Read Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow Online


On The Skids In The Transhuman FutureJules is a young man barely a century old. He's lived long enough to see the cure for death and the end of scarcity, to learn ten languages and compose three symphonies...and to realize his boyhood dream of taking up residence in Disney World.Disney World! The greatest artistic achievement of the long-ago twentieth century. Now in the kOn The Skids In The Transhuman FutureJules is a young man barely a century old. He's lived long enough to see the cure for death and the end of scarcity, to learn ten languages and compose three symphonies...and to realize his boyhood dream of taking up residence in Disney World.Disney World! The greatest artistic achievement of the long-ago twentieth century. Now in the keeping of a network of "ad-hocs" who keep the classic attractions running as they always have, enhanced with only the smallest high-tech touches.Now, though, the "ad hocs" are under attack. A new group has taken over the Hall of the Presidents, and is replacing its venerable audioanimatronics with new, immersive direct-to-brain interfaces that give guests the illusion of being Washington, Lincoln, and all the others. For Jules, this is an attack on the artistic purity of Disney World itself. Worse: it appears this new group has had Jules killed. This upsets him. (It's only his fourth death and revival, after all.) Now it's war.......

Title : Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780765309532
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 208 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom Reviews

  • Brad
    2019-03-25 08:34

    One of the many complaints I hear about Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is that it is "shallow." Readers see a shallowness in character, a shallowness in the work they choose, a shallowness in story depth, and a shallowness in the story's morality. I don't see it myself. Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom may seem shallow, but there is a great deal of depth to be found if one approaches the book with a willingness to overcome the prejudices and perspectives of our current culture, to project oneself into the mindset and morality of the future world Doctorow has created.I won't go into the story itself with any detail, as I don't want to spoil anything, but Doctorow's finest achievement in Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is the way he explores the question of morality. In a world where death and disease are over, where scarcity is barely remembered, it becomes clear that morality, even our morality today, is formed and shaped by mortality -- or the lack thereof.The only real immorality in Down and Out seems to be the destruction of another's work. Only the tangible creations of an individual or a team ("ad-hoc") have value. Adultery, theft, destruction and even murder have no real negative value. They may reduce a person's prestige ("Whuffie") for a short time, but it is not difficult for the "victim" of any of these crimes to remain close friends or become close friends with his or her "victimizers" once he or she is "rebooted."What this suggests for ourselves is fascinating: that morality itself is based on our mortality. The shortness of our lives, the moment of death that we all face, is the ultimate arbiter of what is right and wrong. I am sure some would say, "So what? That doesn't change anything. Wrong is wrong. Bad is bad. Evil is evil." Perhaps. But perhaps not, and what makes Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom a victory for me is that it makes me wonder about the perhaps not.Anything that makes us consider our morality rather than just blindly accepting what has been passed down to us is a good thing, as far as I am concerned. And so that leaves me with one nagging question: how can a book that expects us to make considerations about mortality and morality really be considered shallow? Very simply, it can't be.

  • j
    2019-03-07 04:37

    Even though I find him massively annoying in the way I always find professional bloggers annoying (read: if I am honest with myself, it probably has mostly to do with jealousy), I have to admit, I think it is pretty cool that Cory Doctorow gives away all of his books for free (the smug bastard). I listened to a surprisingly well-produced amateur audiobook of this one about a year ago (you can probably still grab it free from... wherever it was I found it. and even though I didn't love it, I do think of it from time to time, to the degree that I am considering foisting it upon my real world book club, because I think it would be really easy to find stuff to say about it. I mean, I want to talk about Battlestar Galactica and Tron too, but we should probably try to focus a little on the book.So anyway, as you might expect from someone who makes a living being adored on the internet, here Cory Doctorow has engineered a world where everyone is immortal (thanks to digital memory backups that can be downloaded into clone bodies) and connected to social networks all the time (literally, via implants in their brains and eyes!). If your society is going to eliminate death, you better well have all the other animal needs taken care of, and this one seems to: there is no hunger, pollution isn't an issue, and traditional concepts of wealth-through-accumulation-of-things are a thing of the past (note the book is unclear on whether this is the case everywhere; maybe, say, Ghana has been allowed to just quietly go about its business).Instead of money, status is determined through a true social currency: others' esteem, a system Doctorow has given the stupid but memorable name "whuffie." Like an extreme extension of re-tweets, you earn more whuffie if people look at you as an influencer, an innovator: someone worth knowing. Do something dumb and they can take their whuffie back. Like Homer says, in Doctorow's world, first you get the sugar, then you get the whuffie, then you get the women (note: I know this isn't really a Simpsons quote, shut up).So this is the interesting idea at the core of this book, which is really just an extended demonstration of the concept adorned with additional sci-fi ideas (digital immortality!) in a fun setting, namely (obviously) Disney World, where the rather unlikeable main character works as an "Imagineer," perfecting the "guest experience" of decades old theme park attractions while remaining slavishly faithful to their nostalgic qualities. This should be super fun for me, because I am a nerd who has read blogs (blogs!) about the development of Disney attractions. But even though the book is very short, I kind of got sick of it after a while. The characters are all pretty unlikeable (no whuffie from me!), and once the whole social/economic system has been thoroughly explained and explored, there's not a lot to go on, despite the effort to turn tweaks to The Haunted Mansion and the Hall of Presidents into a high-stakes political game (memo to Imagineers: The HOP is where people go to cool off; consider relaunching it as The Hall of Naps). I mean, there are multiple murders and it is still rather dull, mostly because they don't really factor (and Doctorow pretty much sidesteps the whole theological angle, though he's probably right that people wouldn't worry about that too much once they realized they could actually live forever -- I want to know what happens next too, after all).Still, it explores some fun ideas. And it's free and available for download now! I mean, so is everything else, but at least you don't have to steal this one.

