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Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present Paperback – 11 Jan 2007


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Review

"Cory Doctorow is just far enough ahead of the game to give you the authentic chill of the future.... Funny as hell and sharp as steel." -- Warren Ellis

About the Author

Cory Doctorow is the author of three science fiction novels, DOWN AND OUT IN THE MAGIC KINGDOM, EASTERN STANDARD TRIBE, and SOMEONE COMES TO TOWN, SOMEONE LEAVES TOWN, and the short story collection A PLACE SO FOREIGN AND EIGHT MORE. He is the co-founder of boingboing.com. "Anda's Game," from this collection, was chosen by Michael Chabon for BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES 2005.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars 18 reviews
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars When the old is new again 24 Feb. 2007
By Heath Row - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
For the last few days, I've been reading Cory Doctorow's new collection of short fiction, Overclocked (Thunder's Mouth Press). It's been one of the first things I've looked forward to in the morning -- reading it while waiting for and riding the subway to work -- and one of the last things I've done each day -- reading it before sleep.

Because the six stories in the book have all been published elsewhere, chances are good that at least one or two will be familiar. Apparently, that's OK, because even though I'd previously read "I, Robot," I caught myself rereading it with glee despite the fact that I knew exactly what was going to happen. It might be the case that -- in Cory's writing, as well as in the future itself -- it's not just what happens... but how it happens. His stuff holds up under the pressure of memory.

But it was one of the stories I haven't previously read that I found the most enjoyable, effective, and affecting. "After the Siege," in part inspired by his grandmother's survival of Hitler's invasion of Stalingrad, is the kind of short story that holds your attention, your imagination, and your affection all at the same time. At times, I'm irritated by how preachy Cory can be in his infopolitics, but in this story, he shows us that his heart is as big as his brain and his hopes for society.

Congratulations, Cory. Each of these stories was an accomplishment in their own right when they were first published, and in book form, they become an accomplishment in the aggregate. And the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Thanks for the good reads -- and rereads.

[..]
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Underwhelming 21 Nov. 2007
By R. D. Webber - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Not a bad collection, but sometimes Doctorow's desire to use his fiction to promote his socio-political beliefs gets in the way of his genuine story-telling talent.

This collection included some good material: "After the Siege," the final story in the book, particularly impressed me. But "I, Robot," for example, seemed kind of clunky to me, a kind of "copyright opera."

I think these stories are available for free download under Creative Commons licensing. If you haven't liked some of Doctorow's work in the past, check out the free versions first.

If you are just starting to read Doctorow's work, try "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom" or "Eastern Standard Tribe" or "Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town" first.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars On average - average 9 Jun. 2007
By Questor - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I'm not normally a reader of short story collections but I thought I'd give "Over Clocked" a try. On finishing it, I realized why I don't read short story collections.

The problem is, short story collections inevitably end up being like CD's. Sure, there's one, maybe two great tracks on it, a few mediocre tracks and then some that are positively awful. Over Clocked suffers the same malady.

One of the strongest stories is "When Sysadmins ruled the world." An interesting tale that describes how a technologically dependent world gets brought to its knees by rampant worms and viruses and how the system administrators (Sysadmins of the title) may be the only people skilled and tech-savvy enough to fight humanity's corner.

Equally enjoyable is "I robot." Winner of the 2005 Locus award and a finalist for the Hugo and British Science Fiction award in the same year. You'd expect for it to be a good read with those credentials.

Holding the middle ground for the book is "Anda's game" - which will no doubt be a favorite with the gaming readers - and provides a virtual backdrop for the rich minority vs depressed minority scenario to literally be played out once more.

"After the Siege," where the horrors of future war are exploited for entertainment value, also provides food for thought. Whilst Doctorow preface's the story by suggesting it's a commentary on developed nations using strong arm tactics on underdeveloped counterparts, one can't help but think that this story might not also be a poke in the eye to today's news media, given the current state of world affairs.

I enjoyed all of these stories but then that's where I ran into trouble. Perhaps in no other genre than speculative fiction does the phrase "Suspension of belief," come into its own. Every author asks you to suspend your belief and go along for the ride, and for the majority of Over Clocked I was prepared to do that. Rampant computer viruses I can do. Robots I can do. Future war and gang warfare on the net I'm prepared to go along with. With "I Row-Boat," Doctorow lost me.

