Makers by Cory Doctorow

It’s about time I started reading some of the work by Cory Doctorow, the prolific near-future prognosticator who famously co-started Boing Boing. He’s written a heap of books written about the future just-around-the-corner, and he backs it up with insights gleaned from his deep connections to internet and nerd culture.

Makers moves between connected characters: Suzanne the tech journalist;  Perry and Lester, mad inventors squatting in a junkyard in Florida; Landon and Tjan, business-people trying to spin Perry and Lester’s ideas into profitable enterprise. Along the way they struggle with the law, find love, and transform the world economy.

It sounds like it’s written for me, but I didn’t feel much chemistry here. While there were aspects to Makers that I really enjoyed, on the whole I found the book took a lot of effort to pick up – particularly during the second half, which is mired in legal battles that even the characters themselves find boring. There’s some small-world issues that make the story feel a little implausible – this single pair of inventors’ creations keep meeting enormous success, yet they’re universally unrecognized despite being worshipped as the faces of the New Work economy on the most popular blog in the world. Weirdly – although he spells out radical changes in the short term, the more he spins out into the future the more difficulty he seems to have getting away from the present.

Things I liked? Doctorow’s mining a rich vein of influences in his descriptions of the imminent future. Network clustered Tickle-me-elmo swarms. Goth Disneyworld. The radical metabolic Fatkins diet. There’s a lot of gold nuggets strewn throughout the text, but you’ve got to work for them. I particularly dig some of the notions he puts forward about squatter communities, hacking hardware and emergent storytelling. Maybe worth a read – but if you ask me about it I can just summarize all the good bits for you. 🙂

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