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From the New York Times bestselling author of Little Brother , a major novel of the booms, busts, and further booms in store for America Perry and Lester invent things—seashell robots that make toast, Boogie Woogie Elmo dolls that drive cars. They also invent entirely new economic systems, like the “New Work,” a New Deal for the technological era. Barefoot bankers cross the nation, microinvesting in high-tech communal mini-startups like Perry and Lester’s. Together, they transform the country, and Andrea Fleeks, a journo-turned-blogger, is there to document it. Then it slides into collapse. The New Work bust puts the dot.combomb to shame. Perry and Lester build a network of interactive rides in abandoned Wal-Marts across the land. As their rides, which commemorate the New Work’s glory days, gain in popularity, a rogue Disney executive grows jealous, and convinces the police that Perry and Lester’s 3D printers are being used to run off AK-47s. Hordes of goths descend on the shantytown built by the New Workers, joining the cult. Lawsuits multiply as venture capitalists take on a new investment backing litigation against companies like Disney. Lester and Perry’s friendship falls to pieces when Lester gets the ‘fatkins’ treatment, turning him into a sybaritic gigolo. Then things get really interesting.

416 pages, Hardcover

First published October 27, 2009

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About the author

Cory Doctorow

243 books4,934 followers
Cory Doctorow is a science fiction author, activist, journalist and blogger — the co-editor of Boing Boing and the author of the YA graphic novel In Real Life, the nonfiction business book Information Doesn’t Want To Be Free, and young adult novels like Homeland, Pirate Cinema, and Little Brother and novels for adults like Rapture Of The Nerds and Makers. He is a Fellow for the Electronic Frontier Foundation and co-founded the UK Open Rights Group. Born in Toronto, Canada, he now lives in Los Angeles.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 667 reviews
Profile Image for Nicole.
361 reviews9 followers
May 18, 2010
I hesitate to mark this book as 'read', but I did read over half of it. I usually don't stop in the middle of books, but this book was an exception. I didn't just dislike it - it made me actively angry.

It's not the concepts or politics that made me angry - I'm familiar with Doctorow's agenda, and I agree with most of it. I'm a lefty, I'm interested in technology and decentralized/local production of goods and services, I think activism can be important, and I think copyright is broken. I didn't love Little Brother, but I really liked it. I should like this thing.

But I hated it. And here's a long explanation why.

First: This is a near-future speculative fiction novel. It's chockablock with recognizable technology - stuff I can point at and say "hey, I just read about rudimentary version of that on Boing-Boing!". Some of it is stuff that Doctorow has actively blogged about. There's nothing wrong with this.

But if you're going to base your whole plot on this type of thing, where a bunch of the research has actually been done and prototypes are being made and you can get interviews with the people who are doing it...you better back it up with at least some implementation/technical detail, or if not, be really good at characterization or description. Basically, the plot reads like a lot of really cool gadgets strung together, with a thin overlay of cardboard people. Lots of hand-wavy stuff to get from one gadget to another. It just seems lazy.

This laziness makes me livid. This is stuff I care about. I wish Doctorow had taken better care of these ideas.

Second: It smacks of Mary Sue and shoddiness. When a blogger writes a novel in which a (female, nice cover, Doctorow) blogger becomes the most important journalist EVAR and changes the world...my eyes start to roll. The evil journalist is 100% evil. The activists are young and hot and anxious to get with the dude thrust from tinkerer into the spotlight of movement leader. Tsk.

Third: This book is preaching to the choir. Again, if this is such potentially important stuff, why write the book so as to appeal only to those who agree with you? This book is not going to change anyone's minds. It's a collective wank, not a manifesto. Probably that's unfair - it's just a novel after all. Unfair or not, that's how I feel.

I'm pissed. And I can't wait to move onto something else.
Profile Image for Ruby  Tombstone Lives!.
338 reviews410 followers
January 19, 2012
This is a book people will either love or be "meh" about. The best I can do for a review is tell people what to expect. So if you're okay with the following, then the book may be for you..

The book has a non-traditional story arc. The narrative doesn't go where you think it's going to go at any point in time, and resists attempts to categorise it. Some people may feel it that it meanders, or that it doesn't have a point. I am okay with this.

All of the characters are flawed. There is not a single wholly perfect character in it, and even the "evil" characters are rarely pure evil. In a lot of cases, the characters act unpredictably, make mistakes and experience moral ambiguity. I am okay with this too.

The book has as many big, brilliant, magical and inspiring ideas (about everything from technology to commerce to social systems) as it does pages. But all of these ideas have upsides and downsides, and the downsides are described in as vivid detail as anything else. There is no single idea that is held aloft as a shining panacea to society's ills. I am okay with this also.

Doctorow is not a devoted author of literary fiction. While he writes clearly and concisely, there are little things scattered along the way that let you know that writing fiction is not his primary occupation. For example, you don't always know who is speaking, or who is in the room. And there are very few phrases I would be putting on a needlework tapestry to lovingly remember. There are no chapters and the underlying structure is vague. The timeframes are also vague, and somewhat unlikely. I am less okay with this, but I'll deal.

