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Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town

3.52 of 5 stars 3.52  ·  rating details  ·  2,420 ratings  ·  293 reviews
Alan is a middle-aged entrepreneur in contemporary Toronto, who has devoted himself to fixing up a house in a bohemian neighborhood. This naturally brings him in contact with the house full of students and layabouts next door, including a young woman who, in a moment of stress, reveals to him that she has wings--wings, moreover, which grow back after each attempt to cut th
Paperback, 315 pages
Published May 30th 2006 by Tor Books (first published 2005)
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Little Brother by Cory DoctorowBlindsight by Peter WattsEmber by Bettie SharpeTyphoon by MCMSendai Calling by MCM
Free Creative Commons Novels
7th out of 38 books — 29 voters
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. TolkienEnder's Game by Orson Scott CardDune by Frank HerbertThe Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsHarry Potter Boxset by J.K. Rowling
Sci-Fi and Fantasy Must Reads
445th out of 1,258 books — 1,306 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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This novel contained two stories that were smushed together in a not-entirely-convincing way: a story about blanketing a neighborhood in Toronto with free WiFi, something I'd expect from author Cory Doctorow, and a story about a man whose parents are a mountain and a washing machine, a magical realism twist that I wasn't expecting. The result felt incomplete since neither story was fully fleshed out, and they just didn't seem to go together. The WiFi plot seemed like it was just a platform for t ...more
Nov 19, 2010 Fritz added it
This maddening book contains two major plot threads which happen to be, respectively, the least banal and most banal I have ever encountered:

Least Banal: The protagonist's father was a mountain and his mother was a washing machine. He is trying to save his brothers, who may or may not have been eaten by another of his brothers, a zombie whom he himself killed years earlier. I wish stories like this were spread on every morning's breakfast toast.

Most Banal: The context for the brother-hunt is the
This is one of those books that makes strenuous demands on the reader, defying classification and pushing metaphor as far as it will go. Depending on whether you throw it down in disgust or allow it to seduce you, you will love it or hate it but you cannot remain unmoved by this stunning tour de force unless you have the imagination of a pea. But then you would never have found this book.

Raised in a dysfunctional family by a remote father and a mother who provides only comfort and clean clothes,
A truly weird read. We meet the central character, Alan, as he prepares to move into his new apartment by sanding the floors obsessively, then rocks up on his unknown neighbours' doorstep early in the morning with coffees for everyone, and insists they get out of bed to be sociable. This is the protagonist? How can we ever empathise with him?

The story gets ever stranger as Alan's throwaway references to his father the mountain, his mother the washing machine and his nesting dolls of brothers pro
Ruby  Tombstone [Uncensored or Else]
There were some amazing beginnings in this book. Or some potentially amazing ideas. That is, they could have been amazing ideas, had Doctorow seen any of them through to completion. While that is almost the hallmark of Doctorow's novels, I found that the first three in particular were so scattered and poorly structured that the ideas themselves actually suffered. In this case there are also two main stories at play which really have very little to do with each other: the story of A and his bizar ...more
Astray Penguin
I felt the book had a lot of promise but failed to deliver on it. The story seems to just be the beginning and then comes to a climax of the side story while leaving the main completely in the dark.

I enjoyed some of the characters, but found them to act at random and be dull in general. Relationships were unexplained and why two characters team up together is just impossible to work out.

I also feel the book is too much of a political statement by the author. The more I read about the Wireless ne
Intriguing but ultimately unsuccessful mixture of magical realism and technopunk. Doctorow does not lack for creativity, but he does lack focus... and perhaps either a good editor or the willingness to listen to the one he has. There are numerous problems: the two strands of the story don't fit together well, the narrative jumps back and forth haphazardly (at times leaving the impression that whole sections have been inadvertently left out), the ending leaves too much unresolved (in sort of the ...more
The first 18 pages described the perfect house for a bibliophile. Yes! Walls that have bookshelves, floor to ceiling, filled with books, in every room --- perfection. I wanted to live there.

After page 18, the novel focussed on other areas. I wasn't pulled into the events post-page 18, but I was willing to give the novel some time to tell its story.

