ReviewsAt the heart of these juxtapositions -- back-country living versus high technology, freaks and monsters versus everyday, normal people -- are Doctorow's propositions about the democratic flow of information and communications. Who are the real "lumbering dinosaur[s] . . . thrashing in the tar pit," the regimented, slow-moving corporation that regulates communications, or the characters like Alan, who argue that the free wireless network project is a protection of fundamental human rights?
One more interesting point about the science in this story: It isn't futuristic or untried, except, maybe, that the citywide network will be enabled by hardware that has been constructed entirely from garbage (discarded computer parts found in dumpsters).
"What am I?" The question is ongoing. Doctorow uses Alan as an embodiment of self-discovery on individual and cultural levels. With Alan's efforts to spearhead the wireless movement (executed by street people, squeegee kids and junkies), Doctorow suggests that the notions of high and low tech, archaic and advanced, have less to do with the technologies we create than with the ways that we use them.
Kelly McManus, The Globe and Mail
Alan, the eldest son of a mountain and a washing machine, refurbishes a house in Toronto, meets an anarchist bent on blanketing the city in free wireless Internet access, and falls for a woman with leathery wings on her back in Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town. But Alan is forced to return home and confront his misfit past when his murderous and deformed brother David reappears. Cory Doctorow adroitly interconnects these peculiar plots -- e.g., the wireless blanket is used to track David's movements -- and successfully experiments with a risky prose style.
Noah Robischon, Entertainment Weekly
After getting off to what was already an impressive start, Cory Doctorow has finally delivered the book, the one that puts him over the top as one of the rare, demonically original, challenging and gifted writers SF sees about as often as two-headed calves are born. These ranks include the likes of PKD, Ballard and Delany, artists who manage to write mold-breaking, unconventional stories that uproot nearly every preconception about what storytelling ought to do, and yet avoid being alienating or vapid and self-indulgent.
Thomas M. Wagner, SFReviews
Fine modern fantasy from up-and-coming SF writer (Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, 2003) and happening Web editor (boingboing.net) Doctorow, with the potential to please both SF and mainstream readers.
This chimera of a novel takes a plot with the geek appeal of a Neal Stephenson story and combines it with a touching family tale built out of absurdist elements that could have come from Italo Calvino or Kurt Vonnegut. We first meet Alan in Toronto, after he's made some money running a series of vaguely bohemian enterprisesâ€”bookstores, used-clothing stores, etc. He has painstakingly renovated a house in the student district as the perfect setting for writing, but he's distracted by his neighbors, primarily the sadistic punk Krishna, who is immediately hostile, and Krishna's girlfriend, Mimi, an attractive young woman who's revealed to have a set of wings, which Krishna regularly hacks off so that Mimi might pass among us. Both recognize Alan as something other than normal, and in the story's other thread, they're proven right. His mother was a washing machine, his father the mountain in which he grew up. Among his brothers are an island and three nesting-doll-like creatures, all of whom help Alan murder their resentful and dangerous brother David. Alan is further distracted when he meets Kurt, a techno-punk slowly installing wireless access points throughout the city to provide universal free Internet, a scheme that immediately engages Alan, who becomes the co-mastermind. Crisis blossoms when, with Krishna as his Renfrew, decomposing brother David returns to seek revenge, first by murdering the brothers, then targeting Mimi, now with Alan, and Kurt.
Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town is a perfect example of why we shouldn't be trying to stuff books into genres (although I will say this book is definitely InfernoKrusher). This wonderful, loopy, deep, moving story has a mystery, or maybe lots of mysteries (including the mystery of the human condition), there are a couple of romances, (not to mention the love of life and technology) and there are wonderful, intoxicating, flights of fantasy.
Georgiana Lee, Quality Time
Doctorow is one of sci-fi's most exciting young writers, and one of the few with a genuine sense of humor. This is, even by his own bizarre standards, his oddest work yet -- an absurd, cartoonish fantasy about a man whose father is a mountain, whose mother is a washing machine, and whose brother is a set of Russian nesting dolls. It all takes place in Toronto, where our hero finds love -- and discovers a passion for installing wireless Internet connections.
The latest novel by this Nebula-award nominee is every bit as strange as it sounds, but considerably more powerful than you might guess. The tone swings wildly from farce to technological exposition to horror. There are even two touching love stories, one of which Alan experiences as a child, and one as an adult. The surprises arrive at the rate of one every couple of pages.
Sci Fi magazine
This book dazzles by walking a dangerous high tightrope pulled taut between the widely separated poles of the story. The fairy-tale childhood, with its startling yet archetypically resonant improbabilities, has to consort with the hacker realities of the Kurt-based story, which in itself is not overtly unlikely, but still slightly gonzo. But, like the best mashup tunes, Doctorow's narrative wedges the most consensually disparate elements together into a brilliant whole.
What probably carries the whole project is Doctorow's deft, deep depiction of his characters. I have to say that he's never done a better job of limning real people. However weird they are, they are certainly not cardboard or one-dimensional. They all contain the essential pressure points, drives, caprices and emotions that power the folks we encounter every day. Damaged yet striving to survive and do good, Alan and his cohorts demand that we empathize with their human foibles. This essential believability pulls us in, easing our acceptance of any grotesqueries.
Paul Di Filippo, SciFi.com
To read Doctorow is to love Doctorow...every story he writes is practically guaranteed to be witty, irreverent, challenging, and completely outrageous. Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town is no different: It's classic Cory.
Paul Goat Allen, Barnes and Noble Review
Cory Doctorow's third novel blends ordinary technology, nerdista tech, myth, horror, sheer astonishing silliness, and the Aspergerish quest of the outsider into a demented non-stop juggling act that struck me as the 1950-ish Absurdism of Eugene Ionesco and Boris Vian melted into the heart-touching whimsy of Jonathan Carroll and Jonathan Lethem, then steeped in the crazed fractured realities of the Goon Show. Perhaps US readers are unfamiliar with the Goons, a BBC radio series from the 1950s (Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers) that crunched its way through genres and grotesque voices the way Monty Python tried to do a decade later.
Damien Broderick, Locus Magazine
Doctorow strings together wonderfully witty words into pithy sentences that have no right making as much sense as they do. He brings a powerful but lighthearted magic to a world we very much hope resembles the real world.
Rick Kleffel, Agony Column