Now that our dead cats are on the table, I'll get to the scoring. Since the rating system is based on enjoyment of the book, I have to give it 5 stars. I ploughed through this book at a rate of knots. I'm going from Makers straight to another Doctorow book. I'm even reading BoingBoing more. Boogie-Woogie Elmo will always have a place in my consciousness. The ideas in this book are inspirational to such a degree, it's hard to imagine that they wouldn't have a permanent effect on my own thinking. Can you really ask anything more of a book?
Profile Image for Ari Cheslow.
1 review1 follower
February 10, 2010
Cory friggin Doctorow. I don't know what to make of this guy. I really want to give this book both a 0 and a 5. He is full of fascinating ideas. This book is fascinating. He shows the implications of technology, really doable tech, but with huge consequences in society. What happens as three d printers get better and making more stuff. When the distance between design and the product gets shorter and easier. What will people do? What will corporations do when anyone can do what they do? He presents really cogent ideas, I couldn't stop reading.

Except the writing is sooo friggin horrible! It's like reading fucking fan fiction. I had to read like the worst sex scene ever put into words. Seriously I read a Geocities page about tentacle sex in '98 with more art than this. Protip: If a literary sex scene has the word "vagina" in it, it's a bad sign.

So what do I say. This is real sci-fi. An exploration of technology and how people react to new capabilities. Real sci-fi, so what if it's not shakespeare? If ideas is your thing, read this. If prose is, skip it.
Profile Image for Maya Panika.
Author 1 book70 followers
September 28, 2009
I tried very hard to like this book. I loved the pretext and I really wanted to like it, but it’s so hard going, nothing much seems to happen and it’s much, much too long.

Focussing on a very near, wholly believable future, the story kicks off brilliantly, the characters start out interesting but then - nothing. The characters quickly merge and become indistinguishable, so that you have to work rather too hard to keep up with who’s doing what, where and why. What story there is is so heavily padded with inconsequential detail and irrelevant sub plots that it quickly becomes very confusing.

The technology rules, as you’d expect in a story from Cory Doctorow; I get the feeling that the technology is far more interesting to him than his characters – at times they feel like ‘carriers’ for all the ‘fun stuff’ Cory really wants to write about.

Which is not to say it's a bad book, there are some great ideas, some gripping sections; the chapters set in the shanty towns that have sprung up in Florida’s ruined condos and abandoned gated communities were a highlight, but these are small islands of interest in a vast ocean of seemingly endless lawsuits and technological detail and not nearly enough character development or plot to truly engage my interest.

In short, the ideas are great but they need a stronger story and better characters to hang them on. It would benefit hugely from a really good edit.
Profile Image for Ben.
19 reviews10 followers
April 23, 2010
At first, I was a little annoyed with feeling like I was just reading BoingBoing in novel version. All the usual suspects show up: DIY everything, creative economic models, subcultures, nonsense legal actions, open source, 3d printing, Disney, online meeting/consensus tools, revision control systems, police brutality, urban decay, and of course citizen-journalism.

But then a whole plot appears and it's compelling. The book doesn't quit bringing new ideas and twists and I really like how it follows a longer arc in the lives of the characters. The story and the concepts are enough that I can forgive the occasional awkward phrasing and rough transition. You're not reading for the lyrical imagery. You're reading for that future-is-now, tomorrow's-here-already sensation, cut with geeky idealism in the face of no-punches-pulled harsh realities.
Profile Image for Kemper.
1,390 reviews6,970 followers
August 25, 2010
I’ve always wished that I had the engineering knack so I could invent something like a robot that does laundry or flying cars or something cool like that. Hell, I’d be tickled if I could figure out something fun like dropping Mentos into Diet Coke. After reading this book, I’m kind of glad to be technically challenged because it seems like there’d be a dark side to being that kind of guy.

This realistic sci-fi story takes place in the near future where economic woes have left corporations as shells of their former selves. When a rich entrepreneur comes up with a plan to finance smart people who use all the leftover tech laying around after a generation of poor sales to come up with off-the-wall ideas, a new economic model called New Work is invented. The concept revolves around coming up with an idea that can be generated for a relatively small costs thanks to cheap production methods available via new ‘printers’ that can be programmed to manufacture materials, selling the product until cheap knock-offs take the profit out of it, and then coming up with a great new idea.

Lester and Perry are two good-natured and talented geeks who do things like scavenge microprocessors from discarded toys to build small robots, and they quickly become the poster boys for New Work thanks to the blogging of a business journalist. Despite coming up with great ideas and making some money for their investors, New Work doesn’t last, and years later, Lester and Perry have built a museum/tribute/theme ride to the New Work revolution. When their ad hoc concept becomes an underground phenomenon, a rogue executive from Disney becomes frightened that the guys have hit a new type of amusement park ride that could threaten the Mouse House, and he starts taking drastic action to shut it down.

