Some things sound better in the synopsis

I woke up this morning lightly feverish, that feeling that says “you will be spending the day in your pajamas on the couch unable to do anything but read fiction”. So I opened up Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, by Cory Doctorow. The thing I had always heard mentioned about this book is that it’s an interesting take on the idea of a reputation economy, the idea that all commerce is done based on what people think of you, rather than cash and capitalism.

The thing no one mentioned (so far as I’ve seen) is that the effects of the reputation economy in this book are actually kind of horrific. This seems to be a common thing that happens when you read science fiction. Yes, that book you heard about does have lots of cool tech, but it’s actually not as fun as it sounds. Which leaves me wondering whether people who go on about the shiny tech (or social and economic environment) actually read the story, or just the description on the back.

4 responses to “Some things sound better in the synopsis

  1. Huh, I really didn’t see it as all that horrific. I’d much rather deal with that economy than ours.
    –Fish

  2. It had a profoundly negative effect on the protagonist as well as his closest friend, and the people who coped with it well tended to be described as somewhat soulless and apathetic, willing to define their morals by the current groupthink. To me it didn’t seem like a very positive view.

    But I guess that answers my question. We can read the book and have rather different interpretations.

    Something in the back of my head says it would be neat to do an analysis of the mechanics of the reputation economy, including who profits and who suffers. Would anyone want to read that?

  3. Hm. I sort of expect to see horrific consequence for the shiny science bits, in modern science fiction. So I am probably quite capable of enthusing about how cleverly everything is worked out, and even how I might prefer said situation, even if the story itself is bleak and dystopian. I mean hell, one of my favorite SF writers is Peter Watts, and he pretty much *only* does bleak and horrifying:).

  4. In general I guess I understand that. The consciousness transfer and cloning in Old Man’s War is pretty neat, despite the trade-offs people have to make to get access to it.

    Peter Watts has been on my to read list for a few months now.