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What makes for good science fiction? Individual tastes vary. Some readers prefer hard science fiction, where technology (that is, applied science) makes the impossible, possible. There are readers who prefer rich characterizations, and still other readers who prefer event-driven stories, where the protagonist struggles to right some cosmic wrong. And then there are those readers who read stories that investigate some over-arching principle, or idea. Orson Scott Card, author of science fiction touchstone Ender's Game, often refers to a story's MICE quotient: the mix of milieu, idea, character, and event.
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, Cory Doctorow's first novel, is in the first place a story about a milieu, and in the second a story about an idea. Yes, there are characters and an "event", but neither of those elements are as well-developed as the environment and the ideas that go with it.
Cory Doctorow is Outreach Coordinator for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group founded by Mitch Kapor, John Perry Barlow, and John Gilmore, three forward-thinkers who want us to
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom takes place in a world where technology has solved life's ills--literally. Everyone who chooses to can have a high-bandwidth connection to a shared network, money has been all but replaced by Whuffie (Doctorow's name for reputation capital and probably a reference to Whitfield Diffie, the cryptography pioneer), groups form and dissolve in an "ad-hocracy", and even death can be overcome by growing a replacement body to be imbued with a backup copy of your brain.
So, to paraphrase the question asked in Star Trek: The Next Generation by a cryogenically preserved financier who awakened in the 24th century to find that life's struggles were over, what is left to fight for? The answer: the Haunted Mansion at Disney World. In fact, it's important enough that someone killed Doctorow's protagonist, Jules, over it. Jules is a threat to a new group that has re-done the Hall of Presidents, removing the animatronics and replacing them with a neural imprint, where visitors "become" Lincoln, Jefferson, and Washington. While this group claims they have no plans to do the same to the Haunted Mansion, Jules suspects they do, and fights to keep the visceral Rube Goldberg quality of his piece of the park intact.
While relatively short (my guess is that