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P.T. Phronk

Cory Doctorow’s Walkaway and the Power of Small Ideas

Sci-fi is full of big ideas. WHAT IF ALIENS VISITED EARTH? WHAT IF WE’RE LIVING IN A SIMULATION? WHAT IF ROBOTS COULD TIME TRAVEL? With all the explosions and paradoxes in the way, it can be hard to notice the small ideas. Like, ahem, what if it was slightly easier to manufacture furniture?

Cory Doctorow’s upcoming novel Walkaway deals in small ideas. It takes dozens of incremental extensions to current technology and predicts their aggregate effect on the world. This more subtle, realistic approach to sci-fi can cover more ground than a single big idea. In the first chapter alone, Doctorow examines what a few years of continued cultural and technological advancement will do to transform manufacturing, politics, the economy, wealth disparity, diversity, privilege, partying, music, sex, beer, drugs, information security, tech bubbles, law, and law enforcement. It’s a lot to take in, but getting dumped in head-first—and it does require some thinking to follow along—is as refreshing as a dip in the Japanese baths that play such a prominent role in the novel.

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