Book Club: Walkaway

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Author: Cory Doctorow
ISBN: 9781786693068
RRP: $29.99

Science fiction has never really been one of my go-to genres, I loved fantasy but sci-fi just got a little science-y for me (yeah, I know… funny about that). I love the idea of sci-fi but sometimes I find it a little hard to lose myself in, it hurts my not-so-science-y brain. I think that sometimes the scariest thing about sci-fi is that it isn’t always completely implausible and that element of Walkaway leaves me cold.

I rated Walkaway 3/5 stars on Goodreads because I liked the book, the story is interesting and engaging but I found it hard to read, difficult to immerse in and sometimes nearly impossible to follow. The entire premise of the story is not completely outside the realm of possibility and that is scary.

Way back in high school I remember reading, and loving, George Orwell’s 1984 and Walkaway is reminiscent of that story in a lot of ways, but it does take everything way further than Orwell could have imagined.

Walkaway is set in the not too distant future, we haven’t left this century yet but much of the world is unrecognisable. The story is set in Canada but we get little glimpses across the world of what is happening in other places.

Society has undertaken some major changes, but not ones that are out of the realm of possibility. The chasm between the rich and the poor has grown, the zotta rich aim to get richer and with the rise of 3D printing they should be living in a world of plenty. Recycling has come far so there is very little waste.

Not everyone is happy with the way things are, as is the case in every generation, and though they can’t change society they can change their life. People start to leave ‘Default’ and go ‘Walkaway’. There is a much smaller society growing outside of Default, a society where there is enough for everyone and everyone is equal. You put in what you can and take what you need, very utopian and very easy to be taken advantage of.

Walkaway is built on the philosophy that we don’t need to get attached to things, there is enough for everyone when the basic necessities of life can all be printed from the computer. Why stay in a society and work yourself ragged for very little, because of a jobs shortage, when you can go walkaway and have enough without the overwork.

That’s not all Walkaway has going for it, there are a group of scientists working on a way to avoid death. Eternal life is not a new concept, for as long as there’s been civilisation there has been a search for everlasting life so this isn’t breaking new ground but the way these scientists are going about it was new to me. The zotta rich have everything money can buy but even they can’t buy a way out of death so this is something they want badly and will go to any length to get.

Walkaway took me a long time to get invested in, I think it was all a little too computerised to get my head around in the beginning.

The main characters are interesting to say the least. Natalie is the daughter of zotta rich parents and related to a very well known zotta rich family, she has been throwing communist parties in abandoned factories and printing life’s basics for those in need when she meets Seth and Etcetera. Yes, you would be surprised at a character called Etcetera. His name is not actually Etcetera, it is a string of twenty names beginning with Hubert and ending in Espinoza. He was often called Hubert Etc. but early on he became Etcetera.

Seth and Etcetera meet Natalie at one of the Communist parties where they are older than everyone else but I’m not sure we found out how old they actually were. The three decide that they have nothing tying themselves to Default so why not just go Walkaway. They don’t quite understand the concept to begin with and they pack up all they think they need, only to have it stolen in the first day.

Walkaway follows the formation of a new society and a diverse group of characters. The story is written in a way that the racial backgrounds of the characters are secondary, it wasn’t until late in the story that I even discovered the races of the major players and I think this was a fantastic perspective, the colour of their skin didn’t define their personalities or their places in society. Walkaway also explored the normalisation of many sexual pairings.

I found Walkaway to be reminiscent of part 1984, Animal Farm and there was something else I had in my mind when I finished the book that I simply can’t find now. The world building is thorough and though much of the story is centralised to one location there are times we see the rest of the world through the eyes of the characters.

Cory Doctorow can be found on his Website.

Walkaway is published by Harper Collins and is available now through Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.

Thanks to Harper Collins 10 of our Beauty and Lace Club members will be reading Walkaway so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below.