Over Clocked's subtitle is "Stories of future present." Most of the stories seemed to be a reasonable extrapolation of science and technology today with a dark, dystopian slant, but I found sentient rowing boats conversing with coral reefs a little beyond what I was prepared to accept. As a result, I just couldn't get past the first five pages of "I Row-Boat."

Similarly, I found the very short, short story (2 pages) "Printcrime," equally hard to swallow.

Overall, I gave Over Clocked a 3 out of 5 rating. Of the six stories contained within, there are a couple of gems, a couple of easy reads and a couple that I would skip if I had a "Next Chapter" button.

Maybe that's a future present.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The general feeling of the stories is something like the classic SciFi of the 50s and 60s (Bradbury 11 May 2015
By AudioBook Reviewer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: MP3 CD
Overclocked is composed of five Novellas (or long short stories). All are future tales based on high technology affecting society in a catastrophic way. The general feeling of the stories is something like the classic SciFi of the 50s and 60s (Bradbury, Asimov, Dick, etc.), but with distinctly 21st Century themes: alienation, poor vs. rich nations, availability of high tech, terrorism, and post human technology.

Short stories are intriguing for their ability to drop us headlong into the characters and action without the slow development of a book. Doctorow is quite good at this. Within minutes of starting one of the stories, you are immersed in one of his carefully crafted worlds. The characters are unusual and believable.

In After the Siege, the main character is a teenage girl caught in the horrors of prolonged war, all of it tragic because it is so unnecessary and avoidable.

I Row-Boat is a playful twist on Asimov’s famous novel, I Robot. Robbie the Row-Boat has gained consciousness, as have many high-tech devices. He contemplates the meaning of life as he rows tourist human divers around the Australian coral reefs. Too bad for all of them when the billions of processors imbedded into the reef cause it to gain consciousness itself, and it is angry. It is outrageous, inventive and pure fun.

When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth is a terrific story of geeks trapped inside clean rooms as the world disintegrates around them. They, and others like them around the world, survive because they are trapped in the filtered air of the computers they protect and keep running. The Internet limps along as billions die. Of course, email spam lives on. It is a story written with a lot of technical jargon and geekspeak. Don’t let that throw you, this is a good story with a lot of real human themes.

Each story is narrated by a different performer. All are excellent and bring the stories to life without flaw.

This is a decidedly high-tech group of stories. Hard SciFi at its best. If you are intrigued by technology, do not hesitate to listen to this book. If on the other hand, high-tech jargon and technological themes don’t interest you, try the audio sample first. You may still find something to enjoy, but know that these stories appeal to a specific audience and do it well. If you find yourself in the former category, you will likely enjoy these stories immensely and listen to them more than once.

Audiobook provided for review by the publisher.

Please find this complete review and many others at audiobookreviewer dot com

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A mostly brain-boosting collection . . . 10 July 2007
By Michael K. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Doctorow is one of the hottest young science fiction inventioneers of the past decade. He's done three novels, all of them groundbreaking in various ways, and one previous collection of short stories. The six stories in this volume all are treatments of extremely contemporary information technology (the author likes to say he specializes in "predicting the present"). "Anda's Game," which appeared in _Best American Short Stories,_ is about the real sweatshops that have recently appeared to serve the virtual gaming industry -- very weird stuff indeed. (I don't think even Gibson, much less Heinlein, could have imagined such a thing.) "When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth" is a paean to the people who guard the cyberverse -- and therefore the "real world" -- from Evil. "Printcrime" is a very short piece written for NATURE, about the hobnailed boot planted in the face of informational freedom. "After the Siege" is a much longer and rather chilling exploration of the same theme. (Doctorow has very strong opinions about the recent trend in strengthening copyright and patent law in the West to the detriment of the developing world.) "I, Robot," which was nominated for a Hugo, is both a riff on Asimov's classic Three Laws and an exploration of a weak point in the Good Doctor's work: The lack of market competition in robotics. "I, Row-Boat" (yes, indeed, Robby the Row-Boat) is the weakest piece in this volume, though even it's pretty good, exploring what happens after most humans have left the planet to live in outer virtual space (sort of) and the AIs left behind have to learn to cope.
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