Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

I read Boing Boing everyday (many times a day, is more like it). It's one of my favorite blogs discussing all manner of pop culture (Caution: some of the posts on BB are not work safe!).

One of the regular contributors to the blog is Canadian sci-fi writer and digital rights activist Cory Doctorow. I have always been interested in reading some of Cory's works not only because I enjoy what he posts on BB but also because when he releases a book (like this one), he releases it free on the web under the Creative Commons license. This means folks can read it on the internet, download it for free and even adapt it into their own audio books or fan fiction. The concept had intrigued me and I kept telling myself that one day I'd take the plunge and read Doctorow's first novel entitled Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.

I told Liz about the book thinking it sounded like something she might like too. She said, "Yea, I already read it. It's on the bookshelf upstairs." I guess it really is a small world after all!

The prologue opens I lived long enough to see the cure for death; to see the rise of the Bitchun Society; to learn ten languages; to compose three symphonies; to realize my boyhood dream of taking up residence in Disney World; to see the death of the workplace and of work. It grabbed me from the first sentence and never let go. (Okay, the writing the symphonies thing didn't interest me so much but who wouldn't want to live in a bitchin'(sic) society where there is no work and no death and you can visit the Haunted Mansion everyday?)

There are all sort of themes explored in this cyberpunk tale but the one that struck me most was the allegory here for the meritocracy that thrives on the internet. I first became acutely aware of this internet culture in theory when reading The Cathedral and the Bazaar, a series of essays on Open Source Software, but goodness knows I participate in it every day (ask me how many Reputation Points I have on BigSoccer this week or how many positive feedback stars I have on Ebay!).

I can't remember the last time I read a full novel in less than 24 hours (perhaps on the Douglas Adams Hitchhiker's Guide books?). If you liked Ender's Game and/or Snow Crash, I highly recommend Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom!

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