STARRED REVIEW
April 25, 2017

The first days of a stranger nation

By Cory Doctorow

Hubert Vernon Rudolph Clayton Irving Alva Anton Jeff Harley Timothy Curtis Cleveland Cecil Ollie Edmund Eli Wiley Marvin Ellis Nicholas Espinoza—better known as Hubert, Etc, and later still as Etcetera—is something of a head fake in Boing Boing co-editor Cory Doctorow’s utopian futurist novel, Walkaway. With a name like that, it’s not a wild bet that he’d be the axis around which the novel spins.

Share this Article:

Hubert Vernon Rudolph Clayton Irving Alva Anton Jeff Harley Timothy Curtis Cleveland Cecil Ollie Edmund Eli Wiley Marvin Ellis Nicholas Espinoza—better known as Hubert, Etc, and later still as Etcetera—is something of a head fake in Boing Boing co-editor Cory Doctorow’s utopian futurist novel, Walkaway. With a name like that, it’s not a wild bet that he’d be the axis around which the novel spins.

But it’s a sucker’s bet. The novel rotates around twin axes, one being a dissection and critique of capitalism in a world that has an excess of unequally distributed resources, the other being Natalie Redwater (aka “Iceweasel”), the daughter of a “zottarich” mover and shaker.

Though Doctorow cites Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century as an influence, Walkaway’s paternal grandparents are Brave New World and A Clockwork Orange; on its mom’s side, they’re Stranger from a Strange Land and Walden Two. Like all of those (and the rather less admirable Atlas Shrugged), it can get a little mansplainy as it trots out philosophy.

To wit: Hubert, Etc, dismissively appraises meritocracy by arguing, “‘We’re the best people we know, we’re on top, therefore we have a meritocracy. How do we know we’re the best? Because we’re on top. QED.’ The most amazing thing about ‘meritocracy’ is that so many brilliant captains of industry haven’t noticed that it’s made of such radioactively obvious bullshit you could spot it in orbit.”

The bohemian dropouts in this society, the “walkaways,” (of which Hubert, Etc, and Natalie are two) march off the grid into abandoned hinterlands in search of their own new world order, and when it appears that they may have solved the riddle of death, the stakes for flipping the bird at the establishment rise dramatically.

It may take a beat or two for the non-Wired reader to spool up to speed, but Doctorow has crafted the sexiest egalitarian radical hacktivist squatter-culture philosophical techno-thriller of the year, if not the decade.

 

Thane Tierney lives in Inglewood, California, and has a mere two middle names.

Trending Reviews

Get the Book

Walkaway

Walkaway

By Cory Doctorow
Tor
ISBN 9780765392763

Sign Up

Stay on top of new releases: Sign up for our enewsletters to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres.

Sign Up

Sign up to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres!