Many science fiction novels ask, “What is the next big thing?” This is hardly a surprising trend. Within our own lifetimes, we have seen a succession of these next big things. It’s a theme as old as the genre itself. Makers, the extraordinary new novel by Cory Doctorow instead concerns two other, perhaps more interesting questions: “What does it mean to be the next big thing?” and “What happens after the next big thing?” >>Read More
In my review, one of the things I praise about the book is that even though it has dozens of fascinating ideas about the future, the characters are also real and compelling. It’s interesting to contrast my review with this one from Strange Horizons. I noticed a similar thing happen with my review of FlashForward.
Discussions of what makes a ‘good character’ have been raging on the ‘net for years; in particular I remember several debates about one of my favorite series, Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy, with some people claiming the characters are terrible and others that they are great. There’s many theories about why this happens, but I wonder whether some of it has to do with the composition of one’s social circle: all these books are largely about nerds, whether they are the geology nerds of Mars or the tech nerds of Makers. In my social circle are many geeky people who (as much as I deeply love them) are sometimes painfully socially inept and awkward in their dealings with the emotional, non-intellectual world. As a result, the sometimes painfully nerdy behaviors and wooden mannerisms that some of these characters exhibit remind me vividly of people near and dear to my heart. I wonder if some of the people complaining about how bad the characters are in a book like Makers just don’t know and love as many nerds as I do? I also wonder often these complaints are lobbed at Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, which to me is one of the quintessential fictional examinations of the nerd personality.