  • Lyn
    2019-03-10 01:34

    Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, Cory Doctorow’s debut novel first published in 2003 is a uniquely anti-dystopian science fiction offering in a landscape of post-apocalyptic also-rans.In a world where many writers are dreaming up new variations on the old 1984 theme, Doctorow delivers a pleasingly nonconformist tale where most pestilential elements of the dystopian brand have been made a thing of the past. There is enough food in the world, illness has been all but eliminated and people get to do about whatever they want.Living in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is what Julius wants and he gets it.This reminds me somewhat of the far future sections of Poul Anderson’s The Boat of a Million Years and also the upload consciousness and reviving / renewing / rejuvenating body themes of Anderson’s Harvest of Stars, Heinlein’s Time Enough for Love, and Scalzi’s Old Man's War. Get cancer? Plug into a new body. Old age getting you down? Rejuvenate down to an apparent age of twenty. Can’t get rid of that cold? Record a back up and start again.His use of neologisms and the ad-hocracy neuvo anarchism is reminiscent of Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, but without the ultraviolence.At least, without most of the crime.Amidst the seemingly perfect world, Doctorow demonstrates that human nature doesn’t change and there is nothing new under even an ideal sun. Doctorow’s prose is fresh and sophisticated, urbane and intelligent and this is a very good book from a talented writer with original ideas.

  • Geoff Carter
    2019-02-27 09:15

    Messy, unfocused. Characters are poorly-formed and unlikeable. Doctorow starts out with several intriguing conceits -- eternal life though computer-style backups and clones, the evolution of themed environments, hard currency replaced by popular esteem -- but he can't decide which one he finds most intriguing, and he even loses those prime notions a few times through needless tangents.Doctorow obviously loves the cyberpunk novels of Neal Stephenson (which are themselves a tangle of ideas and tangents, with the characters clinging on for dear life), but "Magic Kingdom" is no "Snow Crash." It's "Snow Crash" cut with lots and lots of Drano. Doctorow writes great nonfiction for Boing Boing and the like, but his fiction is a muddle.

  • YouKneeK
    2019-03-02 06:31

    Like I often do, I went into this book blind, not knowing anything about the plot, and I assumed the title was some sort of a metaphor for a superficial society. In fact, most of the book is actually set within Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. My progress through the book went something like this:1. At the end of the prologue, I was positive I would hate this book. 2. At the end of chapter 1, I decided there might be some hope after all. 3. Somewhere around the middle of the book, I realized my Kindle had permanently affixed itself into my hands. 4. When I finished the book, on the same day I had started it, I just sat there thinking, “How on Earth am I going to rate this?”This is a science fiction story that takes place in the future, and life on Earth has changed a lot. Everybody’s brain is hooked up directly to an Internet-like interface that people can use to pull up information at any time. The way people react to you, to the things you do and the way you act, are instantly translated into a “Whuffie” score. This works as a sort of currency; there’s no longer any actual money. There’s also no more death. You can make a “backup” of yourself whenever you want and, if you die, a clone is grown and your memories are restored from the backup. This has become so common-place that nearly everybody will have themselves killed just to avoid sitting through a long trip in “real time”.The world-building was pretty interesting. The characters were also interesting but, in retrospect, not very likeable. The plot itself is a little thin, basically centering on an argument about whether to change the attractions in the Liberty Square section of the Magic Kingdom. It doesn’t sound like a particularly exciting plot, especially to somebody like me who has no attachment to the Magic Kingdom whatsoever, but the book held my interest anyway.I’m not sure how I felt about the ending. In the prologue, we were pretty much told how the story would end, but the reader doesn’t know enough at that point to understand what they’ve been told. Still, if you have any sort of reading retention skills, you’re probably going to know how the story ends long before it happens. It was the stuff that happened a little bit before the very end that surprised me more. I don’t think I was very satisfied by the ending, even if it seemed appropriate in a way. I like to at least see some sense of change, preferably improvement, at the end of a story, but I didn’t feel like anything significant had changed by the end.I’m torn between giving this three or four stars. BookLikes makes this easy; I can just give it 3.5 stars. But on Goodreads, do I round up or round down? I decided to round down because I don’t think I enjoyed this quite on the same level as what I would usually expect from a four-star book.If you made it this far and you’re interested in trying the book, I found it for free at the author’s web site:

  • Brooke
    2019-03-12 06:22

    Cory Doctorow's novella spins a tale set in the "Bitchun society" - a time in the future where death has been cured and money has been replaced by a system of respect/popularity points that's immediately accessible since everyone somehow has the internet in their heads now.The "Magic Kingdom" referenced in the title is THE Magic Kingdom - the story takes place in Disney World, which has taken on an elevated importance in a world where people no longer have jobs or, essentially, purpose. It's short and breezy, yet thought-provoking - despite all the changes technology has enabled, the main character clings to keeping the rides at Disney World in their original form and freaks out when someone threatens to update them.

