Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

Cover image for


Author: Cory Doctorow
Published: 2003
Language: English
Wordcount: 52,811 / 152 pg
Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: 48.9
LoC Category: PS
Downloads: 9,173
Added to site: 2005.04.01 10129
License: by-nc-nd

Cory Doctorow's "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom" tells a gripping, fast-paced story that hinges on thought-provoking extrapolation from today's technical realities. This is the sort of book that captures and defines the spirit of a turning point in human history when our tools remake ourselves and our world. --Mitch Kapor Founder, Lotus, Inc., co-founder Electronic Frontier Foundation

Show Excerpt

"Damn, you know, it's so easy to get used to life without hyperlinks. You'd think you'd really miss 'em, but you don't."

And it clicked for me. He was a missionary -- one of those fringe- dwellers who act as emissary from the Bitchun Society to the benighted corners of the world where, for whatever reasons, they want to die, starve, and choke on petrochem waste. It's amazing that these communities survive more than a generation; in the Bitchun Society proper, we usually outlive our detractors. The missionaries don't have such a high success rate -- you have to be awfully convincing to get through to a culture that's already successfully resisted nearly a century's worth of propaganda -- but when you convert a whole village, you accrue all the Whuffie they have to give. More often, missionaries end up getting refreshed from a backup after they aren't heard from for a decade or so. I'd never met one in the flesh before.

"How many successful missions have you had?" I asked.

"Figured it out, huh? I've just come off my fifth in twenty years -- counterrevolutionaries hidden out in the old Cheyenne Mountain NORAD site, still there a generation later." He sandpapered his whiskers with his fingertips. "Their parents went to ground after their life's savings vanished, and they had no use for tech any more advanced than a rifle. Plenty of those, though."


Average Rating of 3.6 from 8 reviews: ****
JoJo Biggins

Those who like to fill their minds with trashy language should love this story. I made it through 3 chapters before bailing.


Just finished the book last night. I found the book to be unimaginable and lacking in any real good plot. Also I could have done without all the foul language used. Vulgarity does not make a book a good read.

I can understand that being the authors first book, there will be room for improvement as he continues writing. I sincerely hope that he improves on the use of his language.


I did not see what all the hype was about - lame story of a society of ad-hocs who get whaffies (their version of money) based on how much people like or respect them.


Loved it! Some really great new ideas in the story and very compelling story telling. I couldn't stop reading it. Highly recommend this story!

R Stephan

According to Wikipedia, this novel won the Locus Award For Best First Novel 2003, and it was also the very first novel that appeared under a Creative Commons licence.

Like its predecessor, postcyberpunk focuses on technological developments in near-future societies, typically examining the social effects of an ubiquitous datasphere of computerized information, genetic engineering and modification of the human body, and the continued impact of perpetual technological change. Unlike "classic" cyberpunk, however, the works in this category feature characters who act to improve social conditions or at least protect the status quo from further decay.(Wikipedia)

Compared to the other postcyberpunk book I know, Snow Crash, this has less action and less 'hard' technology but I think Doctorow's right about the social consequences which are, at the end, depressing. A semi-sequel short story called Truncat was published on in August 2003.

Goldfish Stew

Imagine a world where government and society as we know it has gone. A place where money no longer exists - instead people trade in kudos, the amount of kudos someone has determining their status and influence. Imagine the dreams of open source communities and community driven projects (such as Mozilla or Wikipedia) stretching across society - where even businesses like Disney are taken over by adhoc communities running the park for the love of it (and the whuffie.) Where death is curable by simple backup.

Cory Doctorow invites the reader to explore such a world. Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is such a story. And as surreal as it may sound, he draws you in. Murder, revenge, underhanded deeds and tiredness with the world dominate this story.

It is at the same time lighthearted and a somewhat dark reflection on life and the human condition. Take the chance and read it, you might be surprised.

John Munsch

The first of Mr. Doctorow's books has his usual wonderful premises sprinkled throughout. The characters are not quite as well developed as in a Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town but still are developed enough that you can care about what happens to them, the book is not tedious to read through.

However, the rushed ending is what killed me on this one. I got to a certain spot and it suddenly seemed to scream headlong to an ending and I was very frustrated by it. It was like good sex (not great sex, but good sex) up to that point with a premature end.


A weirdly engaging fantasy tale about life in the future, where Disney World is a way of life, people can order new bodies or even turn themselves off for eons, and your brain is hard-wired into some sort of global internet. Also, it's a love story....

Very fun.

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