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Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
ISBN 0765304368 / 9780765304360 / 0-7653-0436-8
Publisher Tor Books
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In Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, things are not well in the land of Space Mountain. The operations of Disney World, in this glimpse into the near future, are administered by "ad-hocs," volunteer groups devoted to retaining the old-fashioned charms of the amusement park in a society that has otherwise undergone radical change. Now that you can backup the contents of your brain and download it into a fresh clone, death has become obsolete. And rather than acquiring wealth, people are concerned with earning Whuffie, a measure of good will and admiration among your fellow immortals.
As one of the people in charge of the theme park's Haunted Mansion, Jules has no shortage of Whuffie. While he's delighted with his job and his perky girlfriend Lil, he's increasingly suspicious of the ambitious ad-hoc that's just revamped the Hall of Presidents. "Ad hoc?" Jules grumbles at one point. "Hell, call them what they were: an army." After Jules is "killed"--for the fourth time in the hundred years he's been around--he realizes that the Haunted Mansion is under threat, along with the rest of his beloved Magic Kingdom.
It's the sort of wild, tech-savvy premise a reader might expect from someone with Doctorow's CV--among other things, he's one of the editors of the popular weblog Boing Boing and a 2000 Hugo Award winner for best new writer. Doctorow, a Toronto native who now lives in San Francisco, makes savvy references to recent SF landmarks like Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age and Snow Crash, and fans of Carl Hiaasen may be reminded of the amusement-park warfare in Native Tongue and the anti-Mickey bile of Team Rodent: How Disney Devours the World. But what Doctorow's first novel lacks in originality, it more than makes up for in terms of exuberance and appeal. The action is funny and swiftly paced as the increasingly unhinged Jules tries to discover the identity of his "murderer" and protect the Haunted Mansion. Along the way, Doctorow reconfigures society in a dazzling variety of ways and creates a future that he can call his own. --Jason Anderson [via]