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Sunday, December 2, 2007

Eastern Standard Tribe, by Cory Doctorow

Just finished to Cory Doctorow's book, "Eastern Standard Tribe," which I
got from Podiobooks.com. I'm not sure how to categorize the book; science
fiction, probably, but technopunk, or whatever they call it? I dunno.

I like the basic concept from which the title "Eastern Standard Tribe" is
derived, and it makes a lot of sense to me. Cory's explanation of the
concept in the second episode of the Podiobook version is better than
anything I could come up with off the top of my head, of course.

Basically, his protagonist points out that people tend to form up into
tribes, and derive much of their norms of behavior from the tribe that
surrounds them. In the Olden Days when I was a boy, folks didn't travel
or communicate over long distances, so they if they didn't like or agree
with their tribe's normal behaviors, they were stuck.

Now we can at least communicate over longer distances pretty regularly, so
we can form new sorts of tribes with people in other areas who are more
conducive. Since those other areas are often in other timezones, we
adjust our diurnal cycles to be able to communicate live with our chosen
tribemates. (Kinda makes the title have obvious meaning, doesn't it?) Or
some folks do, anyway; doesn't work that way for me.

I just don't do much instant messaging. I rarely even remember to crank
up my IM client, Trillian, even if I'm online for a long stretch. I think
I never got the habit, because I started out with offline messaging
through BBSes, and even running my own BBS. True, I have had a number of
tribes over the years, one of them for a couple decades now, but since
that sort of messaging is all time-shifted anyway, the timezone tribalism
was never gonna be an issue for me.

My attitudes are awfully old-school, I suppose. I keep hearing about
these social-networking sites, Twittr, for example, that involve
constantly sending instant messages and text messaging on phones, and I do
some occasional IMing and IRC chat. So I know that's what people do now,
but I've never been very happy with the feel of IMing, or with using
websites for messaging. That's not what the Web is for. I hardly do any
IRC chatting, either, anymore.

Anyway, the Podiobook was excellent. A storyline I could understand, a
protagonist with whom I could identify, lots of cool techie ideas. I
kinda felt like I had to listen to that one book in particular because
Cory Doctorow is an SF author I've heard of. Think I might have seen some
of his work in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, back when it was
still called that.

It strikes me, too, that the book has a bit of the feel of a Great
American Novel, first person narrative style with a certain psychic
distance between the storyteller protagonist and the other characters, and
a certain edge to the quirky "supporting cast" that I haven't seen in
Science Fiction. Don't know if I can explain that well enough, but seems
to me that it's there.

The author does the reading himself, solo, does so quite well, and damn he
reads fast! The book proceeds at a breakneck pace because of that, I
think, and the reading style does a lot to add energy to the book. The
downside is that I was left wanting more -- I go through a lot of audio
books -- yet I'd have to say the book really did tell the story and, if
you will, it ended at the end.

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