On the surface, this could have been just another story about brilliant underground types fighting an evil corporation, but it isn’t that simple. Lester and Perry have their own problems in trying to reconcile their simple desire to just build cool things to the business demands placed on them by their own successes. And the story points out that if you want to do something big, whatever system you build to make it happen will almost invariably become some type of corporate infrastructure. Plus, when people start believing in what you’re doing and try to help build on it, what kind of responsibility does that put on the creators?

In the end, even two good guys who just want to cobble together stuff in their workshop will find that the demands of what they create will test their own convictions and their friendship, and they’ll learn that the ideas and the building are the easy part compared to dealing with what you do with what you’ve made.

This was a great concept, and it was interesting to read a sci-fi book that was mainly about speculating about where business and the economics of the easy and cheap availability of high tech gadgets is going to take us, but done in a story that was very relatable.
Profile Image for Kaia.
229 reviews3 followers
February 9, 2016
I have a good contender for worst read of 2015!

The first half of this book is simply a message with a story slathered thinly on top. The practically all-male cast is cardboard and hollow, and their characters seem to be half developed based on what clothes they wear and food they eat. The female main character is a Mary Sue who can do little wrong (every single male character professes himself in love with her at some point). The other female characters are weird wish fulfillment girl (a college student who offers sage advice and then throws herself at a main character 10+ years her senior, in a very awkward sex scene) or the frustrated wife of another male character who mainly exists to watch the children and occasionally gets angry at her husband.

There's all sorts of over-the-top telling. Like, a character will say "You really smell, man!" and then everyone in the scene will find this so funny they are described as doubled over laughing (or rolling around on the ground) with tears running down their face. Was this book meant for 10 year olds?

Also, the fat shaming. Doctorow is obsessed with describing everyone's body types. I counted three instances of really repulsive descriptions of people who are overweight in the first forty pages. I'm assuming this was added to set up the pointless fatkins storyline (what was the point of that anyway?), but it doesn't make these sections any less repulsive to me. Here's a sample:

The other commonality this stretch of road shared with Detroit was the obesity of the people she passed. She'd felt a little self-conscious that morning, dressing in a light short-sleeved blouse and a pair of shorts -- nothing else would do, the weather was so hot and drippy that even closed-toe shoes would have been intolerable. At 45, her legs had slight cellulite saddlebags and her tummy wasn't the washboard it had been when she was 25. But here, on this stretch of road populated by people so fat they could barely walk, so fat that they were de-sexed marshmallows with faces like inflatable toys, she felt like a toothpick.


"Right," Perry said. "That's next week, and this aft we've got some work to do, but now I'm ready for lunch. You guys ready for lunch?"

Something about food and really fat guys, it seemed like an awkward question to Suzanne, like asking someone who'd been horribly disfigured by burns if he wanted to toast a marshmallow. But Lester didn't react to the question -- of course not, he had to eat, everyone had to eat.

Anyway, this book was horrible. The story just kept going and going on pointlessly for 400 pages. I was excited to read something by Doctorow, because I really like his ideas, so this was definitely disappointing. And, okay, the ideas underneath this mess were actually very interesting (I DID like the idea of the crowd-sourced ride slowly turning into a subconsciously created story). But, I rather read about these ideas in blog posts and non-fiction. My advice? Don't read Makers and stick to Doctorow's non-fiction.
Profile Image for Toby.
836 reviews331 followers
July 8, 2013
I am so glad this one is finished with. It's strange, I really quite like Doctorow but only in short bursts it seems. His ideas are great and his message worth while but it gets a little tiring being preached to in your fiction and in Makers there's a whole lot of didactic dialogue. Doctorow takes his idea and spins it through several revolutions of basically the same plot for 400+ pages in an attempt to make it an epic spectacle that takes decades to come to fruition, instead leaving you feeling like it has taken decades to actually read the thing. At least he gives this stuff away right?
Profile Image for Kara Babcock.
1,952 reviews1,293 followers
July 15, 2010
Economics is weird. The economy is a social system. Once upon a time, it was based somewhat in reality, with gold standards and natural resources forming a large part of this anchor. At present, it has transformed into a mostly speculative beast, the taming of which is the goal of any number of hedge fund managers, stock market analysts, and economics professors with cushy degrees from Ivy League or wannabe-Ivy League schools. To make matters worse, the economy is based on the behaviour of people.

And people, as a group, are not only irrational but stupid. So the economy is in for a treat.

Makers is to economics what Little Brother is to national security and civil liberties. Cory Doctorow ventures into that curious nexus of technological innovation, outdated corporate laws, dinosaur business models perpetuated by incumbent players, and strong-willed individuals who want to rock the boat. Although definitely science fiction, like Little Brother this book invokes technology that is available in the present day, focusing on the differences such technology is making rather than speculating upon the differences technology will make.

