when he meets Kurt, a techno-punk slowly installing wireless access points throughout the city to provide universal free Internet, a scheme that immediately engages Alan, who becomes the co-mastermind. Crisis blossoms when, with Krishna as his Renfrew, decomposing brother David returns to seek revenge, first by murdering the brothers, then targeting Mimi, now with Alan, and Kurt. Smart, clever, delightful stuff; itfalls short of perfect-there are some unconvincing moments-but it's still likely to be one of the better non-magic-and-dragon fantasies this year.
“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 on Cory Doctorow
“Cory Doctorow is just far enough ahead of the game to give you the authentic chill of the future...Funny as hell and sharp as steel.” Warren Ellis, author of Transmetropolitan, on Eastern Standard Tribe
“Utterly contemporary and deeply peculiar-a hard combination to beat (or, these days, to find).” William Gibson, author of Neuromancer, on Eastern Standard Tribe
“Doctorow throws off cool ideas the way champagne generates bubbles...[he] definitely has the goods to be a major player in postcyberpunk science fiction. His ideas are fresh and his attitude highly engaging.” San Francisco Chronicle on Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
“Artful and confident...Like William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, Doctorow has discovered that the present world is science fiction, if you look at it from the right angle.” Vancouver Sun on Eastern Standard Tribe
“Doctorow peppers his novel with technology so palpable you want to order it up on the web. You'll probably get the chance. But technology is not the point here. What is unexpected, shocking even, is how smart Doctorow is when it comes to the human heart, and how well he's able to articulate it....He seems smart because he makes the reader feel smart. When Doctorow talks, when Art argues, we just get it. There's nothing between the language and the meaning. The prose is funny, simple and straightforward. This is a no-BS book.” NPR on Eastern Standard Tribe