“Science fiction writers are not fortune tellers. And the ones who think they are, are horrible people,” says Cory Doctorow, the blogger, activist and author. His latest novel, “Walkaway,” is our second CNET Book Club selection, and it’s a work of thought-provoking utopian/dystopian science fiction that doesn’t attempt any fortune telling, but does explore far-flung ideas about the future of technology, commerce, and even human consciousness.
Doctorow joins us on the podcast for a wide-ranging conversation about “Walkaway,” the evolution of the internet, and even Brian Eno. You can listen to below, or download it from your favorite podcast provider.
CNET Book Club, Episode 2: ‘Walkaway’ by Cory Doctorow
Largely set in near-future Canada, the novel starts with a society that has effectively cleaved in two, with most people still living in dense urban areas, where a small number of astronomically rich families increasingly control all aspects of life.
Breaking away from this are the Walkaways. They’re people from all walks of life, but especially scientists, programmers and makers, who have left everything behind to wander off into polluted, damaged, mostly uninhabitable territory. They form social groups that work together (or don’t), share resources (or don’t) and build whatever they need without the need for money, leaderboards or even leaders.
If someone doesn’t like how things are going with a group, they can simply walk away and start over a few miles down the road, thanks to advanced open-source replicating machines that can turn raw materials into food, clothing and building supplies. It may be the only novel where 3D printers have a starring role.
Of course, the ultra-rich elites, called “zottas,” are horrified to see people surviving and thriving without them. And when some Walkaway scientists discover what they consider to be a key to possible immortality, conflict ensues.
Since a big part of “Walkaway” concerns ideas of artificial intelligence and the line between humans and machines (which becomes more blurred as the book progresses), Scott and I circle back later to talk about Blade Runner, its new sequel, and its source novel, Philip K. Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” which was the by our colleague Nicholas Tufnell.
About CNET Book Club
The Book Club is hosted by a pair of self-proclaimed book experts: Dan Ackerman (author of the 2016 nonfiction book “The Tetris Effect“), and Scott Stein, who is both a playwright and screenwriter. We’ll be announcing our next Book Club selection soon, so send us your suggestions and keep an eye out for updates on Twitter at @danackerman and @jetscott.