Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Makers by Cory Doctrow

Makers is a fascinating book by novelist Cory Doctrow about the future of desktop manufacturing. Known for his previous novel, Little Brother, and many other works of fiction, Doctorow has written an optimistic book about the near future. It contains a memorable cast of characters.

The book begins with a press conference called by Landon Kettlewell, a corporate CEO who has
hit upon a great idea: send financiers off into the hinterlands of America searching for
creative and visionary business types. Duplicating the microloan strategy used in SE Asia, "Kettlebelly" soon has creative people producing all Kinds of neat stuff Most of the "new work" is cataloged by reporter Suzanne Church, who has left her regular newspaper job to start blogging about it.

The scene changes to Florida where Lester and Perry, two buddies since boyhood are making
all kinds of contraptions out of waste parts and usable junk. With the help of New Work money,
Les and Perry create a series of household appliances which make them internationally famous.
But as all good things need to reach a conclusion, the money behind new work runs out, leaving
countless inventors destitute. Lester and Perry return to their warehouse of wonders and go back to making their own creations. The parallels to the Dot-com crash are obvious.
(Makers is set in the near future) Years later, after returning from covering Russia, Suzanne hears about a theme ride Perry and Lester have constructed in an abandoned Walmart. The ride showcases the best of the New Work productions and is a big hit with the former people behind the movement. Those who attend the exhibit help to make it better by leaving comments with an electronic device.

The ride becomes so popular that other rides begin open up all over the country. This
phenomena soon draws the attention of Sammy, a young turk executive at Disney. Sammy shot
up the corporate food change because he was able to turn Disney World's fantasyland into a Gothic theme park He's got plans for transforming it again and does not need a group of renegade theme ride operators to steal his thunder....

My major complaint with Makers is the vagueness describing the technology.One of the problems in setting a science fiction novel in the near future is in adapting
current techno trends a few years down the road. For instance, the 3D duplicators are described as using some sort of goop, but where comes the feedstock? Also, the auto industry is supposedly dead, but many of the characters Seem to have no trouble
finding a car.

Still a good book and I can only hope it will inspire backyard inventors.

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