“Brave New Worlds” edited by John Joseph Adams (Nightshade Books, 2011)

Brave New Worlds

1984 came and went without Big Brother rearing his ugly head in quite the way he did in the book; though one could say things got a little hairy during George W. Bush’s eight years of the Patriot Act and Home land Security, and yet in today’s world can you really say that you are completely free to do as you please without feeling like anybody’s watching you?  Perhaps you see this world in a different light: do you use a disposable phone, screen your calls, use “incognito mode” in all your online browsing, and feel like various agencies within the government are watching you constantly, whether it’s where you’re shopping, what you’re eating, or perhaps what books you’re checking out of the library.  If this is the case, you’re going to want to own a copy of Brave New Worlds, and if it’s not, well, you should read it too, because it’s a really fantastic collection of stories of a dystopian future where freedom is a whispered, secret word, not to be uttered aloud to anyone.

John Joseph Adams, bestselling editor of such great anthologies as Wastelands and The Living Dead does a fantastic job of collecting stories of dystopian worlds, covering just about the entire history of the science fiction genre.  Brave New Worlds starts off with “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson – a story many of us became familiar with in high school and college, but can now be read for sheer enjoyment; to Ursula LeGuin’s unforgettable “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” – a story of a paradise where every day is a joy for its citizens, except for one child locked away in a cell in constant suffering.  Many big name authors make the cut, with the likes of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, and Orson Scott Card; as well as some more recent bestselling names of the genre, like Paolo Bacigalupi, Cory Doctorow and Carrie Vaughan.

Some of these dystopian stories are similar, some are completely unique and surprising; all playing on the concept of having our necessary freedoms stripped away from us, leaving us hollow shells; the question is whether we choose to go along blindly and submit, or fight.  Perhaps you’re wondering if there’s a story about a future where young people donate their organs to old people, or looking forward the original short story of Philip K. Dick’s “The Minority Report”; either way,  Brave New Worlds will be an absolute delight for anyone who enjoys a story about a doomed future.

CLICK HERE to purchase your copy from Bookshop Santa Cruz and help support BookBanter.

Originally written on March 6, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

“Little Brother” by Cory Doctorow (TOR, 2008)

Little Brotherstarstarstarstarstar

With the end of the Bush presidency, some may be forgetting those times, with the war on terror, the propaganda of fear; while others may still be living and experiencing the horrors perpetrated by the Department of Homeland Security.  In Little Brother, Cory Doctorow gives his response, in his own, unique, techie way.

Marcus is a seventeen year old boy who seems ordinary in many ways.  He’s a nerd who plays MMOs with his friends, and is a computer geek who can hack his way in just about anything.  He’s essentially the exact sort of person the Department of Homeland Security and the government wants to be watching and trying to catch committing any illegal activity.  Then the whole world changes, as a devastating terrorist attack is committed in San Francisco, the Bay Bridge blown to pieces, sending thousands to their deaths.  Marcus finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, trying his best to get away from the horror and devastation; but the Department of Homeland Security thinks otherwise, capturing him and his friends and taking them to Treasure Island close by; a place that comes to be known as “Gitmo by the Bay.”  After three days of interrogation and being horribly treated, Marcus is freed, after being forced to sign a contract and the promise that he is never to utter a word of his incarceration and experience to anyone. Marcus finds himself in a different world where the DHS is in control and watching everyone.  It’s a world of fear and suspicion.  It’s not a place of freedom and free speech anymore.  Marcus plans on trying to change that and bring back the country he knows and loves.

Doctorow does what he does best in Little Brother, providing a riveting story with lots of computer tech and Internet shortcutting, making the reader wonder how much of this is possible, and how much the government is really watching.

CLICK HERE to purchase your copy from Bookshop Santa Cruz and help support BookBanter.

Originally published in the Sacramento Book Review.

Originally written on July 24 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.

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For the Win Makers

“For the Win” by Cory Doctorow (Tor, 2010)

For the Winstarstarstarstar

For anyone who’s ever played an MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) game like World of Warcraft or Lord of the Rings Online, you know it can be a lot of fun.  What you might not know is that if you’re really good at it, play it just right, and know where to advertise, you can make a lot of money from it.  There are certain quests or missions that can be repeated over and over for maximum experience points and/or gold; that gold can be turned into cash.  People who do this are known as gold farmers; it’s illegal; thousands of people around the world do it for profit.

In For the Win, Cory Doctorow goes into depth with this world, revealing the teenagers that love to play, but also the children in India, Malaysia and China that work nonstop grueling hours for little money.  But those who play these games, learn and know a lot about what they do.  Doctorow takes it up a notch by having these slave laborers fight back, forming unions and protective groups to fight for their rights as employees.  The result is a fascinating and fun story that kids, teenagers, or adults can enjoy.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on June 9 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.

BookBanter Episode 31 with Cory Doctorow


Cory Doctorow

Cory Doctorow keeps himself busy with his nonstop writing and publishing of books, his many blog postings, the work he does for Boing Boing, as well as raising a child. He is the author of a number of books including Little Brother and Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. His latest books are Makersfor adults and For the Win for young adults.


In this interview, Cory Doctorow talks about what is was that got him into writing, how he got started with Boing Boing, where he got his idea for Makers from, and the new book he’s working on. He also talks about where he thinks technology and the Internet are head in the near future. Featured in the episode are my reviews for MakersFor the WinUnder Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay, and Audrey’s Door by Sarah Langan.

Please join me next time, on July 1st, for a written interview with graphic novel artist and writer Brian Wood, who is the creator and writer of the graphic novel series DMZ and Northlanders.

Until then, keep reading!

Alex C. Telander.

Another Great Serendipitous Crossover

In an earlier post, titled “Foiled Again,” I managed to get in a literary snag by reading two books at the same time about vampires.  Well, lo and behold, fate has struck me again.

I’m currently working my way through Cory Docotrow’s For the Win, a fun and entertaining book about massive multi-player online games such as World of Warcraft and the gold farmers and people who play them to make a profit.  And I also just finished up Daniel Suarez’s Freedom™, which is the sequel to Daemon, and all about a daemon being set loose through the internet and essentially bringing down the world.  A big part of Suarez’s novels involves MMOs and the people who play them.

Thankfully, while it was a little hard to keep the two vampire stories separate mentally, For the Win and Freedom™ are more two different sides to MMOs and the people who play them.

5/21 On the Bookshelf . . . “Blockade Billy,” “For the Win” & “Roman Britain”

Blockade Billy

A new novella from Stephen King about baseball coming out May 25th.  I read it in about 90 minutes, it was a fun read and a great start to summer baseball.  Review will be coming up next week some time.

For the Win

After enjoying Makers, I look forward to Cory Doctorow’s YA novel, For the Win.  Cory Doctorow will be interviewed on a future episode of BookBanter.

Roman Britain