I tossed the novel when it began describing how our hero's brothers were birthed by his mother (around pages 35-40). It wasn't gross or anything lik
First, read the description. Now you know why I had to pick this book up. It is some of the most original and unique fantasy I've read. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the world Doctorow creates. He's also has some interesting ideas about writing. My particular favorite was the way he played with the names of his characters. That said, I did have some problems with the plot. I couldn't rap my mind around how Alan would get distracted from a family members murder, which could easily be followed by ...more
Up until recently, I’d been avoiding Cory Doctorow’s books. Seriously! I would have these internal dialogues every time I saw one of his books at the store:

Good Me: “Hey, Cory Doctorow has a new book out. He’s supposed to be awesome.”

Evil Me: “Don’t believe the hype, you wannabe hipster. That dude is totally milking his involvement in the blog phenomenon. He can’t be as ‘all that’ as they say. Nobody’s that ‘all that.’”

GM: “If you say so. I just heard he’s a good writer, is all.”

There were moments when I was thinking, 5 star book? But no... while this book was a very enjoyable read, something I was glad to read rather than having felt like I was just sort of killing time in a not unpleasant fashion, 3 star style, it has a couple of flaws.

First, it is a novel of x,y,z, and internet connectivity. The IC is a hobbyhorse of the author, but does not actually contribute anything to the plot of this book, other than to give the protagonist an excuse for a friend. Second, weak
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Patrick H
Cory Doctorow is somewhat famous on the Internet.

A journalist, blogger, sci-fi writer, and liberal-copyright proponent, Doctorow should know better than to write a book that makes no sense.

The main character--who is called "Alan" initially but answers to and is referred to by any masculine name beginning with A--and his siblings are all children of a mountain and a washing machine.

One of Alan's sibling is prophetic, one is undead, one is an island, and three are Russian nesting dolls.

And that's
Patrick O'Neil
Jul 29, 2008 Patrick O'Neil rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Fans of science-fiction/fantasy, or just plain wierd (in a good way) books
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aldus's dad is a mountain and his mom is a washing-machine. He has six brothers. One can see into the future. One is an island. Another was evil, and is dead now. The final three can fit inside of each other like Russian nesting dolls.

As the story begins, he's moving into a new place where he plans on writing a story, although he has no idea what the story will be. He meets his neighbors, a bunch of punks who think he's extremely strange. Because he is. He's very interested in one of the girls
May 24, 2008 Morgan rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Morgan by: Sean Cote
Shelves: fantastical
(Because Sean Cote is evil.)

I loved the premise for the book, which was all the information I could get about it when Sean handed it to me in the midst of a barrage of props tasks for the day. I mean, who comes up with things like that? Amazing.

It started off great. I love Alan's flashbacks, detailing his life as an outsider and what it was like living at home.

But then all the technobabble entered the picture, all the stuff with the wireless access points that occupied a large proportion of the
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
I first read this around the time that it was new. And even though it's only been seven years, the tech-related parts of it already feel kind of dated. Laptops are still a thing, but smartphones are so much more of a thing that it seems odd that the characters in this story are so incredulous about phones being used to do Internet stuff.

I remember being blown away at the time that I read it. The city-wide wifi network built by homeless kids and a professional dumpster diver; the name-shifting ch
I started reading this book a couple of times, but just recently completed a successful run at it. I enjoy it - yet it wasn't quite a four-star read for me, though it was wonderfully inventive and unique.

It's a fable-like story, and that's both a good thing and a bad thing. The characters are clever on the surface, but they remain archetypal - even the more "ordinary" ones feel less like people and more like sketches. This seems largely intentional - but still, it's distancing. Like Russian nest
Stuart Langridge

Alan is a middle-aged entrepeneur in contemporary Toronto, who has devoted himself to fixing up a house in a bohemian neighborhood. This naturally brings him in contact with the house full of students and layabouts next door, including a young woman who, in a moment of stress, reveals to him that she has wings--wings, moreover, which grow back after each attempt to cut them off. Alan understands. He himself has a secret or two. His father is a mountain; his mother is a washing machine; a

The real rating: 3.5
I love the book, really satisfies my craving of odd stories. It's just that, I don't really understand it. I want a clear insight:
(view spoiler)

A lot of bizarre things in this book: the characters, the storyline sequence, the plot.