In some sense we have always lived in an information economy, because ultimately it all comes down to information in one form or another. Yet the information economy has never been more obvious in the present era, because technology has removed the barrier to the exchange of pure information. This so-called digital economy threatens incumbent business models—and the corporations that became successful through such models—because digital often turns scarcity into plenty.

Makers uses 3D printers to represent this transition to plenty. But this is more than just making things; it's about what we choose to make. The point of the DIY ("do it yourself") movement is making objects—designing them, constructing them, watching them succeed or fail or adapt to new purposes—is a rewarding effort. Lester and Perry are innovators, and that's what makes them essential to Kettlewell's New Work vision. In a society that tends toward individualism, corporations like Google are succeeding by embracing that individualism, encouraging the creativity of individuals and small groups, then reaping the ideas that result. New Work is the ultimate corporate takeover, harnessing the very bootstraps-entrepreneurial strategy so praised in the United States to generate huge new profits. It is both terrifying and amazing.

Of course, those corporations entrenched in the old paradigms will resist. This is where the law enters the story. Intellectual property law is a morass of complicated statutes, precedents, and procedures. Unfortunately, sometimes corporations will use these laws to eliminate competition. Those corporations want the law to remain as it is—or favour them even more—even as the government faces pressure to change the law in the face of changing technologies and business models.

Disney (somewhat predictably, knowing Doctorow) plays the role of corporate antagonist in Makers. Everything goes swimmingly with the ride until pieces of Disney rides begin appearing in it; then Disney slaps the ride with an injunction and a trademark infringement lawsuit. Although the conflict presents Disney as the Big Bad Corporation out to get the Little Guy, the resolution is more nuanced and realistic in its views. Lester and Perry compromise, make a deal with a Disney executive, in return for personal creative freedom. Makers is not about revolution but evolution. Its tone may sound anti-corporation at times, but really it is only anti-dinosaur. Those corporations that adapt will survive.

I revel in the way Makers chronicles some of the challenges facing corporations and individuals alike. That is about all it is good at doing, however. The characters are flat, and the story meanders through a flow chart of plot points Doctorow feels are essential to his theme. The jacket copy is somewhat misleading; it implies that Lester's "fatkins" treatment causes his falling out with Perry. While fatkins was a contributing factor, Lester and Perry's relationship deteriorates for several reasons, the main one being time and diverging interests.

I don't blame Doctorow for the jacket copy. I do, however, expect deeper stories than what Makers delivers. Every problem the protagonists face can be conquered by a combination of message board posts, blogging, and passing it off to the legal experts. There is one obnoxious antagonist who is a straw man for anti-innovation bloggers (the kinds of sticks-in-the-mud who are unhappy whenever anyone is successful, and usually when they fail too).

To be fair, the characters do change and learn from their conflicts. Lester and Perry's relationship transforms dramatically; Susan's life changes as she follows her dream; Sammy starts off as a suit and discovers he can have his cake and eat it too. So I'm even more puzzled than I usually am, because for all the dynamics in their relationships, these characters have no chemistry.

For example, consider the scene in which Kettlewell admits to having an affair (we saw this coming). There is no drama, no repercussions. Nothing fundamentally changes after this admission. He could have said, "I am going to paint my white picket fence with a different brand of white paint" and engendered the same reader response. I just do not feel invested in these characters or their plights.

But maybe that's just Kettlewell—after all, he is a minor character. Surely we feel more inclined toward drama over Lester and Perry? Not really. Hilda, whom Lester dubs Yoko, becomes an unwilling wedge between the two DIY-ers (we saw this coming). Hilda and Perry just sort of hook up and have a one night stand, and suddenly it's love. But Hilda never really does anything Yoko-ish. Lester is the one who has created a self-fulfilling prophecy, pushing Perry away in response to a stimulus that isn't there, projecting his own desires for distance. Still, the arguments Lester and Perry have do not feel like arguments. They are dialogues from two slightly different perspectives to communicate a point.

Speaking of Perry and Hilda, let's talk about the sex scenes. Or not. Awkward. . . .

Moving on. Makers starts with a bang but ends with a whimper. The quality of the prose remains consistent—consistently mediocre—but while the story starts strong, it soon becomes streamlined and perfunctory, like it's a Disney ride and we're just sitting there, watching it happen. Despite a Big Bad Corporation coming over for dinner and spats among the protagonists about the best way to run the rides, I never felt like the stakes were very high or that anyone had much to lose.

As much as I love the premise and the execution of its ideas, Makers is much ado about nothing as far as I'm concerned. I thought Little Brother rocked hard enough to make it one of my best 10 books of 2009. With that book, Doctorow offers up a polemic, yes, but one that is truly worth the time, even if one disagrees with his argument. Makers lacks that worthwhile attribute.

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Profile Image for Andrea.
312 reviews39 followers
October 26, 2013
The future is now, kids, and Makers shines a light on the irrepressible heroes of the humming hive of creative, cooperative production.

