Review: Walkaway

Walkaway by Cory Doctorow

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Got this book for free from the Tor Ebook Club

This book is a refinement of many topics that Doctorow has broached in the past:

– uploading of consciounesses/backups and how that changes things
– living in Capitalism vs leaving capitalism behind
– the violence often used to maintain compliance, even in non-totalitarian countries
– contractors involved in the above-mentioned violence inherent in the system

Doctorow has been writing about these topics together and apart for decades now. I know Doctorow has continued to write books (and I’ve participated in Kickstarters for some of them), if this were the final book he wrote, or taught as a capstone of his thinking, I think it would function perfectly that way. The world has changed mightily since Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom and also his views have seemingly matured as he’s probably participated in debates and discussions about his books. The only bad thing about this is that his books have become more and more depressing the more realistic they’ve gotten. Even if the protagonists “win” (and I’m not spoiling), they might accumulate tons of scars (physical and mental) along the way, and everyone may not make it out alive. And I know, especially because most of the books take place “Five Minutes From Now”, this makes them more realistic instead of seeming pollyanna-ish. But I really have to space these books out.

This book follows many protagonists (alternating by chapters or sub-chapters), but mostly we follow someone who is almost immediately renamed Etcetera, Seth, and Natalie. These characters have different walks of life and different backgrounds and I think Doctorow does a good job of taking advantage of that to look at the situation through (at least) 3 different eyes. They don’t all sound like carbon copies of themselves is what I’m trying to say.

I found the narrative to be swift and compelling and I had a VERY hard time putting the book down each time I started to read. If I had to level any criticisms against the book, it’s that characters can tend towards info-dump conversations. However, since I love Golden Age Science Fiction, this doesn’t turn me off. In that way, Doctorow tends more towards Asimov than contemporary Scalzi.

Pick up the book if you’re interested in narratives about where end-stage capitalism is going and what the transition to a new way of living might look like – this might the book for you.

warning if it matters to you: there are at least 2 (maybe 3?) explicit sex scenes.

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