Makers by Cory Doctorow

Perry and Lester invent things. All sorts of things. Seashell robots that make toast, Boogie Woogie Elmo dolls that drive cars. They also invent an entirely new economic system. ‘New Work’ is a New Deal for the technological era. Soon barefoot bankers are criss-crossing the nation, microinvesting in high-tech communal start-ups like Perry and Lester’s. Together they transform a country, and journalist Suzanne Church is there to document it.

But a new economic system requires a whole new belief system – and there are plenty of non-believers out there. The New Work bust puts the dot.com-bomb to shame and soon Perry and Lester are out of funds and out of business. Down but not out, they go back to what they do best – making stuff. But when a rogue Disney executive grows jealous of their once more soaring popularity and convinces the police that their amazing 3-D printers are being used to run off AK-47s, things get very dark very quickly…

This brilliantly entertaining and original novel from the visionary author of Little Brother fizzes with bold ideas about the future and how our lives will look as part of it. But at its heart are three characters, Perry, Lester and Suzanne, on an unforgettable journey that will bring them together only to break them apart as they each try to discover how to live meaningfully in an ever-changing world filled with both beauty and horror – where some things really are immutable…

makersI’ve not read any of Cory Doctorow’s stuff before, but after what I had heard about the acclaimed Little Brother I sure wanted to get stuck in. Makers is Cory’s latest book and while he’s serialising it for free on the Tor.com website (part 1 here), it’s being released in the UK by Harper Voyager at the end of October. I’ll be honest and say that I wasn’t too sure what to expect from Makers – the blurb hints at plenty going on – so when I started reading it to find a story that was interesting and characters I could relate to I knew I was on to a winner.

Lester, Perry and Suzanne are our main characters throughout Makers and while there are others that come and go, these are the ones that are at the core of the story. Lester and Perry are two guys that are creating some cool and unique stuff with their 3d printers that they sell for a nice amount to various people around the world. Their relaxed and chilled out attitude lets them get on with their stuff and everything ticks over nicely. They don’t like the corporate side of things and just want to make stuff and not get caught up in the business side of their trade, even when it becomes essential for them to do so. I especially liked this about them as it made them instantly relatable, but it also allowed Doctorow to bring in other characters that contributed to the story very effectively.

Suzanne is the journalist tasked with documenting Lester and Perry while they inadvertently pioneer the New Work economy. Because of the honest and live commentary on the comings and goings with Lester and Perry, Suzanne becomes a worldwide success on her blog. She’s an honest person that does believe in freedom of speech and that what goes on should not be hidden or kept from the public. Suzanne is also a nice contrast to Lester and Perry with the way she works – it’s not all laid back. I also enjoyed her interaction with the two guys and the way the relationships mature and change throughout the novel.

The whole idea put across with the New Work deal in the early parts of Makers is pretty amazing and very realistic – Doctorow is a very capable storyteller that can also bring great ideas to the table. Not only does he show how a future economy might look like, he then takes it further and shows the evolution of such an economy. The whole plot is based around the ideas and work of Perry and Lester and told through their eyes (with the occasional detour) and this works extremely well in allowing the reader relate to what they are doing and the reasons behind it. The corporate politics that come into play also show how the world is adapting to the innovative ideas and methods employed by Lester and Perry and how the trust of certain people can be betrayed for the good fortune of others.

Although Makers comes under the sci-fi banner, it’s more of a study of how technology can evolve to affect everyday life in the corporate world. One of the only problems I found with Makers is its length – it could easily have been shortened and would have been much tighter for it. The central idea is hi-tech and interesting, but because of the length it is enjoyable rather than excellent. For a near future story with some hi-tech ideas then this is a novel to engross yourself in – hell, it’s a damn good read regardless. Enjoyable and recommended.

2 thoughts on “Makers by Cory Doctorow”

  1. Mark, this looks like the sort of book I'd really enjoy – good review!

    I'm going on a long-haul flight in the near future and am looking for something stimulating to read; this could be it.

    The length, in this situation, would be a plus – few things worse than running out of reading matter on a long trip!

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