How do you feel about the background of the protagonist: he's a man, a son of a washing machine and a mountain, with 4 pecul
LynAnne Smucker
At first I really didn't like the main character, but as the book went on I realized that part of what I didn't like about him was that he was so controlling, but in a polite sort of creepy way. However, as the book progressed, and Alan's past story unfolds you begin to understand why he is who/what he is. Strange story, lots of interesting characters, and I have no good way to say exactly what I liked, but a fasinating quirky love story in the end.
A guy whose father is a mountain and whose mother is a washing machine (and no, this is not metaphorical, that's really what they are, and one of his brothers really is an island and not in the John Donne way) gets involved with a winged girl and tries to bring wireless connectivity to Toronto while battling his murderous dead brother.
I am not making this up.
I thought this book looked like it would be a unique read. And it is. I kept reading because I truly enjoyed the author's writing style, even as I began to care less and less about the story itself. The book has two tales that it follows, the one of Alan (or any other male "A" name) and his family, while the other is about Alan trying to help set up free wireless internet for his area. The first one was interesting, for the members of the family were not made up of the usual characters. The seco ...more
Molto strano.
Ci sono due storie: nella prima Alan cerca di creare un circuito wi-fi libero nella città, nella seconda va a caccia del fratello che ha ucciso i suoi tre fratelli.
La prima è molto alla Cory Doctorow, ma non mi è piaciuta molto, l'ho trovata un po' noiosa e di sfondo alla vicenda principale (uno sfondo inutile direi).
La seconda è quella veramente geniale: Alan è figlio di una montagna e di una lavatrice, ha tre fratelli "matriosca", un fratello sensitivo e un fratello cadavere, e si
Wow ... and that's not a good "wow". It's a "wow" as in "Wow, how could the most excellent author of Little Brother have written this mess of a story?!" Mess is the perfect way to describe it. It has moments of beauty, wonderful elements of fancy ... but it is, above all, a very frustrating mess of stories and characters.

Stories: One is a story of a man who's father is a mountain and who's mother a washing machine ... no, really. Strong elements of fantasy and there would have been a strong sto
Wesley George
I discovered Doctorow after reading his essay "The Coming War on General Purpose Computing"

When I found that he had a number of novels, all licensed CC and therefore free to download, I pulled the entire set onto my kindle mainly out of curiosity, and I've been happy with most of the other stories I've read. Most of his stuff is thoughtful and thought-provoking, and attractive to computer/networking geeks like me because he speaks our language-- correctly
May 07, 2011 Tina rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: not sure
Recommended to Tina by: random find in the library!
What to say about this book? At times too wordy, at times heartbreaking, at times hilarious, and at times bizarre. This book, I can't say that I loved it, but I enjoyed it very much. The strange pseudo-reality that Doctorow created drew me in and Alan was such an intriguing character. I enjoyed how the normalcy of life was given a touch of magic with the "magical" characters. I liked how there was no real explanation for why certain characters were "magical" (I'm not sure what other adjective to ...more
I had heard many good things about Mr Doctorow and had some expectations for his works. In the beginning the novel delivered, the quirky details casually dropped among the narration left me a bit flabbergasted and very curious to hear more. The details formed into a picture relatively slowly, but the well written main narration kept interest up even in the more mundane.

Surprisingly, however, the interest started to wane a bit as the fantastical took a more equal part in the whole. The small hin
Althea Ann
Doctorow's a really interesting person – editor of the "blog" (which always has links to really cool stuff on a regular basis), college dropout and professor at the University of California, Locus & Campbell Award winner & Nebula nominee, pro-Creative Commons activist, and all-around emblem of geek-cool.
"Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town" is Doctorow's third novel, but the first I've read. Stylistically and thematically, it reminded me of Will Shetterly-meets-Neil
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Canadian blogger, journalist and science fiction author who serves as co-editor of the blog Boing Boing.

He is an activist in favor of liberalizing copyright laws and a proponent of the Creative Commons organization, using some of their licenses for his books.

Some common themes of his work include digital rights management, file sharing, Disney, and post-scarcity economics.
More about Cory Doctorow...
Little Brother (Little Brother, #1) Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom For the Win Homeland (Little Brother, #2) Makers

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“All secrets become deep. All secrets become dark. That's in the nature of secrets.” 49 likes
“You know, there comes a point where you're not giving advice anymore. There comes a point where you're just moralizing, demonstrating your hypothetical superiority when it comes to doing the right thing. That's not very fucking helpful, you know. I'm holding my shit together right now, and rather than telling me that it's not enough, you could try to help me with the stuff I'm capable of.” 8 likes
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