📚 Radicalized by Cory Doctorow
Cory Doctorow’s newest book wasn’t on my radar until I walked into my local bookstore on release day and the clerk handed me copy. Logging into Amazon may have induced as similar experience, but there’s something about people applying thought to those in their community that made the experience categorically more pleasant.
I co-run another project that tackles non-fiction books and presents summaries. I’ve been wanting to apply a similar practice used there for my fiction reading. Radicalized is the first fiction book I’ve finished in 2019. I’m hesitant to call this a review, but I am happy to call these my notes.
Radicalized is a collection of four short stories that grapple with the world we live in today. Appropriately, the back cover of the book reads, “Dystopia is now.” Their underpinning thematic link is the fact that the world we are building and the world we live in is not necessarily a world to be celebrated.
Unauthorized Bread presents us a world where the poorest among us must deal with the impact of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act coupled with integrating software into all of our appliances, how capitalism seeks to always bring things outside of the market into the market, and how those impacted by corporate excesses work together to make workarounds for themselves. Model Minority is the superhero story I’ve wanted for so long. Doctorow cribs directly from DC, takes their most well known characters, and makes them reckon with their role in imperialism, the police state, and how, for so long, they’ve done nothing to address the injustices that exist within those systems. It’s like Doctorow read Kotaku’s review of Marvel’s Spider-Man and felt compelled to do address it.
Radicalized is arguably about the very subject drawing many Americans to folks to programs like Medicare For All, the American healthcare system. Doctorow couples the existential despair of watching loved ones die, being dragged down by the bureaucratic nightmare of dealing with insurance, and the joys and pitfalls of relying on online communities to cope. The Masque of the Red Death appropriates Edgar Allen Poe’s story of the same name and places in the context of a present day apocalypse level catastrophe. Doctorow follows the survivalist prepper mindset to its logical conclusion, but still manages to present how a better world that can be built.
The book can be read in a long afternoon and I would recommend anyone do so for the same reasons I have found myself returning to Doctorow’s work since I read Little Brother in high school: He presents versions of the world that exist, or with just a dial turned in any direction, could exist, but his characters do not wallow in despair and the solutions do not come from bootstrapping, mythical individuals. They are about average people who, in the face of dystopia, work together to build a better world.