May 072014
Review: Down and Out in the Magic KingdomDown and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow
Published by Tor on Dec 5, 2003
Genres: Adult, Science Fiction
Format: Paperback from Purchased
Find the book: Amazon, Goodreads
Rating: three-stars

On The Skids In The Transhuman Future

Jules is a young man barely a century old. He's lived long enough to see the cure for death and the end of scarcity, to learn ten languages and compose three symphonies...and to realize his boyhood dream of taking up residence in Disney World.

Disney World! The greatest artistic achievement of the long-ago twentieth century. Now in the keeping of a network of "ad-hocs" who keep the classic attractions running as they always have, enhanced with only the smallest high-tech touches.

Now, though, the "ad hocs" are under attack. A new group has taken over the Hall of the Presidents, and is replacing its venerable audioanimatronics with new, immersive direct-to-brain interfaces that give guests the illusion of being Washington, Lincoln, and all the others. For Jules, this is an attack on the artistic purity of Disney World itself.

Worse: it appears this new group has had Jules killed. This upsets him. (It's only his fourth death and revival, after all.) Now it's war....

This book felt a little bit like fluff science fiction. Unlike most Doctorow books, this one isn’t filled with heavy themes or messages. It’s light and easy to digest, and yet, there was something about it that I found a little depressing.

On the surface, this seems like a light-hearted book. There is no longer death as people are “rebooted” to a clone body with their minds intact. As a consequence, death and murder and other crimes aren’t really a concern. Plus, the story takes place in Disney World, the ultimate happy place.

And yet, I found this book lowered my spirits and left me feeling blah. The main character Jules isn’t very likeable. The overall plot seems a bit pessmistic. There is just something about the story that left me not loving it.

The only thing I really enjoyed was the concept and execution of whuffie. Whuffie has replaced money and is a number based on your influence and other people’s opinion of you. Do things that people admire, and your whuffie goes up, making you wealthy, but tick people off and your whuffie score goes down, making you poor. It’s the ultimate karma system where your actions are what count. It’s intriguing and exciting, and I really loved the concept.

Overall, this was not my favourite Doctorow book, and was actually probably my least favourite. An unlikeable main character with a fluff plot left me disappointed in the book as a whole. It was good, but not great.

  2 Responses to “Review: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom”

  1. Okay NOPE. It’s bad enough if a book leaves me feeling BLAH, but to actually lower my spirits . . . ummm . . . that’s why reading is an escape. Books that lower your spirits defeat the entire purpose (for me, and in most situations anyway). Add an unlikable MC, and something called “whuffie” (seriously?), and yeah . . . just NOPE. Thanks for the heads-up.

    • I really like the concept of whuffie, but the story overall wasn’t that great. Which is a shame since I usually enjoy books by this author.

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