Someone Comes to Town is a fantastic example of a fairy tale for grownups, a weird and wonderful piece of 21st century fantasy.
It’s only natural that Alan, the broadminded hero of Doctorow’s fresh, unconventional SF novel, is willing to help everybody he meets. After all, he’s the product of a mixed marriage (his father is a mountain and his mother is a washing machine), so he knows how much being an outcast can hurt. Alan tries desperately to behave like a human beingÃ¯Â¿Â½or at least like his idealized version of one. He joins a cyber-anarchist’s plot to spread a free wireless Internet through Toronto at the same time he agrees to protect his youngest brothers (members of a set of Russian nesting dolls) from their dead brother who’s now resurrected and bent on revenge. Life gets even more chaotic after he becomes the lover and protector of the girl next door, whom he tries to restrain from periodically cutting off her wings. Doctorow (Eastern Standard Tribe) treats these and other bizarre images and themes with deadpan wit. In this inventive parable about tolerance and acceptance, he demonstrates how memorably the outrageous and the everyday can coexist.
I found Someone Comes to Town to be a great celebration of life and a novel that manages to be downright scary at times while still utterly resplendent with hope. It made me think not only about the true nature of families but also who owns the right to control information in the Internet age.
Fantasy trappings notwithstanding, Someone is Doctorow’s most realist novel to date, both his most linear and most peculiar. Its pleasures derive not despite the logical jump-cuts and defiant tangents, but because of them. Not everyone likes Alan in the novel; one character complains, “I had to know the why….From the outside, it’s impossible to tell if you’re winking because you’ve got a secret, or if you’ve got dust in your eye, or if you’re making fun of someone who’s winking, or if you’re trying out a wink to see how it might feel later.” It’s a drive that compels me as well.
This is one of the few books where I feel that everything is as it should be, stylistically and structurally it seems as if the finished product exactly matches the original plan. As with all his other novels you can download it for free from the author’s website, but I urge you to buy it, because the world needs more books like this.
It’s wonderful, no question about it. But it’s hard to take from time to time, whether because of the calisthenics necessary for all that imagination stretching or because Cory Doctorow’s portrayal of evil is so truly frightening; I did not want to watch some things happen.
Magical realism and
literary iconoclasm abound in a novel that should appeal to fans of
experimental fiction in a near-future setting.
It’s official: Cory Doctorow has become the new Neal Stephenson. Or, rather, he’s become the new early-period Neal Stephenson, since Stephenson himself has moved away from quirky, computer tech-y, zippy future-kitsch. Doctorow began filling the resulting gap with his first novels, Down And Out In The Magic Kingdom and Eastern Standard Tribe. But his latest, Someone Comes To Town, Someone Leaves Town, is his most Stephenson-like novel to date, all bizarre characters, cutting-edge culture, and technological lectures, swirled into a refreshing, compellingly grounded semi-fable.