ReviewsClerks meets Startup.com... Tribe is packed with big ideas.
March 19, 2004
It's less science fiction, more supercaffeinated extrapolation ("...expialidocious!") of today's always-on lifestyle crowd, of which Cory has plenty of firsthand experience. The narrator's dilemma is spelled out at the start: His friends have committed him to a mental hospital as part of a plot. Except there's the nagging suspicion he may really be going nuts. As with a Vonnegut novel, it's the gradual filling in of details over the next 300 pages by an unreliable narrator that makes it an engaging read.
As in Down and Out, Doctorow shows here that he's got the modern world, in all its Googled, Friendstered and PDA-d glory, completely sussed.
John W. Campbell Awardâ€“winner Doctorow lives up to the promise of his first novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (2003), with this near-future, far-out blast against human duplicity and smothering bureaucracy. Even though it takes a while for the reader to grasp postcyberpunk Art Berryâ€™s dizzying leaps between his "now," a scathing 2012 urban nuthouse, and his "then," the slightly earlier events that got him incarcerated there, this short novelâ€™s occasionally bitter, sometimes hilarious and always whackily appealing protagonist consistently skewers those evils of modern culture he holds most pernicious. A born-to-argue misfit like all kids who live online, Art has found peers in cyber space who share his unpopular views-specifically his preference for living on Eastern Standard Time no matter where he happens to live and work. In this unsettling world, e-mails filled with arcane in-jokes bind competitive "tribes" that choose to function in one arbitrary time or another. Swinging from intense highs (his innovative marketing scheme promises to impress his tribe and make him rich) to maudlin lows (isolation in a scarily credible loony bin), Art gradually learns that his girl, Linda, and his friend Fede are up to no good. In the first chapter, Doctorowâ€™s authorial voice calls this book a work of propaganda, a morality play about the fearful choice everybody makes sooner or later between smarts and happiness. He may be more right than weâ€™d like to think.
Cory Doctorow is just far enough ahead of the game to give you that authentic chill of the future, and close enough to home for us to know that he's talking about where we live as well as where we're going to live; a connected world full of disconnected people. One of whom is about to lobotomise himself through the nostril with a pencil. Funny as hell and sharp as steel.
Cory Doctorow knocks me out. In a good way.
The excellence, the enjoyability of ‘Eastern Standard Tribe’ is not just down to Doctorow’s sparse prose, or his ability to describe the day after tomorrow. The true joy to be found within this novel rests on Doctorow’s understanding of people.