Fight for the future 

Science-fiction/ technology writer Cory Doctorow wins the vanguard award for this week. He is one of the first few authors to take advantage of Creative Commons, a new trend in Internet publishing propagation. The licensing agreement allows his work to be downloaded and distributed freely by all, so long as the author is properly credited. This marketing tactic is supremely appropriate given the monetary-free, esteem-driven society the author fosters in his sci-fi comic romp Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.

Doctorow's story unfolds inside Disney World and the surrounding Kissimmee, Fla., area, where ad-hoc groups of employees, or cast members, vie for control of the theme park's fate. The action quickly zeros in on Liberty Square and the narrator Jules, whose efforts to save the beloved Haunted Mansion from virtual death become precarious when the Hall of Presidents falls to a militant rival ad-hoc. Bizarre and clever stuff to be sure.

Problems emerge when the author aims for more human elements. Creating an incredibly detailed future society apparently left little room for its inhabitants to be anything more than passing shades of pleasant, anxious, disenchanted or cute. Clumsy similes and cliched descriptions abound whenever Doctorow explores any true emotional connections.

However, as shortfalls go, this one isn't an all-together shame. Thanks to stronger elements of mystery and a rivalry that playfully renders even Disney's lauded animatronics Luddite-ready, most of the players come off engaging enough.

The real joy in Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom comes from deciphering the lingo without a primer, and reassessing this industriously inventive amusement park as each new piece is revealed. Doctorow is at his gleeful, nerdy best when lacing relevant material about the world of his characters into the simplest of off-hand remarks. It's a good sport for fans of the genre, technology junkies and the more adventurous of everyday readers.

Wade through the prologue for some relative immersion in the dialect. By Chapter 3 you'll be so very over deadheading and ready to flash bake the gestalt of this quick read on your brain while your Whuffie ping sails off the charts.

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow. Tom Doherty Associates/Tor Books.



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