I needed a bit more relaxation this weekend, after struggling through some of the more abstract chapters of math background in Penrose’s Road to Reality. So I grabbed Cory Doctorow’s A Place So Foreign and Eight More from its sad, neglected place in my “incoming” stacks. I wasn’t disappointed.
I’d been intrigued but ultimately unsatisfied by Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, Doctorow’s first novel and the source of much Net fascination over “whuffie” economics. I think my mediocre reaction to D&O ultimately led to Place So Foreign languishing in the to-do pile for so long (Amazon reports that I bought the book in Oct 2003, so that’ll tell you how big the “incoming” stack has gotten…).
Not all of these short stories grabbed my attention, but at least two are gems. “To Market, To Market: The Re-branding of Billy Bailey” is a superb story about a world where elementary school kids fashion self-images as “brands,” seeking sponsorships from companies who get the benefits of viral marketing. Fasincating — though scary — idea, and incredibly well done.
But the best story of the lot is “0wnzored” (with zeros, in case your font doesn’t show the difference). A fast-paced tale of bioengineering and the frontiers of hacking, the story immerses you in Silicon Valley/tech industry geek culture. I felt overwhelmingly nostalgic for 1996 reading it.
OK. Back to serious reading, including Levy’s Original Intent and the Founder’s Constitution, as well as finally getting to the physics chapters in Penrose….