  • Simon Rindy
    2019-03-25 08:24

    Here we are, living and dying (again) in Orange County, FLA.Thought provoking cocktail party fodder. I disliked Doctorow’s mitten-fisted writing, banal hippie-dippy characters (Beatles references included); however, the points I found interesting don’t concern the people as much as the technology.Don't bother to savor the words. Read it quickly for the premise, then debate the promise of "TomorrowLand."Essentially a problematic book that I disliked in execution, but highly discussable.

  • Apatt
    2019-02-23 02:13

    Cory Doctorow is one of the high profile current crop of sci-fi authors, he is also famous for his blogs on Boing Boing, and his stance on liberalising copyright laws (he even got into a trouble with the legendary Ursula K. Le Guin for posting an article she wrote on his web site.The first book I read of Doctorow’s was Little Brother I enjoyed it very much though I felt that the prose and dialog could be a little better. Three years later I just got around to Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, his first novel, and still one of his most popular (after Little Brother). When somebody at PrintSF (sf reading community) asks about where to start with Doctorow’s books this book always comes up.Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is set in a post-scarcity economy where hunger, poverty and even death have been made obsolete. The absence of hunger hand poverty is not elaborated on very much but there is a mention “Makers” which seem to be the kind of nanotechnology “make anything” machines featured in Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age and Charles Stross’ Singularity Sky. With all material wants satisfied money is no longer in use, however, there is still a currency of sorts called “Whuffies”. If I understand correctly whuffies are similar to “Likes” on Facebook or “Upvotes” on Reddit. The important difference is that whuffies are actually worth something, nice seats at restaurant, nicer houses and other privileges. The story of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom concerns the protagonist / narrator Julius’ struggle to hold on to his management position at Liberty Square in Disney World (the Magic Kingdom).I like the 22nd century world that Doctorow depicts in this book, definitely one of the more optimistic visions of the future. The abolition of death through “backups” is always an interesting trope for speculation of how we would view our lives given that immortality is a thing. Personally I am of the opinion that after you are dead the version of you restored from a backup and put in a cloned body is not really you. Whatever your take on this idea may be it is regrettable that the issue is not explored in this book. Having built such an interesting post-singularity world it is a pity that Doctorow decides to focus the entire book on Walt Disney World, I am sure it is a very nice resort (never been there) but I want to know more about the world outside of it.Doctorow employs a few neologisms in this book and he does not directly explain any of them. This is a fine tradition in sf writing where the meaning of the made up words gradually unfold through the context of the book. However, for the meanings to be inferred the author has to give clearer hints than what Doctorow has done here. For example after seeing the word “whuffie” a couple of times I assumed it is similar to Facebook’s “Like” but I did not know it has replaced currency. My failure or the author’s? You be the judge. Also words like “Bitchun Society” just sounds too juvenile to be used in any official capacity. I have a feeling that with this first novel Doctorow tried too hard to be hip, hipster prose is really not very appealing to me. The protagonist and narrator Julius is too self indulgent to be sympathetic, as are all the other characters. The prose style is accessible and the dialogue is tolerable but I think Doctorow’s writing skills have improved substantially by the time he wrote Little Brother.I can recommend this book with the above mentioned reservations. The world and the technology is quite interesting, the book is easy to read and quite short (around 200 pages). More importantly Cory Doctorow has made this book available as a free e-book which you can download at Project Gutenberg (link) and other sites.

  • Sesana
    2019-03-08 02:24

    Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is only 200 pages long, and it's far too short. The plot is rushed through at breakneck speed, and wrapped up far, far too quickly, with almost no time given to bringing the whole thing in for a landing.Part of that is because Doctorow puts quite a bit of time into developing his Bitchun society. Death has been essentially eliminated. If you die, your consciousness is uploaded into a clone and you start over again. Tired of living? "Deadhead" for awhile by having your consciousness stored for a few decades, a few centuries, even a millenia or two. Money has been eliminated, replaced with a system called "whuffie". You gain whuffie through earning respect, which you then spend in place of currency. Everybody is completely wired, which makes it easy to track others' whuffie. All very interesting concepts, and something that I wouldn't mind reading again. That this is a 3 star book instead of a 2 star book is almost entirely due to this system.It's not because of the characters, unlikeable one and all. Not even anybody at least fun enough that I can look over that they're all jerks. Petty, spiteful, mean-spirited, selfish and self-centered. The thought of a future Disney World being in the hands of these people made me very, very sad.The Disney World setting probably is a huge draw for a lot of readers. It certainly was for me, especially when I saw that the plot would revolve around the Haunted Mansion in particular (my favorite). But that's another place that I ran into a few problems. Is Doctorow actually a Disney fan in real life? If so, he would understand that this is a baffling way to portray Disney fans. I am a Disney phile, and I can tell you that the idea that the overwhelming majority of Disney park fans would support making radical changes to a classic ride that involve completely stripping it and changing the very nature of the experience... Look, it's just not going to happen. I've seen Disney philes get mad when the parks changed the style of topiaries they used. Gutting Pirates would not be a popular move. Doctorow is inconsistent about this, too. The main character spends the first part of the book complaining about his rival changing the nature of The Hall of Presidents. I believe that I'm supposed to feel sad when I read about the Lincoln animatronic being hauled offstage, and I do. So how am I supposed to feel when I read about the ballroom ghosts illusion being cut into pieces to remove it from the Mansion? I guess I'm supposed to be supportive because it's the main character that's destroying a classic, instead of feeling gut-punched because he's ruining one of the greatest things about my favorite ride. (Not one single character expresses the slightest bit of sadness that the ballroom ghosts will now be gone forever.) Other than the technical specifics, there's no difference between what the two camps are doing: both are destroying classics. And so I hated both and wanted nothing more than to see both groups lose control of the park to somebody who would actually preserve it.I know that I'm ranting, but I can't help it. If this is supposed to be a science fiction book for Disney fans, I think Doctorow missed the mark. The characters in the book don't act like Disney fans, and they don't act like Imagineers (who would build a new ride to play with their new tech). SF fans who aren't big Disney philes would probably enjoy it more, but the storyline is too brief and the characters too noxious to make this a truly outstanding book.

