Walt Disney’s vice-like grip on the American imagination continues unabated, even many long years into the future when one might hope that people would know better. Cyber culture maven and first-novelist Doctorow (no relation to E.L.) sets his perky little dystopia in a future world where the regular old society of today has been taken over by the Bitchun (pronounced, one would imagine, “Bitchin’ ”) Society. In the Bitchun world, everyone is wired within an inch of their lives and their personalities are backed up several times a year so that if their current body dies, a cloned one is simply grown for them and programmed with their last backup. Further, everyone has a Whuffie score, a constantly updated log of how much respect is afforded to you by your peers (it’s an insecure type of meritocracy). In this time of endless luxury, and a ridiculously endless buffet of life choices, Disney World remains a primary tourist attraction, and its most ardent supporter is clueless protagonist Jules, who works there with girlfriend Lil. When a new team of engineers plan to remake the old-school Disney attractions like the Hall of Presidents and the Haunted Mansion into virtual reality all-sensory assaults, Jules feels strangely protective. He’s already died and been rebooted three times, so it’s not that big a deal, but when Jules’s competitors have him shot and killed, it’s still irritating. Meanwhile, Jules is trying to help out his suicidal friend Greg and also wondering why he shouldn’t just do like more and more of the bored population and simply deadhead—go intro cryogenic sleep until the world gets more interesting.
The language has pop and the ideas are launched from the page with plenty of fizz, but Doctorow ultimately hamstrings himself with a monumentally trivial storyline.