Makers by Cory Doctorow, narrated by Bernadette Dunne
Doctorow weaves a complicated plot in three stages, jumping forward in blips and blurps like Charles’ Stross’ Accelerando, but reduced in time by a factor of ten. The novel follows the rise, fall, and aftermath of the “new work” movement, an allegory for the dot-com bubble and its aftermath. It weaves a whole bunch of near-future technologies that may make a big difference in our lives soon together with a story about economics both pragmatic and optimistic.
The first half of the novel feels too optimistic, buoyed by the same delight that the characters feel for these new kinds of activity. But the second half wrecks its characters just as the world around them crumbles. Doctorow’s future is inundated with cool shit and plagued with stark poverty and an awful lot of making do.
I agree with some reviewers that Doctorow’s writing lacks the kind of poetic voice we enjoy in a China Mieville or Margaret Atwood, but the story seethes with ideas, tossed out like M&Ms on the ground. I also felt like the book went on a little long, and that the early sections especially feel like summaries of vast swaths of BoingBoing (though to be fair, if Doctorow blogs about his ideas and writes novels about them too, this is to be expected).
At the same time, I thought the oscillation of the characters in the second half of the novel worked well — each of them got a bit more complex, revealing flaws in the people we thought we’d liked, revealing qualities in people we thought we hated. The end was satisfying, t00. I’m glad he included the Epilogue: the story that finished in that section needed to be told.
This is my third adult Doctorow novel (Little Brother is aimed at young adults, and carries a distinctly pedagogical voice), and while I think Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom still holds its place for me as an important way to think about the emerging world, Makers will definitely hang around in my subconscious in a way that Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town hasn’t.