by Joe Stech
I just finished Walkaway: A Novel by Cory Doctorow, and it was wonderful. I've been grinning for close to an hour now. Walkaway is one of those fantastically rare combinations of deeply convincing technological speculation, philosophy, engaging discussion, and individual people doing what they can to make the world a better place.
The novel is set in a near future where wealth disparity is reaching a maximum — nearly all global wealth is concentrated in the hands of extraordinarily rich individuals known as 'zottas,' and the rest of humanity are essentially wage slaves to the ultra-wealthy. Automation and 3D printing have reached the point where much of the global labor force is superfluous, so many people decide to opt-out of default society and 'walk away.' These walkaways collect raw materials from brownfield sites and other abandoned areas, and use software from the U.N. High Commission on Refugees and fabricator technology to build and refine a sort of techo-social utopia. Anyone can contribute, and anyone can use resources, and decisions are made collectively — if you don't like the decision, or if someone wants to enforce their views forcibly, you walk away and make something better.
Default society tolerates walkaways, until a group of walkaway scientists and engineers figure out how to upload and simulate human consciousness — the ultimate walkaway. Shit hits the fan at that point.
The story starts slow, but just keeps getting better until the end. There is something for everyone to disagree with in the book, and if you're not a fan of deep discussion-heavy dialogue you may not enjoy the book as much as I did. Even if you're not a fan of the style or ideology, I'd still read it for the huge number of ideas it contains. I give Walkaway my highest endorsement.