Friday, January 25, 2013

Amazing! Better than Little Brother.  Doctorow uses the world of technology, again, this time to delve into the world of labor unions, workers' rights, and factories throughuot Asia that pay their workers obscenely.  Egregious working conditions created deep empathy and made rich characters.  The gaming aspect drew me in, just like in Little Brother.  Once again, RPGs (Role Playing Games) are vital.  They allow for miserably paid workers to begin to organize.  It's not just workers though that begin to organize, gamers do as well.  

And then the gamers begin to control the games.  The value of swords and shields.  Getting on to the next level.  All of it.  And then they begin to influence the world outside of the games.  This was the bit that got my imagination going.  I finished Ready Player One in the spring and Doctorow's novel goes hand in hand with that one.  What is the value of this virtual, role playing game world? How far should we let ourselves live in that world? Can we 'live' in that world? What would that mean? Can we become the people we always wanted to be? Or do we lose ourselves a little bit? So many questions for this world that is just over the horizon.  This world is coming, the biggest question isn't will it change our society, but how it will.

The empathy for those working in Asia was coupled with embarrassment for what we Americans demand each day when we rise from our beds.  No matter how you slice it up, we are responsible for those working conditions.  It is a weak argument to say that those countries should have better labor laws.  It is 'Nike' logos burned into peoples arms, not Li Ning.  Those factories might be in other countries, but those are our factories.  Those are our shoes being made.  And that is our footprint burned into the workers bodies.

The lorax already warned us that Thneeds are destroying the Earth.  Now we can see them destorying people.  Not just those with burns on their arms, but those being filled with the need to succeed no matter the cost.  The need to nickel and dime.  The need to have what your neighbor has.  There are ugly, ugly characters in this novel, but it is the good ones that I will remember for a long time to come.  How many will I remember from this book in ten years? It could be a half dozen.  That doesn't happen all that often.

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