  • Sandi
    2019-03-08 07:26

    As a native Southern Californian who has been to Disneyland a minimum of once per year since before birth, how could I pass up a book that combines science fiction with Disney? I was really torn between giving this three stars or four. It scores high for creativity. It's got a very tight plot and some interesting ideas. It takes place at Disney World's Magic Kingdom. I've been there once, but it's so much like Disneyland that all the ride references made sense even if the geography changed. It's clear that Doctorow has a love and reverence for the Magic Kingdom. I even learned how they do the dancing ghosts in the Haunted Mansion. There were some interesting twists and turns in the plot that kept me turning the pages.However, I think that the book suffers from a certain attempt hipness that only comes from true geekdom. Seriously, the "Bitchun" society? Crack smoking as normal? Popularity (whuffies) as currency? It came off as awkward and self-conscious. It was a good story and it was entertaining, but it wasn't one of the best I've read recently.

  • John
    2019-03-10 06:24

    In Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, times sure seem to have changed from today. Something called "Free Energy" has basically eliminated scarcity, while the ability to make computer backups of the self and download them into cloned bodies has eliminated death (and, for that matter, revolutionized medicine, since all defects can be fixed by downloading to a new body). Without scarcity, both work and money have become more or less obsolete, and been replaced by Whuffie, which measures how much respect other people have for you, whether from the everyday acts of kindness or jerkishness or from whatever kind of fame and celebrity one can chase down, and this Whuffie is used to determine access to the few luxuries that are still scarce (a table at the best restaurants or the best housing). And people are plugged into the internet 24/7--not in a virtual reality way, but more like today's internet shot into our brains at the speed of thought. People do... pretty much whatever they want.For Julius, who's over 100 and in his third body, this finally means living and working at Disney World. The real dramas are played out in a magical land of unreality, where different groups compete to make their area of the park the best. It's a petty world, in many ways, which presumably is part of the point; nonetheless, on display are timeless emotions and struggles.The writing remains nicely understated, hinting and implying as much as it tells, which I think works to the author's advantage, bringing the reader into a more active engagement. Doctorow strikes a balance between revealing this world of the future, exploring the characters and their relationships, and spinning a good tale. Despite the obvious differences between our world and the novel's, there exist equally-obvious parallels that offer food for thought. I enjoyed the book thoroughly, and it was a quick read. As a bonus, Doctorow made this novel available as a free E-book, which can be downloaded free here. I found it to be worth the price and then some.

  • Laura
    2019-03-09 05:29

    Don't be drawn in by the author's reputation. Don't be drawn in by an interesting premise. Don't be drawn in by some of the impassioned defenses here. This book had no redeeming qualities. It reads like fan fiction, and bad fan fiction at that – very poorly written, laden with typos. All the characters are two dimensional, and the women are pure male fantasy. Frankly, the whole thing didn't add up for me. This is a world in which there is no death, but the narrative tension is dependent on murders. WHAT? In this futuristic landscape, where people are struggling to find meaning in their own humanity, you want me to care most about who gets to be in charge at The Haunted Mansion? What the WHAT? These are the lowest of low stakes. Positives: it was short, it was free, and it was really fun to tear the sex scenes to shreds over drinks at my bookclub.

  • Bradley
    2019-03-19 01:18

    Out of every sci-fi movement that has come and gone, my absolute favorites are the glorious post-cyberpunk transhumanism movement. Can I have the application form now, please? Thanks to Charles Stross and Cory Doctorow, I get to be giddy on the tides of consciousness uploads and post-scarcity economics. Who said utopian fiction was dead? Please, oh please, give me MORE!

  • Brian Clegg
    2019-03-06 03:24

    I'm not quite sure where I picked up a recommendation for this book, but I'm glad I did as I've been able to add Cory Doctorow to my fairly short list of contemporary science fiction writers that I truly enjoy.In this entertaining short novel, Doctorow takes on the classic SF question of 'What if?' for something that genuinely could come to pass - the no wage economy, where everyone gets the basics they need and it's up to them, through ad-hoc arrangements, to find ways to earn social credit to get more, should they want it. In a way, the social credit (known for unexplained reasons, unless I missed it, as Whuffie) is the equivalent of the rating system in the Black Mirror episode where everyone constantly rates everyone else. The other major change to society, which is far less likely to happen, is that when someone dies they are recreated from a clone which is imprinted with their backed up memory - so death becomes a minor irritation (unless you aren't entirely comfortable with a copy of yourself being a true replacement), while some choose to be put to sleep for thousands of years.Our hero, Julius, ends up at Disney World, where he works with a group that help maintain and run a group of the attractions, in a period when some of the traditional attractions (the gem of his group's collection is the Haunted Mansion) are being replaced by direct brain access experiences. The main thread of the story follows Julius's attempts at guerrilla action to save his beloved ride in a world where social capital is everything.On the whole the novel works well - Doctorow manages to be genuinely interesting about the challenges faced by a society where no work is required and lives are indefinite, while never getting into boring polemic. The storyline had some small issues for me, particularly when an outcome is flagged up very early - but I really enjoyed this book, which feels like the kind of thing Pohl and Kornbluth would be writing now if still around - no greater accolade - and I will certainly be trying more of Doctorow's output.