Perry and Lester are a couple of tinkering tech whizzes whose tastes and talents gear towards fabricating new, cool stuff out of junk. Bankrolled by biz visionary Kettlewell, and media-documented by the astute tech chronicler Suzanne Church, they manage to spawn a whole new approach to goods production, The New Work, and in the process rehabilitate a squat site before they get eclipsed by their own success. No worries, the resilient and fair-minded makers organically morph into inadvertent ringleaders of other happening movements. Of course the story meanders a bit, and there's plenty of living, loving, eating, soul-searching, struggling, dating and mating along the way, not to forget the inevitable clashes and conflicts with the sharks and other utopia-busting baddies.
The last bit being the whole unhidden agenda of the novel, I felt like I was reading Geekonomics 101 spliced into a novel – way too didactic for my tastes. The ideas are mostly OK, but the execution really needed to be tweaked a whole lot more for the sake of art. Sure, the writing is enthusiastic and kind of spontaneous (I'm guessing the desired effect is “not fancy but fresh!” ) but passages like the following are just plain lame-o:
”Rides are a lot of fun, Perry. Your ride, it's amazing. But I don't want to ride a ride for the rest of my life, and Landon is a ride that doesn't stop. You can't get off.”

Rides were things that you had to ride to understand. Describing a ride was like talking about a movie – so abstract and remote. Like talking about sex versus having it.

Alright, the first one is dialogue, so that's presumably how some tech genius might talk. But the second one? That's just slack. Style isn't everything, of course, but unfortunately, some of that slack worms it's way into the content as well. Plot points are often negligently handled or brushed over with hollow repetitions.

Finally, there is a very upbeat optimism running through Makers, some worthy points, and a dose of goofy fun, if you're into that, but it seemed too mediocre and hastily assembled to be convincing.

Profile Image for Pam.
1,028 reviews
December 1, 2009
As a Gen Xer I've been regaled with tales of those early PC days when the prehistoric hackers worked from garages and slept under the VW buses together, and I think Cory Doctorow has as well. In Makers he takes the same idea of the passionate artists and technology hackers pushing the boundaries with new technologies and places them in the near future - the twenty-teens. In this brave new world he explores the implications of junk yards full of hardware and kitsch mass-marketed detritus, obesity, 3-D printers, American shanty towns, and the overall decline of America with cultural pockets in Boston, Miami, Silicon Valley, and Madison Wisconsin. Unlike many SF novels of declining societies, this one is infused with optimism and reflects the ability of most hackers to focus on their inner life and to ignore or edit out the suboptimal parts of their surroundings that bother most people.

Doctorow puts together a wonderful cast of characters. Suzanne Church is the tech reporter turned wealthy blogger documenting the work of Perry Gibbons and Lester Banks, "trash-hackers" who start their career by creating products out of technological trash and then move to crowd-sourced rides that compete with Disney. Their 3-D printer escapades are the ultimate "stick it to the man." Doctorow is thought provoking and thoughtful in how he sees our interaction with technology playing out in the next 10 years. I thoroughly enjoyed it though I do wish he could write as well as William Gibson. He seems to find words and crafting of sentences as a necessary evil to getting across the world and stories he creates.

Full disclosure - I own a 3-D printer that Doctorow fantasizes about in this novel, so my fascination and positive review of this book may be verging on narcissism!
Profile Image for Tim Hicks.
1,537 reviews120 followers
May 26, 2012
Buzzword dump.

Lots of interesting but weak ideas. Barely adequate characters. A sex scene that I didn't dislike as much as others but it was as out of place as a tuxedo on a frog (yeah, I know, Hello, mah honey, helo, mah baby ...). A Heinleinesque style where the world has three incredibly smart people and six billion morons. Cory's Disney obsession again.

Two things in particular wrecked it for me.

First, the assumption that within a few short years, you can put generic goop into a 3D printer and produce anything. Anything. Precise tolerances, flexibility, strength ... no problemo.

Second, the anchor of the entire plot, the "rides". To me, they felt boring and logistically unfeasible. Aren't they just museum rooms made by amateurs and viewed from dodgem cars? Feh! No one ever goofs around in there, no races, no fights, no trouble.

For the bonus wrecker, the shantytown. Put together by amateurs out of scraps ... and near the end we learn that Again Feh.

This might have been a lot better with a co-writer or a strong editor. It's not the first time I've thought that of a C.D. book.
Profile Image for Abby Jean.
985 reviews
April 13, 2011
did not care for this. doctrow's fetishization of returning to the days of hand crafts and tooled leather belts and blah blah seemed more retro than futuristic to me, and when he got into a future word where weight loss was easy but you could still tell who the former fatties were, he lost me for good. didn't finish.
Profile Image for MargaretDH.
1,051 reviews17 followers
January 22, 2021
This was winding and kinda messy, just like what it was trying to say. Doctorow explores a potential evolution of capitalism, where the means of production are more accessible to the people, at the same time as the availability of stable jobs is shrinking. Through the eyes of the producers, a journalist, a couple of suits and a bad guy or two, we see how the ability to build and create can connect and people and create movements.

