Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Eastern Standard Tribe

As any regular reader will no doubt have noticed from my reading list, I am a bit of a Cory Doctorow fan. I like the kinds of things that he champions on Boing Boing, and while I think I first heard of him through the short story When Sysadmins Ruled The Earth it was reading Little Brother for the first time last year that really made me like his work a lot. Little Brother is a really great near future thriller that young adults can really get their teeth into and get something out of since it deals with such interesting ideas as civil liberties and digital freedoms.

If Little Brother is a mini-masterpiece then Eastern Standard Tribe is an early sketch, a rough drawing that shows a lot of promise but which ultimately falls short for the reader. The ideas - derived from circadian rhythms and being culturally connected to people not physically close to you in the digital age, as well as a slew of well-handled ideas on things like new media and a more bureaucratic society - are cool and interesting, and no-one can doubt that Doctorow has a great ability for taking interesting ideas and dropping them into stories. However, in this earlier work it shows in the plotting that he is still developing as a writer. The build up of the story is interesting, but the end appears so quickly and happens so fast that you have to blink in case you miss it (much like in Down And Out In The Magic Kingdom).

I've just realised looking back over my first two paragraphs that I've not really told you much about the plot, but I think that's OK, that's something that you can discover for yourself. As a springboard for an interesting future that has some well thought out ideas playing in the foreground, Eastern Standard Tribe does not disappoint. The plot is fast-moving, and though I felt a bit cheated at the sudden end it is a great ideas novel and well worth reading as an example of an author with a brilliant mind for speculating about the future.

Eastern Standard Tribe is available to download for free under a Creative Commons license.

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