  • Charles Dee Mitchell
    2019-03-11 09:23

    Provide free fuel -- checkAbolish money -- checkConquer death -- checkWhat have you got? One Bitchun society!Doctorow's novel takes place in a not too distant future where all the above and more have been achieved. Much of what exists is the predictive stuff you read about in popular magazines today: our computers are embedded within our bodies, we make phone calls through our cochlea, etc. That conquering death thing could still be someways off. Happy participants in the Bitchun society do frequent back-ups of themselves, in case death comes from misadventure. You don't want to lose too much time when downloaded into your freshly cloned body. Others just enjoy an occasional change, or don't want to put up with a bout of the flu. As a result, everyone has an apparent age of their own choosing and their actual physical age which could now be a century or more older than they look. Bitchun!Jules, our hero, has lived several lifetimes, composed well-received symphonies, and earned three Ph.D's. But he discovers new meaning for his life on a visit to Disney World, Orlando. Here a finds a new lover among the employees passionately devoted to the un-revamped attractions around LIberty Square and the Haunted Mansion. Alas, even in this not particularly brave new world, hell still proves to be other people. The conniving Debra, fresh from a newly conceived Disney Beijing, has plans to bring things up to date around Liberty Square. Hiss. Boo.This all sounds hopelessly lightweight for a novel, but Doctorow tells a good story and creates a convincing Bitchun society with hints of a darker side. Take away death and over-population becomes a problem. Jules previously lived in underground overflow facilities in Toronto. But since you spend most of your time in a virtual world, perhaps living a mile underground is no real burden. Off planet emigration is encouraged. Although he does not plan to do so himself, Jules knows more and more people who are "dead heading," having their back ups stored in canopic jars for a few years, decades, or even centuries. (You can also dead head for airplane flights, the best idea in the book.) If you have really had enough of life after a century or so, free lethal injections are available at the corner drugstore. But of course everything is free.Is Disney World the perfect emblem of the Bitchun society? Doctorow plays lightly with his ideas with a plot that poses problems for his characters, some of them over a century old, that sound like the high-tech version of the problems kids with a summer job at a theme park might run into.

  • Matt
    2019-03-13 01:33

    I'm torn when it comes to Cory Doctorow. In one sense, I am totally into the fact that the guy is obviously a student of 80's cyberpunk and computer technology in general. However, when I read this book, something didn't seem right about the whole thing. The best analogy I can come up with is working hard all day and thinking about eating steak for dinner, but then coming home to find out that you're getting a McDonald's cheeseburger. The technology and the ideas are there, but the story did not fill me with that rush that every serious reader is familar with.The book is set sometime in the distant future, where death is but a minor inconvenience while you download to a new body and everyone has a network interface in their brain. Basically, when meeting someone for the first time, they are talking to you and googling you simultaneously. The story takes place in Disneyland, where ad hoc committees run the show. Two factions are vying for power. The first wants to keep the attractions as they have always been, while the second wants to use equipment to project the attractions directly to the visitors' brain interfaces.One of the more interesting concepts in this book was the idea of currency. There are two kinds. One being the standard dollar in a more virtual sense than even we think of it now, the other being Whuffies. Whuffies are basically a currency of esteem or respect. What I found frustrating is that Doctorow never delves into the idea of Whuffies to my satisfaction. The reader is unsure how one accumulates or spends Whuffies, or the exact advantages of having a large quantity. In today's world, such a thing would seem like basically a tool for everyday retribution against strangers. Someone cuts you off in traffic - cha-ching - that'll cost you five Whuffies, buddy.Despite all of the griping, if you are a student of cyberpunk, you will definitely want to give this a look.

  • Ariel
    2019-03-17 06:23

    A posthuman novel set at Disney World? Wow, this book was written for me! It's been about a century or so since a cure for death and the end of scarcity, and backups of people are downloaded into clones if they die. The narrator Julius works at Walt Disney World as part of an ad-hoc committee that controls Liberty Square. The Disney cast actually makes their own management decisions! Woohoo, no hierarchy in the Disney workplace. Maybe that only excites me because I used to work there and found it an incredibly oppressive environment.It took me three tries to get through Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. The first time, when I was 18, I checked it out from the library and was weirded out by the technological immortality. Then I tried again when I was about 22 and I was bored by the plot, a struggle to preserve the Haunted Mansion as a historical and artistic artifact. Now that I'm working on my thesis on posthumanism at Walt Disney World, I'm all into Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.This book is a lot like M.T. Anderson's Feed as far as internet-in-the-brain, but more utopian and less a critique of libertarian capitalism fueled by consumption and infinite expansion. If you're not into cyborgs, technological immortality, or Disney theme parks, I don't know if you'll like Down and Out.

