I finished Cory Doctorow's Makers a few days back but haven't had time to post a review until just now, which has given me some time to mull it over a bit before doing so.
Monday, February 15, 2010
On the surface, Makers is Doctorow revisiting familiar territory: Distopian steampunk sci-fi, this time around the premise of the collision between personal fabrication and incumbent industry (something he already visited in short form in After the Siege).
The book has more to it than just this.
It's partly a parable of Lessig's Free Culture argument [Creativity and innovation always build on the past; The past always tries to control the creativity that builds upon it; Free societies enable the future by limiting this power of the past; Ours is less and less a free society].
It's also a story about Creative Destruction, and about how our legal and governmental systems impede it.
Mix in notes of Doctorow' attachment (and I'm guessing love-hate feelings) for Disney (which he also visited in Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom), an opinion on working at large corporations (the passage on page 403 rang so true it was painful to read), a commentary about shanty towns and peoples ability to govern themselves, some thoughts on obesity, consumerism, and other facets of the decline of American society, and you have the makings of a fun and thought provoking novel.
[One note: As some of the Amazon reviews note, there's a couple of pretty graphic sex scenes in the book. Not a big deal for adults, but for those that might have read Little Brother and might think this suitable to give to kids for reading, well, buyer beware. Personally, I think it's fine for a writer to stretch his wings a little as I think he's done here. I was surprised by the vitriole in some of those Amazon reviews. On another related note: It's kind of weird reading really graphic stuff like that written by a guy I've had dinner with a couple times :-/. ]