Author: Cory Doctorow
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.