  • Jason Pettus
    2019-03-23 04:24

    (The much longer full review can be found at the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [].)Okay, so it's finally time; time for me to finally make my way through the complete works of cutting-edge science-fiction author Cory Doctorow. After all, he's one of the four editors of my favorite website of all time, the profoundly unique pop-culture journal Boing Boing; and Doctorow's also a big champion of the exact political issues CCLaP cares about as well, including copyright reform, the elimination of so-called "Digital Rights Management" (or DRM) malware, the importance of do-it-yourself artists and the like. And besides, Doctorow also puts his money where his mouth is; that he's arguably* the most famous artist yet to offer digital versions of his projects for free download, meaning that a person can technically read his entire body of work without spending a dime, if one wants. All of these things mean that I should've become a completist of Doctorow a long time ago, and am in fact a little ashamed that I'm not; then add the fact that this thirtysomething's ouevre is not yet that large to begin with (only three novels, two story collections, and one book of essays), and I now really have no excuse.I've decided, then, to tackle Doctorow's work in the order it was written; and that brings us at first to his explosive debut novel, 2003's "gonzo sci-fi" tale Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, which has been heralded by not only critics but also peers and fans since almost the first day of its release. And indeed, now that I've read it myself, I understand why; because it turns out that Doctorow is not just a great cultural essayist, not only a dedicated technology activist, but in fact a legitimate creative genius as well, able to craft a story out of the dense tendrils of theoretical science and economics that nonetheless has a huge humanistic heart at the core of it, not to mention a pretty large amount of sincerely laugh-out-loud humor too. To start with, for example, the novel is set in a far-future society where scarcity is no longer a survival issue; where a form of free energy has been discovered and is now in use, where replicator-type machines can now create food and clothing from scratch, where even death has been eliminated through the dual perfection of both cloning and the digitization of consciousness. (So in other words, in the world of Down and Out, people can have their entire brain and all its memories "backed up" regularly to a computer system, which is then "uploaded" into a new body whenever the old one dies.)Among many other profound changes to society, this has led to...

  • Ben
    2019-03-26 08:28

    In a lot of science fiction, plot and characters are merely vehicles for the author's vision of his world. Philip K. Dick is not remembered for his creation of Bob Arctor, for instance, but for his postulation of a existence where identity is as fluid and changeable as the clothes you wear. Cory Doctorow's world in the Magic Kingdom made a lasting impression on me, though i remember his characters less than his world. This is not to say that plot or characters are weak in any way, but that the world that they inhabit is as bizarre and psychedelic as any I've come across. Doctorow is well-known as a blogger, one of the founders of, a popular site that evolved from a print publication of the zine era. It makes sense that he would postulate a future where the internet has expanded beyond the boundaries of cyberspace into reality. In "Kingdom," everyone is telepathically hardwired to the network, with all that that entails. Money is obsolete, having been sublimated into "whuffie," or communal respect. Whuffie is referenceable on-line, instantaneously to anyone everywhere, and seems roughly equivalent to the current notion of page-hits. If you lead a respectable life, you live richly and doors open everywhere for you. The opposite holds true also, of course...Another advantage of an always-on network is the ability to "back yourself up." Everyone is on auto-save, their thoughts and memories regularly encoded to remote servers. One's genetic code is also stored online, so in the event of say, a boating accident, one can be cloned and replaced, inserted into a copy their own body, set to any age they choose, creepily enough. 1 up. The story is set in Disney World, now a hallowed temple to entertainment, which is so necessary for these now-immortal, atheistic humans. Working there entails an apparently religious devotion to the duty of making the place as diverting as possible, with fierce competition between the teams maintaining each ride. The rides themselves are still the classics: Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, the Hall of Presidents...There is a murder at Disney World, which kicks the story into gear, allowing Doctorow to explore the possibilites of this world, which is just topsy-turvy enough to seem uncomfortably like ours. Good, weird stuff.

  • Rebecca
    2019-03-06 08:24

    When I started to wrap my head around the world that Doctorow was laying out, I had trouble figuring out what would be the conflict of this book. It's pretty hard core science fiction, full of predictions of technologies and their social ramifications. If we no longer had to fear death or illness and no one went without shelter and food and copious entertainment, what kind of conflicts would be left? Whenever you have a utopia novel, it usually ends in either discovering that the utopia is actually a dystopia with a horrific underbelly or something catastrophic happening to destroy the utopia that was somehow making us less human because we weren't striving enough or something.Doctorow has the courage to resist the obvious choices and instead go small.This book does not feature sweeping sociological change. Very little has changed at all in the end, which is just fine because the Bitchun Society is actually pretty awesome. But that's not to say there's no conflict. Doctorow believes that people are fundamentally the same at the bottom. And so in this world with no war and almost no crime, where everyone has enough and the only thing that matters is how much respect you can accrue from the people around you, we get a story seething with jealousy, love, resentment, friendship, pettiness, betrayal, idealism, naivete, and heartbreak.All over an amusement park ride. Because Jules and his friends (and foes) are still the same as any of us. And now that no one has to worry about losing their healthcare or not making enough money for retirement, everyone is free to follow their dreams--which often do not mesh with other people's dreams. Endless lifetimes do not actually confer boundless wisdom, and people keep making the same mistakes as they ever have. Which is depressing and yet ultimately a kind of hopeful way to look at the world.This is a first novel, and it shows. Some of the pacing's a bit uneven and it's a little rough around the edges. But it's boundlessly creative and deals with the ramifications of its innovations more thoroughly than most science fiction. Also, it's published with the Creative Commons license, so you can pick up a copy for free, which is well worth doing.

