Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

This book has been edited from its original version. It has been formatted to fit Everything2.

The Creative Commons license for this book allows for free redistribution as long as such distribution is non-commercial, non-derivative, and contains attribution. I have attempted to keep this text exactly as it was written, with the following exceptions:

  • I have removed all URIs as they conflict with E2
  • I have divided the work into sixteen nodes (ten chapters plus this "title" node, an acknowledgements node, an about the author node, a blurbs node, an author's note node, and an "Other books by Cory Doctorow" node, all of which were included in the original text) for readability
  • I have added this introduction.

About the Novel

Jules is a young man barely a century old. He's lived long enough to see the cure for death and the end of scarcity, to learn ten languages and compose three symphonies...and to realize his boyhood dream of taking up residence in Disney World.

Disney World! The greatest artistic achievement of the long-ago twentieth century. Now in the care of a network of volunteer "ad-hocs" who keep the classic attractions running as they always have, enhanced with only the smallest high-tech touches.

Now, though, it seems the "ad hocs" are under attack. A new group has taken over the Hall of the Presidents and is replacing its venerable audioanimatronics with new, immersive direct-to-brain interfaces that give guests the illusion of being Washington, Lincoln, and all the others. For Jules, this is an attack on the artistic purity of Disney World itself. Worse: it appears this new group has had Jules killed. This upsets him. (It's only his fourth death and revival, after all.) Now it's war: war for the soul of the Magic Kingdom, a war of ever-shifting reputations, technical wizardry, and entirely unpredictable outcomes.

Bursting with cutting-edge speculation and human insight, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom reads like Neal Stephenson meets Nick Hornby: a coming-of-age romantic comedy and a kick-butt cybernetic tour de force.


Table of Contents

The first novel from digeratus Cory Doctorow, creater of the omnipresent and slightly silly boingboing. The paperback edition is neon-ish green and whimsically illustrated, with a back-cover blurb you can read in the writeup above; the interior typeface is clear and well-designed and the pages are nice and crisp.

The story takes place in a utopian nanotechnological future where death and material scarcity have been eliminated and social reputation is continually tabulated as wuffie, a hyperkinetic but believable Florida a la Snow Crash (in fact, there's a Disneyworld parade in one chapter featuring Hiro Protagonist and company) where the inventions are cool, the characters are snappy, the breeze is fresh, and everyone smokes crack (it's decaf).

It's a great book, full of fun, suspense, and SF clairvoyence. Superficially a cat-and-mouse story about power struggles at the Disney World adhocracy, the text goes deep into veiled ruminations on life, consciousness, friendship, love, and marketing. (Then, too, Doctorow's particular brand of complex-human-systems speculation hasn't been done much before.) Protagonist Julian's interactions with his ex-cowboy compatriot and Disney-native girlfriend are complex and nuanced, and the ending is satasfyingly mind-expanding.

Down and Out is well worth the read (especially for free) but not without flaws; Doctorow tends to underplay his hand. One flashback in particular, about a transhuman ex-girlfriend who goes insane living on earth (instead of a space station) could have fueled a full novella but's told detachedly and without much detail. It fits the context well, but one can't help but be a little disappointed. In general, the description's also a bit sparse; maybe your imagination will be satasfied but mine couldn't find a good toehold.

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