by Cory Doctorow
Cover Artist: Will Staehle
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Tor Books Hardcover / eBook ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765392763
Date: 25 April 2017
Power and control are difficult in a post-scarcity world. The things which keep people in line are dependent upon access to the structure created and maintained by the few in power. What happens when people no longer need to bow to those in power to get what they need? They leave the structures which limit them.
Hubert and Seth go to a Communist party. These parties charge nothing and give away everything. There they drink, dance, and meet Natalie. Their meeting is the start of something big. Together they will walk away from society and see many changes and opportunities. Along the way, they see the world away from cities and the ultimate expressions of a sharing economy. By the end, the world will be remade by their spirit and choices.
This is a stand-alone novel of the near future. In this future, with the right raw materials and equipment, just about anything can be manufactured. This reduces the cost of materials and threatens the market system which has been the basis for power through the ages. With the potential to move beyond the corporeal form, the limitations of life and death no longer would apply. But the ability to live forever is not one those in power want to share. In order to claim the process, the old order will stop at nothing and will use all of their resources to stop the coming changes. This conflict is at the heart of the action.
I liked one of the main methods chosen by the walkaways to combat the forces of the old ways. It is a method which is difficult to follow, but equally difficult to combat. It would be difficult for me to accept the losses in the way that the walkaways do, but they have a way to survive which is not available to me.
Iíve heard many good things about Doctorowís writing, but hadnít taken the time to read any of his novels before I decided to try this one. I was not disappointed. He takes the time to delve into the economics of scarcity and the impacts of cornucopia. It is interesting to think about how the world be different without scarcity. So much of the problems we face are related to the acquisition of resources. Food, minerals, and water have caused fights. The world Doctorow imagines is moving towards the utopia where humans no longer need to fight to survive.
The longevity process reminds me of the method used by Jenna Black in the Replica Series and John Scalzi in The Old Manís War universe. Downloading consciousness is not a new idea, but Doctorow puts his own spin on the methodology and outcomes.
I recently read a YA novel, Scythe by Neal Shusterman, which also dealt with longevity. In that world, the long life was not paired with near infinite resources. That leads to a need for population control which is extreme. It was fortunate timing to read two novels with similar underlying plot points. I appreciated both more for reading them together.