In today’s bit of coincidence, as I was starting to make this post about Cory Doctorow’s Eastern Standard Tribe, I see Tim Wentford leaving a comment here about reading the book via Opie Reader as well.
I just finished it today, having read it in the ebook form offered freely from Cory’s website. I saw today Cory citing on BoingBoing this glowing review of the book by Rick Kleffel. I have to say, I don’t like it nearly as much as Kleffel did. While it is a decent book and one that I would in fact recommend people read, it’s a pretty listless recommendation from me. It was not unpleasant, and it was a quick zippy read. The problem is that over and over, this book reminded me of how much better I liked Cryptonomicon. The dynamic between Art and Fede in EST is basically that of Randy and Avi in C and so on. I found Art not terribly likable, Linda not worth becoming so enamored with, the ideas not so good as to warrant the heavy actions that happen. I give it a recommendation but a marginal one. It is well above average by the standards of the pack, but by the standards of Cory Doctorow’s generally very good fiction, it is wanting.
Kleffel seems to give it extra points for “sparse prose”. This is not Cory’s fault, but this book suffers very much in comparison to that book I have discussed oh so much lately, The Contortionist’s Handbook. The prose in that book makes EST seem flabby and lifeless in comparison. It doesn’t help either that both books have as central conceits a sane person in a mental hospital avoiding being committed. In that head to head, I’m afraid Cory’s book can’t hold a candle.
So, in the final tally I give it a “thumbs up” (TM) but marginally. It’s got a few really good ideas, but not the characters or plot to make me care about them. It’s worth a read, but not worth reordering your “to be read” pile.