Six Impossible Things

A Blog About Fiction and Reading

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

Magic KingdomDown and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow


Several months ago (it might even have been this time last year), I wrote a post on a forum about the era of “weird” science fiction. I had just finished The Godplayers by Damien Broderick and The Carpet Makers by Andreas Eschbach*, both of which have some wonky premises that require some serious suspension of disbelief to start. Next on my list was Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town, but I never made it to that one; it was a bit too dense and lengthy for what I needed, following up those novels.

Well, even though I never made it to that particular book, I did finally make it to Cory Doctorow through Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. It’s a wonky little book, too (people can live forever if they choose, and the world is run by ad-hocracy, even at Disneyworld, where each “land” is run by a different ad-hoc committee), but not nearly as much as SCtT,SLT (where the main character’s parents are a mountain and a washing machine). What’s so cool about Down and Out is that it’s so darn believable. Anyone who’s worked in government can easily believe in an ad-hocracy, and anyone who’s touched computer technology can understand the concepts behind living forever (at least in terms of the story).

The book is, at its core, a mystery novel. The main character (who narrates the story) is murdered at Disneyworld, but his computer backup, taken earlier that day, is missing his memory of the murder, so the investigation begins. At the same time, another ad-hocracy is putting the moves on his “Land,” where he and his girlfriend run both the Hall of Presidents and the Haunted Mansion. When he awakens after his murder, he learns that the group has already taken over and revamped the Hall of Presidents, and he begins to wonder if his murder and the takeover are somehow related.

Aside from that, though, the book is also a look at a possible future, and Doctorow takes great care in constructing it. Like I said, it’s all believable, but beyond that, it’s not just a science fiction setting for a mystery novel; the setting carries the story, and the technologies work in terms of the way the plot develops. The examination of the everlasting life technology, too, gives the story a particular depth that is made even more impressive, knowing that this is Doctorow’s first novel.

There were a few signs that this was a first novel (the pacing seemed too fast in some parts, and the ending was a bit forced), but the rest of the book was such a joy to read that I can overlook these small warts. It was an entertaining read that also made me think; for what more could I ask?


* Note: If you haven’t yet read The Carpet Makers, stop what you’re doing and get it. Now. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in ten years.


July 27, 2006 - Posted by | Adult Fiction, Reviews

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