Published by Tor on Mar 1, 2004
Genres: Adult, Science Fiction
Format: Hardcover from Purchased
Find the book: Amazon, Goodreads
Art is a member of the Eastern Standard Tribe, a secret society bound together by a sleep schedule. Around the world, those who wake and sleep on East Coast time find common cause with one another, cooperating, conspiring, to help each other out, coordinated by a global network of Wi-Fi, instant messaging, ubiquitous computing, and a shared love of Manhattan-style bagels.
Or perhaps not. Art is, after all, in the nuthouse. He was put there by a conspiracy of his friends and loved ones, fellow travelers from EST hidden in the bowels of Greenwich Mean Time, spies masquerading as management consultants who strive to mire Europe in oatmeal-thick bureaucracy.
Eastern Standard Tribe is a story of madness and betrayal, of society after the End of Geography, of the intangible factors that define us as a species, as a tribe, as individuals. Scathing, bitter, and funny, EST examines the immutable truths of time, of sunrise and sunset of societies smashed and rebuilt in the storm of instant, ubiquitous communication.
While I found this first part of the story confusing because I really didn’t understand the tribe set up, the more of the book I read, the more I enjoyed it.
The tribe set up is explained about halfway through, and it made a lot of sense. It would have been better if that explanation occurred earlier in the book, but the story wasn’t really about the time zone tribes. It was more about Art and mental health.
One thing I really like about Doctorow books is that you can either read and enjoy the story at a shallow level, or you can dig deeper into the themes and opinions and dissect them. Every one of his stories that I’ve read have a definite opinion about a topic in them, but they are woven into the plot and are supported by logic and research. There’s no half understood preaching here, instead there is a full developed debate opinion.
This book really aimed that opinion at mental health and mental illnesses, and how patients are diagnosed and treated. It was an interesting topic, and one that really made me think. Art was a good vehicle for this discussion as he was both inside the situation, but also had the capacity to analyse it from his consultant perspective.
Overall, while the story took a bit to get into, it turned out to be very thought provoking. It was a quick read, but not one that will fade from my head easily.