Walkaway by Cory Doctorow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I admit I went in blind to this only know the title, the cover, and the fact that I've been a big fan of Cory Doctorow ever since Little Brother. I thought it was going to be something of a thriller with perhaps a political and especially an awesome technological bent to it.
I didn't expect it to be this huge! The ideas in this novel can easily be ranked up with the very biggest novels of the last century.
Let me explain: Walkaway as a term is nothing more than dropping out of the ranks of the norm, of going off to live simply, if not precisely without tech, then at least giving up on the whole rat race that is defined here as the "default". It's not hippies, although there are those, too. It's a collection of all the people that this world has no use for, the people that despair under debts they can't pay, lives that bring them no joy, of people who realize that they have always been slaves in everything but name.
These are the people who walked away from it all. It's in the future so we have an honest free beer with open source technologies, 3d printers much more advanced than what we have here that works with everything from clothing to medicines, and the open idealism that collides with regular assholes that you'll find in any human population.
Only, these communities are benefited with social modeling techniques, even newer tech that can scan and model human minds, and much more... in everyone's hands. These are people who gave up on wealth and status to live in all kinds of communes and social experiments, many of which fail but each improves upon the last until better and better open source societies are created, improved upon, and tested... and while this shouldn't have been a big deal to the rest of the world that was busy doing its old thing, the Walkaways stumbled upon success and success, outperforming and making the "Default" society jealous... and you know what jealous people do when they have guns and they want what the defenseless have.
I'm just barely scratching the surface here. There's a lot of great characters, a lot of really beautiful stories and situations and social experiments and theory on human consciousness. There's a lot of tragedy and hope, too, spread out over a great long span of time. A lifetime, you might say. But by the end, who's to say how long that is?
This is really creative and hard-hitting exploratory SF. This is the stuff that will stay in my consciousness long, long after hundreds of lighter SF have rolled through me. This is that kind of novel that can change or break a whole society if it takes off.
Now, I can't say that I absolutely agree with all the points that Doctorow makes, but his vision of the future and the erudition and thoughtful expression of all these fantastic ideas more than makes up for any complaints I may have. He's a believer in humanity. He believes in people.
There's something truly wonderful about that.
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