"Magical realism and literary iconoclasm abound in a novel that should appeal to fans of experimental fiction in a near-future setting."--Library Journal
Alan sanded the house on Wales Avenue. It took six months, and the whole time it was the smell of the sawdust, ancient and sweet, and the reek of chemical stripper and the damp smell of rusting steel wool.
Alan took possession of the house on January 1, and paid for it in full by means of an e-gold transfer. He had to do a fair bit of hand-holding with the realtor to get her set up and running on e-gold, but he loved to do that sort of thing, loved to sit at the elbow of a novitiate and guide her through the clicks and taps and forms. He loved to break off for impromptu lectures on the underlying principles of the transaction, and so he treated the poor realtor lady to a dozen addresses on the nature of international currency markets, the value of precious metal as a kind of financial lingua franca to which any currency could be converted, the poetry of vault shelves in a hundred banks around the world piled with the heaviest of metals, glinting dully in the fluorescent tube lighting, tended by gnomish bankers who spoke a hundred languages but communicated with one another by means of this universal tongue of weights and measures and purity.
Very original, and in the beginning I really had to check I really read what I just thought I read. I can recommend "Craphunter" and "Down and out in the magical kingdom" which are more accessible.
Someone Comes to Town made me feel about science fiction the way One Hundred Years of Solitude made me feel about literature as a whole. This is quite simply one of the best genre-defining/redefining pieces out there, equivalent to the distortions and evolutions practiced by Farmer, Ellison, and Gene Wolfe. A novel of ideas (as all his novels are) this is also a strongly evocative, almost lyrical, psychologically compelling, multi-layered piece of novel-craft. Worth repeated readings.
This was my first Cory Doctorow novel, and I found it incredibly compelling. It echoes China Mieville in terms of unusual characters and dark plot lines. But Doctorow has a wholly unique voice that I found irresistible. I have read most of his fiction and eagerly await new works.
A colourful "What the?!?" experience
This is a book for those of us who think our family is weird and that our upbringing has made it hard for us to fit in. For anyone who feels disconnected and lacking in identity - meet Alan. Or is it Andrew, Adam or what? His family is not what you would call functional.
The story drifts in and out of two timelines (at one point 3) - there's the story of the present, where Alan arrives in town and tries to settle in, but is confronted by his past. Then we learn (piece by piece) of his past and his bizarre family. What Alan's kind is is never explained, but they are not human - instead a mythic-like species (with a plethora of quirks) desperately wanting to be normal.
Unfortunately it does seem to lose its way a little with the "free speech by WiFi" subplot (which was worthy of its own story - both plots lost out somewhat by being unnaturally married.) I guess this is kind of part of Doctorow's hobby horse - and given that his hobby horse allows me to download and read his books I can't exactly complain.
Doctorow is a great author. This may not be the most accessible of his novels for the Doctorow-virgin to pluck the cherry with (try Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom) but it is a worthy read for anyone prepared to enjoy a bizarre fantasy where angels live in abusive relationships and a mountain can father children.
Strange. Weird. Bizarre. These are words that could certainly be applied to this work. Certainly you're asked to go far in suspending your disbelief. But perhaps so far that you begin to accept the rather inane aspects of the novel. Mind you, if you're a diehard 'old school' SF fan you might find this totally outside your sphere of acceptability. This is not for those who put Bova, Niven, Asimov, and Clarke at the top of their list. There are moments, however, when I was reminded of the first time I read Heinlein's 'Stranger in a Strange Land,' which seemed such a departure from the Heinlein juveniles I had so enjoyed. 'Stranger in a Strange Land' was something of a cult classic among college students of the day, and one can imagine Doctorow's book perhaps gaining such a status.
It's one of those books that invites examination, much of it obviously not being meant for literal interpretation. I think, however, that it's a difficult novel to really get your head around. There's no question that some readers will be inclined to abandon it early or chuck it aside in disgust. But if you persist, as did I, you may find the reward sufficient to the effort.
(Lindsay Brambles, author of In Darkness Bound)
This was an extremely imaginative and clever book. Some of the scenes were quite memorable, for example, the description of the birth of Alan's brothers, and the stories of their life in the cave. Doctorow has fine descriptive capabilities.
I found that the two main plots did not quite mesh together for me, the subplot with Kurt not having anything to do with the more interesting family story. And certain interesting ideas got introduced and then dropped, for example, the database, and the idea of his writing a story. Also, I found the letter-named brothers who are referred to by numerous first names to be a bit confusing and serving a purpose that was not apparent to me.
In spite of these flaws, it was an engrossing read that will stay with me. I will be thinking of this book and digesting it now that I have finished reading.
This work blurs science fiction and fantasy, perhaps the darkest of Doctorow's works to date.
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