Down and Out with the Macxs

I expected to enjoy by and have a really hard time finishing by . The former includes cool stuff like , , and . The latter is set in an incredibly challenging environment (in terms of holding my interest)–a . I experienced the reverse.

Manfred Macx, an open source entrepreneur of the future (very approximately), has a kid with his IRS agent luddite wife. They and their descendents carry their family squabbles across the universe and singularity. As this incredibly non-interesting story unfolds, Accelerando takes every opportunity to reference , , and obscure political cliches and inside jokes, without any real depth.

Accelerando was originally written as ten stories, many of which won awards, and several of which I can imagine being enjoyable as shorts. The book is way too long.

If you can put up with lots of enjoy science fiction, you’ll probably like Accelerando. Everyone else, skim the to pick up any missing memes. Peter McCluskey has a better Accelerando review.

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is short and concerns the fate of a theme park ride rather than the fate of the universe. Theme park rides are run by . The only way for an ad hoc to take over a ride is to have such an obviously better plan for it that nobody resists–but not everyone wants to play by the rules.

Much is left unexplained (e.g, how does cleaning bathrooms immediately boost one’s ?), but the core ideas Doctorow explores infect every page, making the book the most thought provoking treatise on Disney theme park rides ever.

What would an economy driven by open source concepts and (post-capitalist but not necessarily post-market?) look like? This is a concern of both books. Neither has concrete answers, but Down and Out does a fair job of toying with the question, cat-like, in its limited domain.

Both authors are trying primitive versions of these ideas in the real world, having released Accelerando and Down and Out under licenses. You can download the books here and here. I commend both authors for this and for even attempting to write human stories about such abstract and interesting topics.

4 Responses

  1. I really liked Accelerando myself, but I think was really wowed by the incredibly dense content (he didn’t even slow down to define “clade”!). Perhaps the fiction itself wasn’t the best ever? But it was nonetheless captivating enough that I read through the singularity in one sitting.

    One can also interpret Accelerando as a very broad, slowly-told cosmic joke about corporations. Y’know? (I don’t want to ruin it for others.)

  2. One’s dense content is another’s thicket of cliches, I guess.

    I’m pretty humorless, but I think any jokes told about corporations reached fruition in the first third of the book.

  3. […] Transhumanist and Creative Commons CTO Mike Linksvayer has written something you don’t see too often – a negative review of Charles Stross’s Accelerando. In the comments, he muses, “one person’s dense content is another person’s thicket of cliches”, well put. Here is the review: I expected to enjoy Accelerando by Charles Stross and have a really hard time finishing Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow. The former includes cool stuff like mind uploading, space colonization, and singularity. The latter is set in an incredibly challenging environment (in terms of holding my interest)–a theme park. I experienced the reverse. […]

  4. […] two SF books very familiar to many readers: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow (my positive review) and The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson, which just a few […]