Kaus Wei's Reviews > Makers

Makers by Cory Doctorow
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's review
Mar 15, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: will-not-read-again

I went into this book not really knowing what to expect (save for what the back cover promised me), but hoping for something engaging and quirky. I got neither.

This is a very present-oriented book (present being 2008 [or so]). It suffers from an abundance of brand dropping and colloquialisms that will mean nothing in a hundred years, and lacks an abundance of brands and colloquialisms that are current (such as facebook) that render it already dated. All this renders it rather unre-readable. True, scholars of ancient linguistics, or future anthropologists might find it fascinating, but with 2008 still accessible to my memory, the book just comes off as dated (and probably will for the next 100 years [after that, who knows, maybe it will qualify as quirky, or quaint]).

The inventions and ideas presented are novel and intriguing, and most of them go nowhere. They just languish in the ether waiting and dreaming; wanting to be of use again. The one concept that keeps popping up (and is arguably the central invention of the story)---the 3D printer---has actually been in the news of late, as some individuals have set out to print those parts of guns that do not require a machine shop. But even the 3D printers in the story suffer, since in reality they are already entering the 'early-adopter' phase, with ubiquity (probably) not far behind.

And the there were the sex scenes. They were just about unbearable. I have read my share of sex scenes, but these were just horrible. If there was a way to make sex, un-sexy, the author has found it.

The characters meant to serve as the protagonists were all narcissistic and unappealing. I will grant that during the first quarter of the book, Lester was an intriguing (and even endearing) character, but then the author assassinated him, and dropped in a replacement. After that, there are almost no characters with redeeming qualities, save for perhaps Tjan, Eva, and their respective children. There is even an attempt to endear the designated businessman to us, by giving him a completely asinine nickname. And then using it constantly throughout the novel. It was a bad one-off joke, and an even worse running gag. Repeating the joke incessantly does not make it funny.

Sammy, the original antagonist of the story, suffers from a total reversal of allegiance---and character assassination---during the last fifth of the book, becoming an ally to the designated protagonists. When I saw where this was going, it actually pissed me off. Here was the antagonist, a character that I had grown to loath, and wished to see terrible and brutal things see visited upon, being turned into a good guy---during the last fifth of the book! Based upon personal revelations that come seemingly from nowhere!! And the 'protagonists' welcome him (after about a page and a half of hand-wringing)!!! After his actions were responsible for a debilitating attack upon an 18 (maybe 19) year old kid!!!! And I am supposed to like these people!?

I call bull!

The (questionable) climax of the story comes with the second-string antagonist (an unredeemable British tabloid journalist) getting his comeuppance during a live TV segment. He is humiliated before the world for having the gall to poke and needle the protagonists, while our friend Sammy goes on making money for Disney, never having seen the inside of a jail for ordering what amounts to a hit on a borderline-juvenile.

I call more bull!

As with 'John Dies at the End', I see what the author was trying to do (and he came a lot closer than JDatE ever did, but he still missed the target. That is the danger of writing near-future fiction. Maybe his stuff will garner the same kind of following as H.G. Wells, or Jules Verne, but I doubt it. There are just to many time-sensitive names for it to be anything but antique kitsch. And the lack of relateable characters will do it no favour in the future.

And I get that the world is not a perfect place, and that the victories are not always clean, but if that is the route to be taken, stick to it. Do not try and redeem and unredeemable character; just make it the cost of doing business.

Overall, the book was good enough to keep me reading (for the most part). But knowing what I know now, given the chance, I would not have picked it up.

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