ReviewsIn the end, Makers feels like a personal, cultural, and literary milestone: an employment of the full literary toolbox of SF, in the service of a portrait of how the world actually works.
If only every genre author set out with the same high ambitions, there would be no talk of SF's failures, only triumphs.
Paul Di Filippo, Barnes and Noble
Doctorow's novel fizzes with ideas and jumps with breathtaking speed from one technological breakthrough to another until you're no longer sure what's based on reality and what's purely a figment of his inventive mind.
Michelle Pauli, The Guardian
Makers took me places I'd never been and would not have thought of visiting, and I had a wonderful time there. It introduced me to some really interesting strangers and involved me in their remarkable lives. It painted a persuasive picture of a better tomorrow I've been having more and more trouble imagining lately. And it was a lot of fun. It gives me renewed hope for the future, of both written science fiction and the world.
Spider Robinson The Globe and Mail
Speaking as a dude who's into tech and yet cannot code and has average mortal math skills, and who as a result has never made anything in his life except letters on a screen, I have a deeply romantic love of engineers and hackers. I have never seen that love expressed so purely and burningly as Doctorow does in Makers. And incredibly, Doctorow actually works out his creations' creations and lets you watch Perry and Lester hack them together before your eyes.
Lev Grossman, Techland
Makers is a book for the lovers of technology, for the gleeful optimists more than the cynics. It's for the people who love the kooky engineering projects you see on Boing Boing, for the people who believe that, as the poster says, "The future belongs to the few of us still willing to get our hands dirty." It's for the people who can't wait to own a 3D printer, and who believe that while technology has its missteps, it's going to change our lives in wonderful and unexpected ways. It's for the people who hate Disney's corporate tactics, but still get a thrill at the idea of visiting the Magic Kingdom; for the people who believe that, even if they can't change the world, they can at least improve their little corner of it. It's for the people who think that, while the future may not be all jetpacks and hover cars and all the world's people people singing Kumbaya, we as individuals have the power to make it awesome in its own right.
Lauren Davis, IO9
Technology lets low-cost providers take market share away from established companies, as Detroit auto makers and Paris fashion house designers have seen. Even high-tech companies have a hard time building sustainable businesses now that good ideas are copied so quickly that they become commodities.
In a time of great change, fiction can sometimes provide better understanding than facts alone. "As the pace of technological change accelerates, the job of the science fiction writer becomes not harder, but easier—and more necessary," he writes. "After all, the more confused we are by our contemporary technology, the more opportunities there are to tell stories that lessen that confusion."
L. Gordon Crovitz, Wall Street Journal
In this tour de force, Doctorow (Little Brother) uses the contradictions of two overused SF themes—the decline and fall of America and the boundless optimism of open source/hacker culture—to draw one of the most brilliant reimaginings of the near future since cyberpunk wore out its mirror shades. Perry Gibbons and Lester Banks, typical brilliant geeks in a garage, are trash-hackers who find inspiration in the growing pile of technical junk. Attracting the attention of suits and smart reporter Suzanne Church, the duo soon get involved with cheap and easy 3D printing, a cure for obesity and crowd-sourced theme parks. The result is bitingly realistic and miraculously avoids cliché or predictability. While dates and details occasionally contradict one another, Doctorow's combination of business strategy, brilliant product ideas and laugh-out-loud moments of insight will keep readers powering through this quick-moving tale. (starred review)
After winning acclaim and awards for his YA novel Little Brother, Locus Award winner Doctorow (Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom) returns to adult sf. His latest involves a corporate executive who funds high-tech microprojects—they cost thousands of dollars instead of millions—a pair of inventors who can make anything out of anything, and a blogger who chronicles their careers. Doctorow isn't Pollyannesque about the effects of rapid technological change: change of such scope and force is often devastating—boom followed by bust, then boom again, then bust. The ending of this well-written, well-conceived novel is bittersweet. VERDICT In speculative fiction, too often the ideas outrun the writing, but not here. Doctorow's novel features a good, modest story, appealing characters, and extremely interesting ideas that will appeal to his fans and sf aficionados as well as readers interested in cogitating on the social consequences of cybertechnology's near-exponential growth. Enthusiastically recommended.
- Library Journal, David Keymer, Modesto, CA (starred review)
Covering the transformation of Kodacell (formerly Kodak and Duracell) into a network of tiny teams, journalist Suzanne Church goes to Florida and the inventors behind it all, Lester and Perry, who have more ideas than they know what to do with. The New Work (i.e., the network) takes off, with a mini-startup in every abandoned strip mall in America. But suddenly, it crashes, and things get really interesting. Lester and Perry build an interactive ride in an abandoned Wal-Mart, a nostalgia trip through their glory days, that catches the eye of a vicious Disney exec—and the old corporate giants fight their last battle against the new economic order. Doctorow’s talent for imagining the near future is astonishing, and his novels keep getting better. His prognostications are unnervingly plausible and completely bizarre, obviously developed from careful observation of what’s going on at the bleeding edge of technology and culture. The characters are simultaneously completely geeky and suave, lovable and flawed. Even the suits, marketing people and lawyers, are interesting.
Doctorow is also a master of one-upping himself, which should come as no surprise given his interest in the Singularity. In 'Makers' he manages to keep the readers' jaws dropped, as one mind-boggling scheme is supplanted by another, each new plan in equal parts wacky, intelligent, and plausible. He uses creativity and invention as plot points, thus keeping our minds and hearts in sync as we race through the novel. And this is by far his most substantial work, topping out at just over 400 pages. This time around Doctorow gives readers time to really get immersed in his world, which is to say, our world as seen through his economic kaleidoscope.
But for all the science-fiction-of-economics inventiveness, for all the delightful plot shenanigans Doctorow cooks up, by far his best asset is to my mind his directness, a trait he shares with Lethem. Doctorow never beats around the bush. Everything he says, everything every character does is somehow more right there on the page than we're usually accustomed to seeing. Doctorow's art is to a degree his ability to strip out all the art. He's got great ideas and makes no attempt to hide them or lead up to them. They just spill right out of his characters' mouths. Even though we're reading a sort-of science fiction novel, the real appeal of 'Makers' is that Doctorow just spills out one truth after another. It's refreshingly fun to read a novel where everything you need is right there on the printed page — even if you didn't print it yourself.
Rick Kleffel, Booktron
Makers is a book for the lovers of technology, for the gleeful optimists more than the cynics.
Lauren Davis, IO9