Cory Doctorow Elects to Walkaway: Utopia As Nothing to Lose

Utopia is good, right? Everybody’s happy by definition, it’s not just a good life, it’s a perfect life. Which is to say that there’s nowhere to go but down. When you think about it that way, and you will as you read Cory Doctorow’s immersive and intense Walkaway, it begins to seem as if all the dystopias and utopias miss the point. Doctorow’s gripping glimpse at a possible day-after-tomorrow is a ripping yarn that will quickly shred your assumptions not just about how the world works, but why and why it matters.

doctorow-walkawayHubert, Etc [he has lots of middle names] is getting old, too old to enjoy the parties that attend the breakdown of the world as we now know it. 3D printing, vat food and a host of technologies now bubbling at the fringes of society have undermined any sense of order. The world is split between the Default, the crumbling remnants of what you likely see around you, and what’s in-between. The in-between is where things get interesting, because the technologies simmering now are flowering here. They’re portable, which means that if someone decides to move in and seize your community, you can “Walkaway” – drop it, leave and start anew elsewhere with the same level of comfort. Hubert, Etc leaves, and your reading life gets really interesting.

Doctorow told me in our conversation that he took a different tack in composing this book, which results in a richer read, where the future, like the past is a foreign country. They certainly do things differently here, and in a manner that has ideas of all sorts jumping off the pages. Even as the plot keeps the yarn a-ripping, Doctorow’s creation not only of the world, but the characters who inhabit that world and their assumptions about that world will surely mess with your head in the best possible manner.

Walkaway meshes the science fiction toolkit seamlessly with a great story that easily leads us from the familiar to the astonishing, generally while we are not expecting anything other than the fun to be had on every page. By careful world-building, the elements of story (character, plot, etc.) are given dimensions subject to joyful stretching, revisions and imaginative excess. Humor is a key element in Walkaway; expect to laugh out loud, a lot, and modify your reading habits accordingly.

For all that Walkaway is fun and sense-of-wonder-inducing, it’s also very political, fueled by an honest rage that burns off in snark and “that would be funny if it were not so true” commentary. Where some offer stark choices, utopian splendor or dystopian decay, Cory Doctorow takes an essential first step in a new direction. When faced with a dilemma – as in two choices – Doctorow’s Walkaway revels in the third choice. Those who would rule this world fear nothing more than those who can build another.


In my conversations with both John Scalzi and Cory Doctorow, the follies that are generally on display are mine. Here’s a link to my conversation with Cory Doctorow; or just listen below and amaze your friends with the wit and wisdom of Cory Doctorow.

I managed to get Cory Doctorow and John Scalzi to hang around long enough to speak to me together. Apparently I was there! Here’s a link to our conversation, or listen below. A word of warning; we do talk about the soon-to-be-included in the DSM “asshole personality disorder.” As a bad cue reader, I may resemble that remark!


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