Disappointed with Makers by Cory Doctorow

Alan Gave me ‘Makers‘ by Cory Doctorow for Christmas. It’s a novel set in the near future, focussing mostly on the possible counter-corporate implications of hacking things up with 3D printers (these are the new and rather cool devices that allow you to print 3D objects), along with many other things such as a putative and backfiring solution to obesity in the US, and US squatter camps.  Long a staple of sci-fi, replicators that can make anything you need to order are very cool, the dislocations they might bring are large, and I’ve not read much fiction about them – so I was looking forward to the book, and willing it to be good.  I kept willing it to be good all the way through, but in the end it simply wasn’t.  Worth reading if you have a pretty high appetite for books, but if you only read a one or two books a month then there are far better ones to have on your list.

That’s not to say that there weren’t good bits.  I loved the way the Disney replicators were described, with little mechanical imps doing the assembly – just like you might find in a Terry Pratchett book, and every bit as cool.  I liked snatches of the characterizations where people came to grips with what being a leader meant.  I loved that he waded into the way that Disney was viewed, and seems to have got himself comfortable with the legal exposure.

But, the flow of the story was very staccato – with some parts glossed over wildly, and yet still managing to be rather too long. The end especially managed to dystopically peter out – almost like Cory ran out of ideas on plot and simply tried to tie the loose threads off somehow, but guarding against a happy ending.  The thinking about how the economics and business side would work felt weak – I cannot imagine anyone not realising that large-scale copyright infringement was likely to be a legal issue for example.  The obesity sub-plot just awkwardly got in the way.  But, least forgiveable for me was the general lack of depth and development in the characters. It was obvious that this was thought about, but it seemed to be done in rough lumps. like a sculptors first mock-up of a statue.  As an example of one of the better ones, the arch corporate villain sort of had a change of heart, but was forgiven by others  for deeds that it had previously been clear they would never stand.  I would almost have preferred that the characters were properly one dimensional rather than the occasional snatches that made you hope – the gulf from this to the Alexandria Quartet that I read a few months ago was stark.

Summing up, it felt like a book that could have been great, from an author with imagination in spades … but a book that needed a lot more polishing.

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