A Slice of Fried Gold

Literary Rush

Tuesday, November 27, 2007
So continuing on my reading tear, I recently finished two Sci-Fi ish books that were very solid and quite spectacular respectively.

The former book was Cory Doctorow's (of blog extraordinare Boing Boing fame) Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. It was a quality book which conceptually was a ten, but in actuality turned out to be more of an 8 or so. It was a story based in the somewhat distant future, a time when all disease, death, and poverty have been eradicated.

Quick aside about one of the concepts Doctorow created in this book. Value based economies of today have been replaced by a kind of merit based economy which is given the name Whuffie. This concept is probably the most interesting one found within the book, as it proposes the idea that what a person has and can get (not to mention overal appearance and apparent condition) is based entirely around this Whuffie. For example, if your Whuffie is low, it means respect for you is low, or even if you have a lot of it, it could be coming from sources that have low Whuffie in their own right, thus making it low also. If your Whuffie is low and you try and stay in a hotel, you would likely get a room that has a tiny bed and almost no space to relax in. If you have high Whuffie, you'll likely be staying in a suite of some sort. That's enough of that for now.

Anyways, the plot of the book follows the protagonist Julius as he tries to uncover the mystery behind his death, while trying to save his beloved Liberty Square rides in Disney World (now a veritable post-modern day Mecca for the Internet obsessed and the culturally preoccupied) from the evil Debra and her team of Ad-Hocs. These people may or may not be plotting to remove the old school charm from the rides and replace them with impersonal (yet intriguing and well liked) aspects, and may or may not have killed Julius to help them accomplish that. He is joined by his best friend Keep On Truckin' Dan and his girlfriend Lil in their attempt to save the honor of the Magic Kingdom.

It's a rather bizarre book that once again, is great conceptually, but falls short due to a couple of reasons: occasionally scattershot narrative and despicable characters. Julius is an amusing and definitely interesting protagonist, but due to where his character arc takes him, he is awfully hard to like. His girlfriend Lil and virtually everyone else in the story are also very hard to like, as they more often than not choose the opposite of what you the reader would typically want them to do. The one character who is seemingly redeemable (Dan) is dampened a bit by the fact that his primary arc is his attempt to get his Whuffie back up so he can kill himself while back on top. Odd stuff.

The narrative as I said is rather scattershot, with it being difficult to follow at times and dissipating entirely for occasional 2 to 3 page tangents which do very little to progress the storyline. They can be interesting details to the characters lives, especially our peek into Julius' previous marriage, but at the same time it did feel as if the time could be used more effectively.

Yet even with those downfalls, the book is a joy to read even with the bummer characters because they are very funny in their own self depricating way. Also, Doctorow pulls off some of the more bizarre concepts that I've read, including believably having characters smoke crack as a social drug, akin to alcohol or smoking today. This type of strange humor really make the pages fly by, even when the plot may be stalling. I'd say I recommend it, but with reservations. If you like your humor a little on the odd side and you dig interesting views of the future, this book is definitely for you.

The other book I just completed (and by just I mean just 3 hours ago) was John Scalzi's novel The Android's Dream. Sadly, I received this book the previous Christmas, and I just now finished it. It is truly sad that it took me that long to read it, as this was an excellent book. It juggled a wide variety of characters in an intricate plot involving interplanetary politics, revenge plots, religous zealots, a variety of Aliens, a new sentient race, and one really awesome former soldier/hacker and current "bearer of bad news" for Alien races.

I recently saw the movie Enchanted (excellent by the way) and noticed on its IMDB page that it had something like eight different genres listed for it. Dream manages to tie even more than that into one extremely entertaining and exhilirating novel. It was probably the fastest 400 page read I've ever experienced.

I would go into more detail about this one, but I'd prefer it if the readers of this page would just pick this one up at the library or your local bookseller to read on your own. It's definitely an experience I recommend for anyone, as it is very entertaining. If you do pick it up, try not be thrown off by the first two chapters. Just because they involve an assassination by way of gas (the type that comes from your insides instead of the type that comes from tanks and vials held by villains) does not mean the rest of the book will be like that whatsoever.

I have to admit, the entire time reading this book, I kept thinking "man, I bet this would make an awesome movie." I don't believe there are any plans to turn it into a film, but if any book has called for it, this one definitely would. I would say if it reminds me of anything, it reminds me of a more political and obviously based in the future James Bond novel as written by Douglas Adams. How does that not seem cool?

Turns out Mr. Scalzi writes a fairly entertaining blog as well, which is entitled Whatever. I recommend checking it out here. The Christmas post is very entertaining, and something I'm sure many people would understand.

Scalzi and Doctorow actually have ties to each other, and as you will possibly see Scalzi's second post directly quotes a post Doctorow made on Boing Boing, and he also thanked him in the front of Dream. I have an amazing ability to constantly read books that are similar to each other or seem to have ties to each other without really attempting to do this. It's uncanny.

Last bit here, up next I have A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore, which is a story about how a young widow and father becomes the Angel of Death. This book comes with the Brian Charbonneau stamp of approval, and he claimed to laugh throughout it. I'm 40 pages in and have smiled a good amount, having been robbed of my ability to laugh by the dreaded Dentist. Damn you Dentist...damn you! No less, the saga continues. Cannot quit this reading addiction!


Patty said...

I'm liking the new look. Found the Neil Gaimon book whenever you're ready.

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