I liked this, but it was fat and weird and meandering. If you like near time scifi, and while Doctorow does write complex characters and interesting plot, here they're mostly in service to his exploration of how technology and capitalism interact. I'd definitely recommend this, but you have to be up for that kind of stuff.
Profile Image for Tracy.
1,952 reviews38 followers
February 21, 2019
3.5 This is a departure from other Doctorow I have read. Full to the brim with ideas and society's reactions to those ideas, and a little more sx than I can recommend to the kids I normally recommend him to ;) I like the epilogue as a bit of a cautionary tale.
10 reviews
June 6, 2018
One of the most boring books I've read. I didn't care about the characters or what they were doing. Ugh...what a waste of good reading time. I marked it as read but gave up after getting halfway through. I guess I was hoping it would get better. It didn't.
47 reviews
July 22, 2016
Some 30 years after the Reagan revolution transformed the American economy and refocused all our resources on a wealth transfer to the richest among us, we can see that the goals of that Revolution have been nearly completed. The middle class is disappearing rapidly and well on its way to being converted into a huge mass of people who can no longer be called working class since the jobs have disappeared. Without a socialist intervention in the very near future, America can expect to end up in a kind of neo-feudal economy, having a tiny number of extremely wealthy people with the rest of the population struggling to survive, and corporate entities replacing the feudal warlords of old. This is the kind of world that Makers is set in.

This kind of economic cycle certainly wasn't invented by Reagan; in fact the reforms that Reagan and later Bush/Cheney dismantled to make the haves into "have-mores" dated from attempts to recover from such a wealth transfer in the 1920s and prevent it from happening again. The difference is the landscape of the ruined economy, with huge amounts of non-biodegradable debris everywhere for the taking, and the masses themselves having such technological skills and know-how that never could have existed in a previous age. So Makers takes us on a kind of optimistic journey through that ruined America. Americans always were good at making things in the past, and even though the corporate media tells us again and again that we can't possibly tackle problems like global warming without harming the "economy" or the "job-creators," this is still the country that went from theory to atom bomb in four years or from zero to moon in ten. So Doctorow probably isn't all that off-base when he imagines people freed from work in a traditional sense throwing themselves into the process of creating new things from the rubbish of a more wasteful time. He certainly gives us a lot of interesting sociological food for thought in this novel.

I'm only giving him three stars, however, because as interesting as his ideas are, they are just that, interesting ideas. It doesn't make for an interesting or exciting story because the characters never really come alive for me. I like character-driven work, and as much detail as he gives us about the main characters, I only ever found myself empathizing with one of them- the relatively minor Death Waits, the young goth kid who naively kept stumbling into situations he really didn't understand. The rest of them seemed more like hat stands for hanging ideas onto.
Profile Image for Steven.
Author 25 books40 followers
August 22, 2010
Cory Doctorow's Makers is a book full of ideas and possibility, which makes up for a somewhat predictable plot and flattened characters.

I read this book after I had read Doctorow's Little Brother; the two have very strong similarities in plot structure. It's a serviceable - if a bit transparent - structure, but the girders and siding are definitely showing after reading both of these books.

This isn't surprising - both books are idea books. Where Little Brother is concerned with personal freedoms and surveillance societies, Makers is concerned with economics, sustainable development, and making money doing cool things. And like Little Brother, the ideas are what make this book worth reading.

Throughout, Doctorow imagines "New Work" - a thrilling idea of decentralized (and yet networked) expertise being used to let people make and work how they want in a sustainable and profitable way. It's a fascinating vision, and easily ranks up there with his conceptualization of "Whuffie" as a transcendent kind of economics. Unlike Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, where whuffie played an omnipresent but background role, "New Work" is the front-and-center conflict of the story.

The plot is, as mentioned, a bit predictable in the broad outlines. Most of the characters come of a little bit flat as well, making it difficult for me to care about the character's emotions. A separation or argument simply evoked a "meh", and the single real "sex scene" came off as gratuitously explicit. What I ended up caring about was the idea - the concept of "New Work", of working in innovative ways (and seeing some thoughts how the establishment might strike back).

While this book is not Doctorow's finest fiction, it is a fascinating thought experiment and worth reading for that alone. It is also available for free as a Creative Commons download at his website. [LINK:]
Profile Image for Mark Harding.
65 reviews1 follower
July 2, 2012
It's such a page turner that I stayed up all night to finish it. Three new ideas a page.

