Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
Tor, 2003 (2003)
Reviewed by David Pitt
ow this, let me tell you, is a lot of fun. Here's the skinny: it's the future, not quite a century from now. Nobody has to work for a living, everybody has micro-implants that keep them permanently connected to the Net, there's plenty of everything, and -- get this -- death is only a temporary situation. If you find all this a little hard to swallow, just ask Jules, our narrator, to explain it to you. He's been dead four times already, most recently just a few days ago, when he was murdered in Disney World, where he lives (in Doctorow's niftily twisted future, the theme park is home to a group of "ad-hocracies" who're battling for control of the park).
estored from back-up (everyone keeps current versions of themselves on file in computer storage), Jules sets out to find his killer and to save Disney World. He's aided by Dan, a friend who's seriously considering killing himself permanently in a few weeks, and by Lil, Jules's soon-to-be-ex-lover. It's all a great deal of fun, a story told with an impish wit and a sharp eye for pace and dialogue.
especially liked Doctorow's way of dispensing information -- he doesn't, really. He lets us figure things out from their context, throws unfamiliar words and ideas at us and lets us sort them out as we move through the story. There are no clumps of exposition, no clumsy passages of dialogue that exist only to shove information at us. He lets his characters, and his narrative, tell us what we need to know. Some things remain somewhat obscure (what, exactly, is Whuffie?), but that's okay: we feel like we've visited a real world, this way, not some made-up place where every little thing is fully explained to us.
t's a world I wouldn't mind coming back to.
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