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Re: %zoic4Pyws

I liked Walkaway. I am so tired of dystopias, and it seems like 99.5% of the sci-fi genre is dystopian. Even the utopian sci-fi's focus on a tiny island of utopia surrounded by a dystopian sea (eg. The Dispossessed and The Fifth Sacred Thing). If people can recommend more utopian books, please do.

Yes there were aspects to the writing style of Walkaway that were kind of annoying. I only vaguely remember the plot. It wasn't that important. I remember the ideas. None of which were totally new to me, but the scope of application was. Like how automated manufacturing could change fundamental aspects of society (like the obsession with ownership and property). And the likely role of abject violence in the coming revolution, even the utopian pick-a-path version.

For me, another really key thing were the characters, or rather the personas. As someone who's been living in a sort of Walkway-esque bubble within our current reality for quite some time (housing co-ops, Burning Man, livelihood through anarchist hacker networks) I recognised so many "types" that I've encountered in real life. I haven't read another book so obviously written by someone who lives and works in environments similar enough to me that they can peg the stereotypes so accurately, and play them up for dramatic effect. Like the contrast between the woman leader who actually builds shit and the leaderboard dude who does not get it at all (sorry, I forget everyone's names). Classic. Most people who write about these kinds of social dynamics have no lived experience of them, so they get it wrong, but not Walkaway.

Interesting that you mention the sexual liberation aspect as odd or over the top. I'm not a fan of sexual gratuity in books, generally. Yet, I see the sex and gender realm as where many experience the dystopian aspects of our current reality most often and most personally, so it makes sense that it would be a key area you'd contrast a utopian alternative. Like, what would your daily life, preferences, and relationships be like free from capitalist and patriarchal oppression? Sex and gender are right up front. How I remember that showing up in Walkaway is when the story treats things like they aren't a big deal, as opposed to going over the top. Like when one of the main characters gets together with a transgender person and it's just, like, not a thing, like the most normal thing in the world, barely even mentioned. That's utopian.

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Re: %zoic4Pyws

To follow up on this: I finished the book on the way back from Montreal, and had a while to think it over by now.

@Robbt's statement that the second half of the book is less brain dump and more plotted sci-fi is actually true, and for me that made the second half much easier to get through. Although @Dominic is right, too, that the whole upload plot is really just a pretext for conflict. That part of the plot is the least relevant to anything, and scientifically also waaay out there, so whatever.

Overall, my impression from the 50% mark holds: the book introduces/develops/explains a ton of interesting material, but it is lacking in other important ways. I agree with @Alanna that the non-issue style of displaying the relationships is one of the most powerful utopian moves Doctorow plays, normalizing (today's) non-mainstream lifestyles pretty effectively. It's really just the actual sex scenes that I take issue with. Not because of what's displayed. I just think he doesn't do a very good job at making it believable; it comes across more as fan-fiction written by a teenage boy. Which is fine, not every writer needs to be great at everything, but IMHO, it would have been better to just imply the entire scenes, or axe some of them entirely, especially since none of them actually seems to advance the plot at all. This is especially true for the scene between Iceweasel and Nadie. That scene just didn't have to happen, at least not on the page, since it had no consequences for the plot at all. And if it was there to make a meta-point about the normality of homosexuality, a "kiss, fondle, next scene" would have been enough.

If you think (like me) that this makes me sound a bit like a prude: it's not constrained to the sex scenes. Many of the "brain dump" dialogues throughout the book feel very staged, unnatural. I get that the purpose is to explain this or that concept to the reader. But if I can tell that that's the (only) point, for me that's already a sign of lazy writing, and it makes me feel manipulated. I'm okay with a book (or any other medium) being subversive/manipulative, in fact that was one of the main points of reading this book: being confronted with new ideas, and hopefully learning something in the process. But if you're gonna present your ideas as a novel, better keep me entertained.

Bottom line: I'm glad I read this book, because it did contain very interesting ideas and things to think about. I just wish Doctorow had made a better book out of them...

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