A strangely lifeless outing from Canadian author and blogger Doctorow.
The author again combines cutting-edge technology with libertarian ideas in his latest novel, set in a near-future America. A group of corporate-funded hardware engineers in Florida perfect a three-dimensional printer that allows products of all kinds to be churned out with little effort. The corporation tanks, but the printer technology spreads throughout society, and the out-of-work engineers independently use it to create their own amusement-park rides. Walt Disney Company executives, unamused, use lawsuits and shady corporate espionage to try and bring the creators down. Doctorow rides several of his usual hobbyhorses, particularly focusing on open-source technology, intellectual-property law and crowdsourcing; his obsession with Disney goes back to his debut (Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, 2003). But while the brilliant Little Brother (2008) meshed similar ideas with appealing characters and a sharp, fast-paced thriller plot, this aimless follow-up lacks the visceral narrative drive of Doctorow’s previous work. Indeed, many of its two-dimensional characters—techies, bloggers, corporate types and goth teenagers—seem to exist merely as mouthpieces for the author’s views, while the plot drifts along with little urgency.
Uncharacteristically bland and disappointing.