Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present Paperback – 11 Jan 2007
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"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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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.
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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