Julie H.'s Reviews > Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow
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's review
Sep 09, 2012

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bookshelves: sci-fi
Read in September, 2012

Without doubt, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom has at its core a particularly clever premise. It's set in a future world where the Bitchun Society has overcome reality as we know it via promoting an alternative to death. In short, the living periodically upload their memories and, upon death, those who have authorized it can be reuploaded to a clone. (Sadly, the logistics of the clone part--clone of what, exactly?--were never explained.) Moreover, if folks want to just "tune out" for a while, they can have their data placed in futuristic storage (virtual canopic jars a la Lil's parents?) for future download. This process is aptly named "deadheading."

All the great themes were here: what happens when people who will never die run out of experiences?; what happens to proxemics and "personal space" in an ever-crowded world/galaxy?; how do you retain friendships that could conceivably span multiple reanimations across multiple worlds (folks are still living on what might be Earth as well as "off world")?; if given the opportunity to present oneself at any age which one would you chose and why? (the Disneyland doctor manifesting as an older gentleman so as to be comforting to the ill or injured was brilliant in light of such actual Disney-related scholarship such as The Architecture of Reassurance); what are an individual's--let alone society's--obligations to prevent suicide? (This is by no means an exhaustive list.) My point, of course, is that while clever in concept, I didn't find that the writing actually did justice to these issues--most of which were raised here, just not as deftly handled as I'd have hoped. That's not to say that this wasn't a fun romp, because it most certainly was. And the commentary on Disney--and on the fans gone amok--was positvely inspired. But the resolution of the actual big questions, as related to our trio of main characters (i.e., Jules, Lil, and Dan) wasn't satisfying--that is, I'm not opposed to how things worked out, just that the characters' own rationale for much of it remains unclear.

To my mind, a much more thoughtful exploration of the sorts of "What ifs..." raised here are to be found in such works as Drew Magary's The Postmortal.
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