  • Tom
    2019-03-05 08:29

    I thought the general premise was interesting, and I was invested in learning more about this world that Doctorow had created, but I also think he wrote himself into a corner with that premise. By eliminating death as a real consequence and then using a murder (plus the threat of more murders) as the catalyst for the plot, he stripped the narrative tension away. One of the first things I learned was that death is a minor inconvenience, so then the murder didn't really mean much to me, no matter how many hoops Doctorow jumped through to try to explain why actually yes this murder matters. Then, of course, there's the concern that even within the confines of this world, I didn't care what happened to the Haunted Mansion. The stakes seemed extraordinarily low, and I could never tell whether the book was aware of that or not. I got into a full discussion about this book on the Book Fight podcast:

  • Trike
    2019-03-24 02:26

    Doctorow treads well-traveled ground here. There's a bit of Walter Jon Williams' Aristoi, a dash of Vernor Vinge's True Names, and a soupçon of post-cyberpunk transhumanism, all stirred into a deceptively simple story.Plenty of other reviewers give a run-down of the plot dealing with rival groups in Disney World, but I feel like he's saying that the seeds of the things that destroy our relationships and ruin the good things we have are always planted by us, and that we can only move ahead once we take responsibility for our actions.It's interesting that he wrote this back in 2001/2002 before things like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and even smartphones, yet he has anticipated all of that stuff in the post-scarcity, pro-reputation society he's created. That's pretty impressive in and of itself. I always like books that take existing SFnal premises and push them forward a bit in a tidy little story, and that's just what we have here.

  • Tsedai
    2019-03-26 05:24

    (view spoiler)[Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is the story of Julius who decides to pursue his childhood dream of living in Disney World's The Magic Kingdom after finishing his fourth doctorate. Set in the future, the Earth's new Bitchun Society is a place where technology has made material goods overly abundant and death a minor annoyance. Julius finds a girlfriend and a new life in Walt Disney World, working to maintain some of the Parks iconic attractions like the Presidents Hall and The Huanted Mansion. Things start to get a bit strange when it seems like a group of Imagineers want to take over and change some of the most historic aspects of the Magic Kingdom. Julius, his girlfriend Lil, and his college buddy Dan must go to extremes to try and preserve the soul of the park. (hide spoiler)]Despite having a somewhat light premise (living inside Disney World), Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom actually explores some rather dark and serious themes. In a world where you can live forever, would you want to? And, if you didn't, how would you know when it would be time to go? Would living forever be worth losing your memories? Or would it be better to restore yourself from backup before a point of major emotional damage? It's the sort of book that probably would make you feel better if you couldn't totally identify with the main character. I mean, sure, he does some things that I wouldn't necessarily condone, but all of the big question life stuff he ponders... Yup. Been down those roads before.Overall I would have to say this was a surprisingly deep book for such a quick and easy read. I don't know - maybe the idea of running away to Disney World after finishing up a chemistry degree holds a special appeal to me - but I found myself to be very empathetic with the main character. I mean, sure, I don't have to deal with the possibility of an infinite future, but otherwise I can very much understand why he is so distraught over the choices he has to make, and why he so desperately wants to preserve relics from a time before this overly technological society took over. Some of the science fiction elements seem sort of ridiculous yet surprisingly prophetic - especially the concept of "Whuffie" - where the amount of respect you garner is the most important aspect of your social standing. In an age where everyone reminds you to "Hit the Like button," I can totally see how this could relate to people gaining overwhelming influence in society. Despite the outward levity (I mean, Disney World, "Bitchun" Society, and Whuffie?) this book packed a surprising punch of reality and honesty about things that we have to think about in today's world, and makes us ponder what it would be like if we had the option to erase them from our minds or deal with them for an eternity. I can see how the crazy science fiction terms could put people off, but I think this book is definitely worth a read, especially for anyone who "grew up Disney" and has a soft spot for The Haunted Mansion.

