Last night, I finished reading the ebook of "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom", Cory Doctorow's first novel. Cory is a big thinker, and he's one of the main voices behind the Boing Boing weblog, one I check every day for interesting items. I liked it, but I've got problems with it too. The best part about the book was the imagination and effort put into thinking how our American society would change in a world where energy was free, everyone was always wired into a giant network, people could regenerate themselves and restore their minds into new bodies, and money had been replaced by an abstract measurement of your esteem called Whufflie. Cory introduces all of these concepts pretty naturally; most of the story takes place in Walt Disney World where the grounds had been taken over by an ad-hoc government of enthusiasts who run the park out of a true love for the job. The narrator, Julian, is a big Disney fan and wrote a thesis on how crowds work at these kind of places.
There is intrigue in the book, but there's also a lot of whining. The plot sets up a few interesting scenarios; a lot of it is a murder mystery, but its one where the murdered party is able to be the detective thanks to cloning and backup technology. In all, it's a good work, but I'm not sure if I'd like to live in the world Cory proposes, where people go dead for years just to wait for something interesting, and communication paths are so efficient that any negative action immediately affects the way people treat you.
One good thing: the book was free for me to read. Cory has release this and his second novel, "Eastern Standard Tribe", under Creative Commons licenses, and the sites for them have downloads of the novels available in almost any format you want. I've already DLed the new book, which looks to be a more modern speculation on how blogs, PDAs, and social networking connect people. Cool beans!