Interesting things:
The novel is purposely designed to force the reader to make moral judgments and avoid easy answers:
-- Lester and Perry make different choices at the end. Which one is more realistic about the nature of capitalism. Which is the more moral choice? Are they both fantasists?
-- Can you morally coexist with the MBA types? Is the company structure the only effective way to get things done?
-- Are Lester and Perry so caught up in their own world that -- fundamentally decent people as they are -- they ignore the suffering around them? Such as how long it took them to visit Death Waits in hospital. Or never helping Francis the mayor with his medial bills.Or is there only so much anyone can pay attention to?
-- The character of the Disney exec Sammy, I found the most difficult. He seems to waver from stupid to very clever, self-obsessed to obsessed with creativity, pathetic to pantomime villain, selfish to the point of evil to reasonable guy. He is unhappy most of the time and comes to realise it. Is he happy at the end of the novel? Does he grow or does he simply change with circumstances. A rather unbelievable character. But perhaps there are unbelievable people?

An unusual aspect of the book, is that although the conclusion isn't exactly 'happy' the book is fundamentally optimistic - about human nature and the power of creativity. It (and Doctorow's public persona generally) seems to suggest that there is a limit to capitalism because the world's resources are limited. But the new capitalism is about creativity and the mind. There is no limit to that. Is that true? And will everybody be saved by the creative economy? And doesn't the current banking system show the result of creative capitalism? The book is fundamentally optimistic but it's far from saying there are easy answers. I guess it's better to be optimistic enough to try, rather than just give up...


Make money by doing what you want well.
Profile Image for Alice.
Author 4 books100 followers
March 24, 2010
This is a book full of BIG IDEAS - and if you're the type of geeky tech-obsessed person who loves BIG IDEAS about the future of tech, business, litigation, fitness, etc., you'll enjoy the truly speculative fiction element of this book. I enjoy that sort of stuff just fine, but I already read a million blogs and New Yorker articles about it, and when I read fiction I want to read FICTION. Doctorow is a terrible fiction writer; as much as I love his blog and his ideas (and he's an amazing person to see speak or have a conversation with), he cannot write characters to save his life, he fiats a lot of things (e.g. "I will invent something or other that will fix this problem my characters are involved with"), and he should stay away from anything erotically themed. He also can't write convincing female characters, and I find his obsession with Disney super fucking weird.

With that said, I couldn't put this book down for several days of hours of reading, and there were enough interesting ideas in it to muse over; but if you already read Boing Boing, you've heard most of them already. Also, the beginning of the book, which is based on an old short story, could have used some SERIOUS editing as it reads like it's based in 2003, not 2013, which is the problem with this sort of near-future speculation: e.g. why on earth were the characters concerned with the COST of PHONE CALLS?

I had the same complaint about little Brother: if you are super tech literate, most of this will be old-hat, and if you aren't, most of it will be over your head. I'll probably keep reading Doctorow's novels, but not for their riveting characterization or prose.
Profile Image for Paul.
918 reviews37 followers
March 13, 2012
Actual rating: 1.5 stars.

If you follow the Boing Boing web site, you'll be familiar with the themes expressed in Makers, Cory Doctorow's "Novel of the Whirlwind Changes to Come." If you've read Ayn Rand, you'll be familiar with Cory's writing style and pacing. If you've ever made a list of two hundred techno-geek words and thought about using them in a book, you'll be familiar with Cory Doctorow's method. I was ready to quit after one chapter, but told myself I'd plod on until Cory started to indulge his Disney fetish. When he did, I decided to read on until he mentioned Hello Kitty. That was a mistake, because Hello Kitty never came up, but I had to read the entire book to make sure. Had I set my goal on "teh" (as in teh awesome) I could have knocked off about halfway through. Oh well. Apparently the whirlwind changes to come involve free-wheeling intellectual property theft, variant spellings of mafia, a miracle cure for obesity, and a whole fucking lot of talking in place of plot and action. Oh, and a sex scene lifted right out of a Penthouse Forum letter. William Gibson covers some of the same ground. DIfference is, Gibson can write.
November 2, 2009
This is sort of a strange book. It was hard to figure out whether this book was about people or about technology or about business or about creativity or (as is most likely) an amalgamation of all four. The story takes a few jumps: at the beginning it seems to set itself up as one thing and then shifts gears rather dramatically into another direction.

Cory Doctorow also continues his fascination and love/hate relationship with Disney. The only other book of his I've read, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, takes place entirely at Disney, while in this one, Disney plays a fairly large role in the second half.

I think the writing is improved over his previous book, although I still feel like there's something missing. Doctorow is good at coming up with interesting scenarios and exploring the social ramifications, but somehow it tends to feel rather superficial, as if there is a depth just waiting to be explored.
Profile Image for Ryan.
Author 1 book39 followers
May 21, 2010
The first part of this book made me angry. The main POV character, a journalist who becomes a successful blogger by writing about nerds making stuff, smelled strongly of author insertion and it pushed some personal buttons of mine with regards to how it presented people with weight issues. I think the issues raised by Lester and the fatkins diet could be interesting if developed into their own story, but as a subplot to a larger work it felt sloppy and disrespectful.

