Matt's Reviews > Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow
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Jun 02, 2008

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Read in January, 2008

I'm torn when it comes to Cory Doctorow. In one sense, I am totally into the fact that the guy is obviously a student of 80's cyberpunk and computer technology in general. However, when I read this book, something didn't seem right about the whole thing. The best analogy I can come up with is working hard all day and thinking about eating steak for dinner, but then coming home to find out that you're getting a McDonald's cheeseburger. The technology and the ideas are there, but the story did not fill me with that rush that every serious reader is familar with.

The book is set sometime in the distant future, where death is but a minor inconvenience while you download to a new body and everyone has a network interface in their brain. Basically, when meeting someone for the first time, they are talking to you and googling you simultaneously. The story takes place in Disneyland, where ad hoc committees run the show. Two factions are vying for power. The first wants to keep the attractions as they have always been, while the second wants to use equipment to project the attractions directly to the visitors' brain interfaces.

One of the more interesting concepts in this book was the idea of currency. There are two kinds. One being the standard dollar in a more virtual sense than even we think of it now, the other being Whuffies. Whuffies are basically a currency of esteem or respect. What I found frustrating is that Doctorow never delves into the idea of Whuffies to my satisfaction. The reader is unsure how one accumulates or spends Whuffies, or the exact advantages of having a large quantity. In today's world, such a thing would seem like basically a tool for everyday retribution against strangers. Someone cuts you off in traffic - cha-ching - that'll cost you five Whuffies, buddy.

Despite all of the griping, if you are a student of cyberpunk, you will definitely want to give this a look.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Sandi I think you analyzed this book much better than I did. I wish there had been at least a brief explanation of Whuffies.


Jonatron "One of the more interesting concepts in this book was the idea of currency. There are two kinds. One being the standard dollar in a more virtual sense than even we think of it now"

Hmm? Where? Isn't the whole premise of whuffie that money's been abolished?


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