Angela's Reviews > Makers

Makers by Cory Doctorow
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Feb 01, 2012

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Read in January, 2012

Some 30 years after the Reagan revolution transformed the American economy and refocused all our resources on a wealth transfer to the richest among us, we can see that the goals of that Revolution have been nearly completed. The middle class is disappearing rapidly and well on its way to being converted into a huge mass of people who can no longer be called working class since the jobs have disappeared. Without a socialist intervention in the very near future, America can expect to end up in a kind of neo-feudal economy, having a tiny number of extremely wealthy people with the rest of the population struggling to survive, and corporate entities replacing the feudal warlords of old. This is the kind of world that Makers is set in.

This kind of economic cycle certainly wasn't invented by Reagan; in fact the reforms that Reagan and later Bush/Cheney dismantled to make the haves into "have-mores" dated from attempts to recover from such a wealth transfer in the 1920s and prevent it from happening again. The difference is the landscape of the ruined economy, with huge amounts of non-biodegradable debris everywhere for the taking, and the masses themselves having such technological skills and know-how that never could have existed in a previous age. So Makers takes us on a kind of optimistic journey through that ruined America. Americans always were good at making things in the past, and even though the corporate media tells us again and again that we can't possibly tackle problems like global warming without harming the "economy" or the "job-creators," this is still the country that went from theory to atom bomb in four years or from zero to moon in ten. So Doctorow probably isn't all that off-base when he imagines people freed from work in a traditional sense throwing themselves into the process of creating new things from the rubbish of a more wasteful time. He certainly gives us a lot of interesting sociological food for thought in this novel.

I'm only giving him three stars, however, because as interesting as his ideas are, they are just that, interesting ideas. It doesn't make for an interesting or exciting story because the characters never really come alive for me. I like character-driven work, and as much detail as he gives us about the main characters, I only ever found myself empathizing with one of them- the relatively minor Death Waits, the young goth kid who naively kept stumbling into situations he really didn't understand. The rest of them seemed more like hat stands for hanging ideas onto.
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