Later sections of the book were better than the beginning, but never quite rose to good - characters seem flat and two-dimensional, and are motivated primarily by a desire to move the plot forward. I can appreciate that Doctorow was trying to write a sci-fi novel that focused on the science of economics, but I can't say I enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Abby.
120 reviews
January 29, 2019
It was a great book until 164 pages in there was a 3 page long x-rated sex scene with no warning and zero plot relevance. Listen, that normally doesn’t bother me but it was so gratuitous, so POINTLESS, and contained the cringetastic line “it wasn’t a one night stand. It was an intimate, loving relationship compressed into one day.” Said by college girl to guy in his 40s because she’s *enlightening* him with her *sexual energy* I guess. I’m finishing the book because the first 163 pages were good, but this one star review STANDS. @CORY DOCTOROW’S EDITOR PLEASE STOP HIM NEXT TIME.

Sorry Goodreads pals, but I’m so mad about this that I had to do something or I was going to end up abusing a library book.
Profile Image for Kat.
Author 1 book21 followers
May 21, 2012

You know in the first episode of Firefly, when Mal kicks open Simon's cooler (spoiler!), and looks in to see a naked girl inside? He peers down and then says, "...Huh." That's kind of my reaction to this book. It started out absolutely un-put-downable, fascinating and ebullient. Then it kind of dragged in the middle. By 2/3 of the way through I just wanted to finish so I could be finished, though it warmed up a little towards the end. I really don't know what to make of the book as a whole. It was really interesting, but not terribly satisfying.
Profile Image for Bruce.
484 reviews9 followers
July 7, 2020
It seems that people either love this book or hate this book. No middle ground.

One of the reasons that people tend to dislike Makers is that it seems to advocate a socio-communal social structure where people are basically good and if you just get the lawyers out of the way, everything will work out. However, even the author doesn't seem to believe this worldview very strongly because choices have consequences and the relationships between the best and nicest people tend to decay like a rotten tooth ("all we do is magnify each other's flaws").

I gave it 5 stars for a number of reasons.

The author wrote this book just 10 years ago (hello 2020 and COVID19) yet he pressed the fabric of the technology just a bit further into the future than where we are today. At that time, 3D printers were relatively primitive, the goop expensive and touchy, and yet he saw where he would lead. I built a kit today with a micro-controller and a servo motor; the author saw a world where these parts were so readily available, so open, and so mass-produced that you could take old toys apart, re-assemble them, re-flash the firmware and re-use the tech for entire different purposes at a scale that the original innovators never conceived.

Social media in "Makers" is even more pervasive than it is today. Heaven help us if Facebook embeds itself any further into our lives (and people willingly give up the last vestiges of their privacy without a thought). I do wish that the complex filtering and reporting in social media, as described in the book, existed today.

Credit cards have "pay patches" in the surfaces of tables in restaurants and bars. Our "tap to pay" with our phones or cards is almost there.

Disneyland, in the book, has severed itself from Walt Disney's vision and are simply a group of corporate profit centers. It's still the Happiest Place on Earth, but we accept a far lower standard for happiness. And, like Facebook, Disney (in the book) wants to extend their reach in every home in America (and beyond).

I follow the author on Twitter. He may only write several hundred words a day but they are quality words.
Profile Image for Rachel.
1,499 reviews28 followers
July 9, 2020
I should read Cory Doctorow's books when they are new. This suffered from being set in a future that is mostly past now. (One tiny detail he got wrong: Jimmy Carter is still very much alive.) I enjoyed reading it, a lot - it has Doctorow's typical one-of-a-kind geeky characters and madcap tech.

But some things were cringeworthy, like calling people who took a treatment to reverse obesity "fatkins," and other things were too inconsistent, like if that obesity treatment were possible, the medical/body mod fields would have more revolutionary changes. And more related to the main plot, if 3D printers were readily available and could do all the things they did in the book, the culture would be much more affected.

I also was not fond of the ending, nor of the epilogue 15 years later. Seemed like the world was pretty much the same old place. Given what happened previously in the book, I'd think not.
Profile Image for Callie.
513 reviews43 followers
July 8, 2022
Woof, this was a SLOG for most of it, but the ending was worth the effort (for the most part). Quite possibly the most fatphobic book I've ever read? Often this felt like a novelization of a business plan (actually multiple plans), which was sort of interesting, but also confusing and not really necessary. I enjoyed the interactions between most of the characters, and the way the story wrapped up was unexpected and interesting. I think this exists in the same world as Walkaways (just many years earlier), which I really loved, and would say that between the two, this one can be easily skipped.
3 reviews
April 1, 2018
So this book was actually pretty good in terms of writing. Normally I’d rate this book the same as I rate his other books, a solid four, but I was pretty turned off by what seemed like a lot of, and this is the only term I know for it, fat shaming. It was supposed to be a book about ideas and technology, how a future non centralized economy could work, but there was almost a fixation on putting down overweight people. Very out of place with the tone of the book.
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