Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town

Author: Cory Doctorow

SCtTSLT seems like an experimental piece by a young author. It is his third published book, and, to my mind, is very clearly an attempt to write a fantasy novel with no borrowed mythology, or perhaps the result of losing a bet. No orcs here, nor wizards. Instead, you get the tale a curious family. The patriarch is a mountain, and the mother is a washing machine (See what I mean?). The children, sons alls, are peculiar – one is normal (ish), one can see the future, one is dead, one is an island, and the last three constitute a set of living Russian dolls. The problem is that the dead one is pissed about being dead, and the normal one isn’t that good at being normal.

This could make for a good story. Indeed, if you cut out a third of the book, it would be a good story.

But then there’s that third.

Cory is obsessed with technology. No problem, I like it too, and this was how I came across Cory to begin with, via Boing Boing. But the other third of the book is a useless subplot about trying to bring democratic wireless internet to the downtown Toronto. Seriously – there are talks with telecoms, with shop keepers, with city officials. We get to see him lecture over and over to a variety of individuals about how great this would be for the town (Cory, there are some times you should tell instead of showing). The net result? We understand why he feels connected to this one guy, and we get a throw-away plot device near the climax. This in return for hours of your life.

While we’re at it, the story is told in parallel between three different timelines. Two are okay – flashbacks to the protagonist as a child and then current day. But there’s another one, to make two “current days” – now, and a few months ago. These are not well resolved, and in one irritating case something extremely important happens, and the narrative switches to now-now, several months later, with the protagonist deeply involved in setting up wireless hot-spots and utterly ignoring the Important Thing.

So, I’ve said “the protagonist” a lot. That’s because he doesn’t have a unique name. He responds to any name beginning with A, and his brothers are B – G. This actually was kind of cool for a while.

Anyway, I hope Cory learned a lot while writing this. I hope even more that the publisher learned about publishing something like this. That is – don’t.

BTW, as with most of Cory’s stuff, it is also released for free under Creative Commons.


About Jack

I’m a Southern writer, physicist, and teacher. On this here blog you’ll find my thoughts on books, technology, science, and whatever else I darn well please. View all posts by Jack

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