  • Julie
    2019-03-25 02:21

    This book really made me think, which is what great books do. Here we have a society that should be a utopia - death is not permanent, age is reversible, money is not needed, and our problems with obtaining clean energy have been solved. So everyone should be happy, right?(view spoiler)[Ah, students of human nature know better. As a previous reviewer pointed out, our morality is based on the very problems this society solves, so it falls apart when they disappear. The question ultimately becomes, if there are no permanent consequences, who cares what you do? Did you ruin a good relationship? No problem, just reboot to before the problems started, and try again. Better yet, now that you know what that person is really made of, reboot and avoid them altogether. No emotional price to pay. However, our main character realizes that if he does this, he will lose the lessons he learned and all the good memories he also had along the way -- and those are the things that build character. Just like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, he decides it is better to live with the pain so he can grow as a person. Reviewers complained that the characters in this book are unlikeable, that they couldn't care about them. But that's the point! What motivation do people have to be good to one another in a world like that? They are all just using each other to build "Whuffie," so manipulation is the name of the game. The world has become massively crowded with people who are constantly trying to fight off boredom. They have "been there, done that" so many times that eventually they WANT to die (deadheading). The only thing they have to live for is building status in each other's eyes, so of course they will become shallow! I appreciated the main character's disgust with his girlfriend's parents, when they said an emotional farewell AFTER they "backed up," Knowing they would not remember the emotions made them insincere, and was an insult to their daughter. Immortality breeds selfishness.My only complaint about this book (why it did not get 5 stars) was that it could have done so much more with this world. I wanted to know more details about how Whuffie was accumulated and used, like, could you get a history of someone's Whuffie to see how many times they had bottomed out, and what crimes they committed in the past? If not, then someone who is a serial killer one day can become a highly respected member of society the next. What did they do about congenital diseases? Would the birth rate continue to fall to near zero when basic drives for having children were eliminated? (like growing older, feeling your mortality, wanting to invest in the future, wanting to pass along what you learned and acquired to the next generation).(view spoiler)[ (hide spoiler)] (hide spoiler)]

  • Joseph
    2019-03-23 06:27

    At first I thought this was a weird dystopian novel poking fun at dystopian novels. I mean it takes place at Disney. Even with the light wit and near miss sarcasm, the book stayed entertaining. However, by the end you realize that it is truly about hope, failure, reinventing yourself and life. And that's when it hits you. Well played Mr Doctorow.

  • James
    2019-03-03 06:20

    In the future we've cured disease and death, limitless free energy and no economy to speak of. Instead, people operate in an economy of Whuffie: reputation accorded to you by your peers. The story revolves around an 'ad-hoc': a team of people running the Hall of Presidents and the Haunted Mansion rides at Walt Disney World, Florida. They maintain the rides, manage and staff them, as well as planning improvements. All the while, trying to maintain enough Whuffie to stop other ad-hocs in the park taking their rides over. The novel is fairly dripping with hacker buzzwords and plays on those continuously. I wonder if the lack of exposition would be a hurdle for readers unaware of that language.It's an attempt to extrapolate the 'meritocracy' of the hacker culture into a full-blown society. And while it's an incredible idea for a story, that's also where it seems to fall down. It's not quite as thought as I would have liked. The Whuffie economy sounds great, but it's blatently open to popularity gaming and even bribes. At times I wondered if the author was attempting to highlight this, but then he just didn't take it far enough. Using Whuffie to purchase things also seemed to make little sense in what is claimed to be a post-scarcity world.The story itself seemed to tail off almost. Like the author had used up all his ideas now and was just rounding the story off to a close. In the end, it was a story that I feel I wanted to like more than I actually did. The ideas and the premise were so clever that I wanted it to be a better novel that it turned out to be. It was so nearly a four, but not quite. The references to Snow Crash were a neat little pointer, especially as I'd only just finished that book...

  • Talia
    2019-03-23 09:22

    What I enjoyed about this book was the fascinating picture of the future. Apparently in the future, there has been a cure for death, and people can be altered to look any age. Their brains are also like computers, where memory needs to be backed up in case of death so the body can be regenerated. Also, brain/computers are interlinked on a type of network, so someone can mentally “call” someone else’s brain to talk. I really liked reading about the setting of the story, but sadly, the story itself just wasn’t interesting to me. It seems the author spent too much time working on this fantastic world with intricate details, and not enough time on characters. When Julius’s girlfriend breaks up with him, when he is killed for the fourth time, even at the climax of the book, I just didn’t care. Also, some of the terms in the book seemed a little ridiculous, such as “whuffie”, “deadheading”, and “Bitchun”. I’m glad I read this book, as it was a change of pace for my normal reading repertoire, but I hesitate to recommend it to someone who wants more than two-dimensional characters.

  • aaron
    2019-03-01 04:32

    Another gimmick that is fun for a chapter. The central theme that it is a society which pays you with digital social rating you can spend rather then money is unique, but it is this very concept that create the most blatant holes in the story. What makes it so special is what somewhat destroys the story simultaneously.One thing going for it is that is visual treat. If you’re a fan of Disneyland or other theme parks, I think you will appreciate the comedy and behind the scenes and it's look theme park culture. It's amusing for sure and the message is powerful, but sometimes a gimmick is a gimmick and even with the effective writing style that’s really all it remained to me.

  • Justin
    2019-02-23 05:36

    In the future, when we have cured damn near every disease and licked practically every problem society has thrown our way, the only battles worth fighting are fought over our culture: do we preserve it, reminding future generation that some things are worth holding on to, or do we plow ahead, looking only to the future? Those are some of the questions this book asks, when a handful of groups fight a cold war against each other over the future of Disneyland. The book is also damn funny and inventive, and it's energetic style makes it hard to put down.It's books like these that can justify the value and importance of Science Fiction to the rest of the world.God, I love this book.

  • Mitchell
    2019-03-17 03:35

    Sigh. Sure the technology was interesting. And the implied societal changes worth pondering. And whuffie is worth considering. But the characters are all just awful. And the main pov character the worst. And the machinations in Disney World are annoying, though at least I've been to the Hall of Presidents and the Haunted House though it has been years and years. And the bit right before the end where our hero refuses to restore to backup and has gotten broken - I was about ready to throw the book out the window. It recovered from there but only barely. Not the book I would use to introduce others to this author. 2.5 of 5.