10 thoughts on “Book Club: Walkaway

  1. Thankyou Beautyandlace and Griffin-Press-Head of Zeus Ltd for the opportunity to review ‘Walkaway’ by Cory Doctorow.
    Set in Canada the novel begins in the future, with Hubert (actually called Etc because his name consists of 21 names), and Seth attending what in this futuristic time is referred to as a “Communist party” these being held in empty, disused factories.
    Here they meet Nat, witness the death of her friend Billiam and end up at her home.
    Nat’s father Jacob is super rich and very controlling.
    Etc, Seth and Nat decide to ‘walkaway’ the term used when leaving behind weath and possessions and treat everyone as family. The idea is to not become attached to stuff. They head for the “Belt and Braces” and meet Limpopo and although no-one is really in charge she seems to run the place.
    Here they have solar pasturisers for water supplies, drones and 3D printers to print anything they require. The focus is on mystery, co-operation and better work.
    The “Belt and Braces” is invaded and Nat alias (ice weasel) heads off and finds an underground city. She makes friends there, the people trying to find a cure for death. Dis (not sure how to describe her) is a ‘sim’ in a bottle who can contact anyone anywhere.
    Nat’s father Jacob seeks her out, kidnapping Nat and keeping her confined but she is determined to escape.

    This novel is confronting, tackling many controversial issues relevant to today’s society.
    I did find it difficult to follow at times because of some of the names (everyone had unusual names) and terms eg. Moop meaning matter out of place. Also it is some time since I’ve read a science fiction novel.
    I would be pleased to see this as a movie as I think it would make a good one.

  2. Walkaway by Cory Doctorow is an ambitious and fascinating novel, with so many ideas, theories, arguments and philosophies presented to you that it is hard to wrap your head around it all.

    It is definitely not a light, easy read and many of today’s headline issues – ecological disasters, climate change, refugee crises and inequitable wealth distribution as well as technological advances such as 3D printing that can print all of life’s necessities -have been extrapolated into the “Default” world’s norm. Default is basically a projection of what continued social, cultural and technological advancement could produce in the not too distant future. With surveillance drones, transport zeppelins, 3D-printed food, furniture, buildings, even making beer out of urine (all advances that are currently possible). It is quite compelling to read about these things in this future, post-scarcity world. However the Default world is also a very regulated and stratified world, where the super-rich Zottas can buy almost anything, and live how they like, but where most people’s existence seems not to be particularly relevant or important…

    For the dreamers, the thinkers and fed up people such as the main characters in this story, Hubert Etc, Seth and Natalie, escape from this dystopian misery means taking a chance in the world beyond, to “walkaway” to a new society – a utopia where there is no money, everyone is equal, you do what you can to help out, and take whatever you need. Walkaway is also a society where people have the opportunity to use their minds, their creativity and their intelligence. So there are philosophers and strategists arguing moral points, coders making improvements to software programs, building better technology to create items and run things etc and there are universities with researchers tackling complex science including how to conquer death and live forever!

    The chasm between these two societies – one with people intent on making a better world and the other where the privileged few just believe they have the right to it all, is quite intriguing. It soon becomes apparent that the pampered and rich Zottas are very keen to get hold of walkaway discoveries and technology at any cost! So they attack walkaway settlements and have no qualms in killing anybody who gets in their way.

    This is an incredibly interesting book, brim full of ideas and a powerful comment on society, technology, power and what motivates people.

  3. “Post-scarcity is a hypothetical economy in which most goods can be produced in great abundance with minimal human labor needed, so that they become available to all very cheaply or even freely”

    This is the premise of the novel Walkaway, 3d printers can produce food clothing and shelter, as in every society the rich just keep getting richer.

    So the dissatisfied just….walkaway…and build their own communities using the cast offs from “Default” always with the fear the Default will come and destroy them, especially when these walkaway communities find a way to cheat death through computing.

    This novel is not a light Sunday afternoon read, to be quiet honest if I hadn’t received the book with the expectation to review I may not have continued to read after the first few chapters, but in saying that I am glad I persevered.

  4. I am not usually a sci-fi reader, but I thought that this would be a good opportunity to expand my genres a bit. I have to admit, I am finding this book very hard to read and follow. I have not yet finished it and yes I am posting my review now, basically in case I am unable to finish it (though I intend to keep reading, I am starting to get to the point that I really don’t want to pick the book up).
    Not discrediting the author at all in what I am saying, I truly believe that it is just me having a lot of trouble wrapping my head around this novel, I find I have to read and reread so much of it that I cannot truly delve in and lose myself as I would like to.
    I can see though with what I have read that this could easily come to pass in our own futures – there being the walkaways who go off on their own and societies divide into their own “worlds”
    I will persevere as I can see from other reviewers that they are glad that they did. I feel bad that I am not able to fulfil my review duties at this time 🙁

  5. Wow, not for the light hearted. Whilst this is well written and interesting it is deep and rather challenging with all the different characters. This book would do well to cut out a few of the characters and focus more on creating the story around only a handful of key players.

