I know, I know. You're used to me just doing reviews of entertainment history books. Non fiction volumes that touch on various aspects of the Mouse House's legacy. Movies that Disney has made. People who used to work for the Mouse. Behind-the-scenes histories of the corporation's theme parks, etc.
So what am I doing reviewing Cory Doctorow's new book, "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom?"
Well -- for starters -- over the past six months, a couple dozen JHM readers have written to me and said "You have to read this book, Jim." So when that many people come forward to sing a new novel's praises, it's usually a good idea to go pick up a copy.
But what really intrigued me about "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom" is that it exists in two formats. There's the really-for-real physical novel, which was published by Tor Books in February 2003. Then there's the on-line version of Doctorow's book (available for download as an ASCII text file, an HTML file, and about a dozen or so more formats) which can be accessed at his site.
As a confirmed capitalist (Book my tours! Book my tours!), I've often wondered how anyone could make any money off of a novel that's been published on the Net. But -- then again -- people are always asking me how I can make a living off of JimHillMedia.com. (My short answer is: I don't. But I remain ever hopeful ... Anyway ...)
Okay. Enough yammering about me. Let's talk about Cory's novel. Which is terrific, by the way.
"Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom" does this very unusual thing. It uses the Walt Disney World resort as the primary setting for its story. Mind you, it's WDW of the 23rd century. During a time when space travel is possible and death is -- at best -- an inconvenience.
According to Doctorow's tale of the future, by this point in time, Walt Disney World will no longer be the sole property of the Disney Corporation. But -- rather -- volunteer "ad hoc" groups will then run the individual attractions at the various Florida theme parks. Doing their best to keep these classic WDW rides and shows running just as they were when these attractions were first installed in the parks.
Mind you, not everyone in this tale is an ardent preservationist. Take -- for instance -- Debra. Debra is a veteran of the problematic opening of Disneyland Beijing, where she raises the coding of sim-rides to an art form.
"What are sim-rides?" you ask. Sim-rides uses cutting edge technology to flash-bake the experiences of various Disney theme park attractions straight into your cerebral cortex. Which means -- in essence -- that you wouldn't just go to WDW's "Hall of Presidents" and sit through that show anymore. Sim-ride technology, so says Doctorow, would be like "... having each President inside of you, core-dumped in a few seconds."
Given that Debra's just done a sim-ride rehab on WDW's "Pirates of the Caribbean" that's getting raves on the Web, the "ad hoc" in charge of Liberty Square -- the staunchest bunch of conservative preservationists in Disney World's Magic Kingdom -- are now worried that Debra and her cronies may soon to do the same to the Hall of Presidents, the Liberty Belle and the Haunted Mansion.
So a turf war erupts between these two "ad hoc" groups. And -- before this 208 page novel is complete -- there will be betrayal, assassinations, sabotage, adultery. Not to mention a mad woman who is covered with fine red fur who -- while floating in zero g -- can play barrelhouse piano.
Okay. I'll admit it. That sounds like a pretty weird/wild plot for a novel. Particularly one set in WDW's Magic Kingdom. But that's honestly one of the reasons that you should read "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom." For Cory Doctorow has this gift for mixing the familiar and the outlandish and making it all seem quite likely. Inevitable, even. Not to mention uniquely entertaining.
Plus he finds a way to use these futuristic "ad hoc" groups -- as they battle back and forth about whether or not several classic Disney World attractions should be radically updated -- to tell a somewhat profound story about love, death, friendship and betrayal. And why being able to live forever may not exactly be a good thing.
Here's another compliment for Cory: This guy obviously knows his Disney history. Doctorow skillfully weaves his in-depth knowledge about the parks and how various attractions were created throughout the novel. But never in a show-offy, let's-bring-the-narrative-to-a-dead-stop sort of way. The various Disney info tidbits that Cory folds into his tale actually serve the story. They never disrupt the flow of the narrative.
So, if you want to read a somewhat disquieting but still highly entertaining tale set in a Disney World of the future, then (by all means) go pick up (or go download) a copy of Cory Doctorow's "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom."
Trust me. Your Whuffie will benefit from the experience.
("What's a 'Whuffie'?" you ask. Read the book and find out, okay?)
Okay. I know. "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom" is already
available for free. But - if you'd like to help support JimHillMedia.com
- you can order your copy of Cory Doctorow's novel by clicking the link
to the right.
Your cost will (unfortunately) remain the same (though it is 30% off!)
But - if you go there through us - we get a tiny cut of what you spend.
So if you're planning on picking up the book, help keep Jim Hill behind
the computer where he belongs and order a copy of "Down and Out in
the Magic Kingdom" through the link to the right.