The tagline of Cory Doctorow’s latest release is “dystopia is now.” In four novellas, the Canadian ex-pat ably covers a broad swath of pressing social concerns ranging from police racism to affordable American health care through an only slightly science-fictional lens.
No prior volume has so perfectly encapsulated who Doctorow is or what he thinks we should be worrying about as this one does. In the past, a new reader might have had to read lots of long essays about Makerspaces and net neutrality and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act on his website to get the whole picture.
But now, the answer to the question of where to start with Doctorow can be answered with “right here.”
Previous novels Little Brother and Homeland were like instruction manuals for millennial and generation Z activists, written in the shadow of George W. Bush’s war on terror and the 2008 financial crisis, respectively. They represented moments in time when government curtailment of civil liberties and economic oppression by corporate interests seemed to demand a response.
But that response — a particular brand of socialist and technogeek activism that blends community organizing with internet crowd-sourcing — is even better encapsulated in Unauthorized Bread, in which a young newcomer to the United States risks everything to bust open the operating system of her smart toaster so that she, and an entire building full of refugees, can actually afford to eat.