    As a big fan of Sci Fi I have read many books that you simply have to stick with in order to ‘get into it’ and I am glad I did. The depth of plot and how the fear between the societies is well developed and portrayed. I love how the divide is created between the highly creative and intellectual, the rich and the default and how they all see the world differently.

    This is not what I would call a ‘summertime’ read or a holiday read but one which requires thought and pondering, a drawing of conclusions between what we have now and how easily things could turn out. It is a thought provoking and confronting style of book. Not to everyone’s taste but a book worth reading non the less.

  6. This book certainly introduces some poignant issues and food for thought about the future direction of society made all the more interesting due to the plausibility of these ideas. I found this novel difficult to read and really needed to persevere but I am pleased that I did complete the journey. I have been left with some deep inner questioning and this suggests to me that the author has skillfully used a sci fi basis to shed light on important societal issues . Overall, in my opinion this is a complex novel with a great deal of insight but very difficult to read.

  7. Thank you Beauty and Lace and Harper Collins for the opportunity to review Walkaway by Cory Doctorow.

    I cut my teeth on Science Fiction (Asimov, Heinlein, Blish etc) but moved away from this genre in my 20’s as more quality Science Fantasy was released. Reading Walkaway reminded me of all the reasons that I made the move!

    The story is set at some intangible time in the future, ostensibly in Canada and opens with Hubert (19 middle names) Espinoza attending a “Communist Party” with his childhood friend Seth. At 27 Hubert etc (so named for obvious reasons) considers himself too old to be attending the event because he is 7 years older than the next oldest partier. Early on we discover that Hubert’s parents named him after the top 20 names from the 1890 census to ensure that he had a name that wouldn’t fit into any database for political reasons.

    A communist party is an event held in an abandoned factory with free “beer” (although a little disconcerting as to how it is made) and dancing until the main event starts, the factory is brought to life making the products it previously made, for free distribution to those who need it.

    At the party they meet Natalie who is from one of the richest families but appears to be philosophically opposed to anything and everything her “Zotta” father stands for and Billiam her friend. Everything is going along fine until the “drones” appear to start identifying everyone participating in the event and in the ensuing madness Billiam falls and dies.

    From here the book introduces the concept of two societies, Default (mainstream society made up of the haves – the rich known as Zottas and the have-nots) and Walkaway (a Post Anarchistic Utopian society based on the concept of no need for ownership of material goods, all people are equal, no keeping tabs on who has done the most work etc, abundance for all).

    Hubert Etc (Etcetera), Seth and Natalie (now Iceweasal) go walkaway. But Utopia is not as easy as it seems, Default sees them as a threat and makes attempts to infiltrate them as well as attack and destroy their settlements. Worst of all the Zottas who can buy anything except immortality are horrified that the scientists in Walkaway appear to have discovered a cure for death – well sort of – enter Dis, a person uploaded to a Sim and functioning much as she did in life. And so begins the struggle for control of nondeath.

    This is not an easy book to read, Doctorow seems to delight in inundating his work with strange futuristic words and concepts that make it hard to become engrossed in the storyline and I found I could only read in short bursts before my brain began to hurt and I needed to take a break. The underlying concept of the story, while not new, is interesting and the possibility that society could move in some of the directions intimated in the story makes for a scary possible future.

    I would only recommend that this book be tackled by hardened fans of old style Science Fiction who are into anarchistic futures!

  8. I am not a sci-fi fanasy reader, but wanted to expand my reading genres. However I found it very difficult to read and hard to follow the story line. It is one of the rare books I was unable to finish. At least I now know that this is not my tpre of book.

  9. Unsettling and though provoking is how I would describe Walkaway.

    The direction we are heading as a society is really scary and I do worry for my children! The ideas presented are valid and ones that should be considered.

    This is not a light hearted read, but I would recommend you persist and you will be glad that you did. I think, upon second reading (which I will do) things might become a little more clear.

  10. Whoa! This is a complicated read. I devour books, I have three degrees. I struggled to read Walkaway. My advice to anyone who decides to give it a go is to not get too bogged down in the language and trying to understand what the heck Cory Doctorow was trying to convey. I gave up doing this half way through and just did a “surface” read. Although I definitely would have missed things reading this way, it was an interesting and thought-provoking story with interesting characters. This book will probably end up on Year 12 English Literature reading lists to be analysed ad nauseam.

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