Radicalized by Cory Doctorow

This bloke is rapidly turning into one of favourite storytellers. There was the weirdly excellent Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, and the strangely optimistic (depending on your politics) The Lost Cause.

Radicalized is a collection of four short stories, all based around an individual who falls foul of a malevolent “system” in present day America:


Unauthorized Bread – a refugee learns how to hack her toaster so she use it to make toast with unapproved (i.e cheaper) bread. Harmless enough? The toaster’s manufacturer doesn’t think so …

Model Minority – a superhero tries to help the black victim of a police assault (STOP RESISTING! STOP RESISTING!), and soon finds that trying to fight systemic racism means you’re not a superhero anymore; you’re an enemy of the state.

Radicalized – tired of being denied treatment for their cancer-stricken relatives, an online community extract murderous retribution from their health insurers.

The Masque of the Red Death – a multimillionaire tries to see out an economic apocalypse inside a fort, along with thirty or so “like-minded” people.

Yup, four short-stories, each one a treat, even if your politics don’t necessarily line up with the author’s. Having said that though, I think it’s fair to say that it would probably appeal more to those who lean slightly to the left.

Each story is well-crafted, thought-provoking, and edged with a thin layer of dark humour. The author occasionally jumps ahead and gives the reader a heads-up on an event yet to come, which isn’t a favourite literary trick of mine. Still, it doesn’t happen too often, so I’m not going to harp on about it.

Of the four stories, I think Radicalized, really got me thinking: you really can push people too far …

The Lost Cause by Cory Doctorow

This was very strange book. I read Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, which I enjoyed a lot, and I expected that the Lost Cause would follow in a similar vein: a story of future society which is striving to better itself. … Sounds nice. But as we quickly find out in The Lost Cause, not everyone shares the same idea as to what constitutes better.

In a fairly non-specific future, and following the death of his parents in a Canadian epedemic, Brooks Palazzo is shippped down to Burbank to be raised (if you can call it that) by his MAGA-fanatical grandfather. While Brooks is growing up, America is changing; government policy is driven by the burgeoning refugee crisis (parts of the United States are submerged underwater), food shortages and climate change. The world is making progress to stopping it from getting worse, though it’s probably too late to dial it back to any significant degree. Still, Brooks is part of a new generation that doesn’t fear the future.

And they’ve banned firearms.

As you can imagine, this has not gone down well with everyone, which is why, following the death of his grandfather, Brookes discovers a cache of automatic weapons under the floorboards of his home.

So while Brooks has to navigate his late teens, figuring out where to hide the guns and getting involved with rebuilding the planet, and homes for an influx of refugees, he finds himself at loggerheads with his grandfather’s old MAGA friends, who take great pains to warn him that a reckoning’s a’coming … and he’s standing on the wrong side.

Continue reading “The Lost Cause by Cory Doctorow”