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Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present…
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Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present (original 2007; edition 2007)

by Cory Doctorow

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5402118,588 (3.78)10
Member:Vermin
Title:Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present
Authors:Cory Doctorow
Info:Running Press (2007), Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:eBook, Fiction
Rating:***1/2
Tags:science fiction, short stories

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Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present by Cory Doctorow (2007)

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In the story “When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth,” there is a horrifying worldwide coordinated terrorist attack. It involves nuclear weapons, lethal bioweapons, computer attacks that essentially take down the Net, and much more. The viewpoint character, in Canada, sees the CN Tower fall. He is one of a group of computer experts in a secure facility who avoid the airborne pathogen that has killed a significant fraction of the world’s population. These survivors aren’t experts in biowar, etc., but they do what they can, given their area of expertise, and begin to rebuild a functioning Internet amid the steaming ruins of civilization. Then...
When they start trying to cobble together a rudimentary government, one debate involves a female sysadmin. We get this rumination from the viewpoint character:
Not many woman sysadmins, and that was a genuine tragedy.
The main character’s wife and baby son have just been murdered by bioweapon. New York City and Mecca are radioactive moonscapes. Human civilization has been destroyed. And... “Not many woman sysadmins, and that was a genuine tragedy.”
The passage continues:
Women like Queen Kong were too good to exclude from the field. He’d have to hack a solution to get women balanced out in his new government. Require each region to elect one woman and one man?
Look, I try to avoid political comments in my reviews. (In fact, generally such comments are part of the problem.) But you have to call out extreme insanity. An author who writes something like that is not mentally normal. You literally cannot satirize leftism any more; it deranges people’s minds so thoroughly that a worldwide bio-nuclear strike sets off editorials asserting the need for more affirmative action. A normal person, in the wake of WMD-caused megadeath, would blurt out something like, “Oh God, this is terrible! Billions of people have been killed!” People like Doctorow would blurt, “Oh God, this is terrible! Women are underrepresented in network-admin positions!”
There is also the fact that the story screeches to a halt so the author can insert his little Op-Ed piece on politics. One is haunted by the painful suspicion that Doctorow thinks he’s being subtle here. One also gets the sense that he is actually fantasizing about such a cataclysm because, hey, at least it would clear the way for proportional representation.
Anyway, at this point, of course, I stopped reading and started just randomly flipping through the remaining pages. A few days later, the protagonist and a friend are wandering outside the secured facility, trying to find some food. To get the absurdity of what comes next, a little scene-setting:

They didn’t see a single soul on the fifteen-minute walk. There wasn’t a single sound... It was like walking on the surface of the moon...They walked past a little hatchback and in the front seat was the dried body of a woman holding the dried body of a baby, and his mouth filled with sour bile, even though the smell was faint through the rolled-up windows.
A page later they encounter a woman wandering in the ruins of civilization. The following exchange ensues:
Felix held his hands up. “Seriously, are you a doctor? A pharmacist?”
“I used to be a RN, ten years ago. I’m mostly a Web designer.”
“You’re shitting me,” Felix said.
“Haven’t you ever met a girl who knew about computers?”
“Actually, a friend of mine who runs Google’s data center is a girl. A woman, I mean.”
“You’re shitting me,” she said. “A woman ran Google’s data center?”
Amid the smoking craters where there used to be cities and the corpses lining the streets, people say, “Wow, a female ran Google’s data center? That really strikes me as a surprising and dramatic fact worth taking note of!” WTF? (What’s surprising about that, anyway?)
As I write this, in April 2015, there is a tempest in a teacup in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy world about “right wingers” “taking over” the Hugo Awards. The “right wingers” are actually just people who want to replace fiction that is (1) horribly stupid and (2) politically in-your-face, like the above, with actual story-telling. The amount of pearl-clutching this has occasioned from the in-your-face crowd is hilarious; God forbid that people read a story that doesn’t bombard them with tendentious agitprop!

I flipped through the intros to the rest of the stories. In the last intro, Doctorow compares the siege of Leningrad in WWII to, well, read: When Doctorow visited the city with his grandmother, who had been in the siege, “She pointed out the corners where she’d seen frozen, starved corpses, their asses sliced away by black-market butchers; the windows from which she’d heaved the bodies of her starved neighbors when she grew too weak to carry them... My grandmother’s stories found an easy marriage with the contemporary narrative of developing nations being strong-armed into taking on rich-country copyright and patent laws.” Well, of course! Who, on hearing of the cannabalism in the siege of Leningrad, doesn’t instantly think of international copyright law?

Summary: If you want story, not a political lecture of elephantine unsubtlety, avoid this deplorable collection of idiocy. ( )
  Carnophile | Apr 12, 2015 |
I run hot and cold on Doctorow, sometimes he's really entertaining, and sometimes he doesn't do enough storytelling to cover up the fact that his books serve as a soapbox for him to share his opinions on technology.

This short-story collection contains 5 stories, and each star in my rating corresponds with each of the stories I liked. There were two I could have done without: "When Sysadmins Ruled The Earth" was too self-indulgent for my tastes, almost like it was fantasy wish-fulfillment for someone who takes arguing on the Internets way, way too seriously. "I Row-Boat" reminded me a lot of Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, except Down and Out was actually well-written. ( )
  BrookeAshley | May 20, 2013 |
I spent a lot of time today, once I wandered over there somehow, on Cory Doctorow's site, looking at his opinions and downloading his books and thinking about it all. I decided I'd read Overclocked, since it's short stories and I didn't feel like reading anything long and drawn out. Of course, the short stories added up to more or less the same amount of reading time, but oh well.

There's six of them. I liked the first one, which is more or less microfiction -- I liked the end, anyway, and the concept. I'd have wound it tighter, hit harder, but I like the idea.

When Sysadmins Ruled The Earth made me laugh in places. I felt like it was a little dry in places where it could have been heart-rending, and skipped where it could have been interesting and got drawn out where it wasn't. Probably my least favourite of the six.

Anda's Game was quite interesting. The extra detail of Anda's life seemed a little dry, at times: it didn't live in my head, I couldn't really sympathise. I wish I had, it could have been awesome.

Next up, I, Robot. I liked this one a lot: it was a world I could get interested in and characters I could get somewhat invested in. I'd have liked more of it.

I, Rowboat made me laugh a good bit, at the start. I like the references to Asimov and the use of the three laws of robotics here. I also liked the introduction: "If I return to this theme, it will be with a story about uplifted cheese sandwiches, called “I, Rarebit”."

And After The Siege... I possibly liked the best. The version I downloaded was badly edited -- I don't know about all versions ever -- and there was some confusing name switching for some reason. But I liked the ideas, although again I felt like some of the emotional life of the story fell flat.

Definitely interesting, and worth spending the time with, but I probably won't revisit it. It feels very focused on the points Cory Doctorow's trying to get across, rather than the lives of his characters, but his ideas are interesting nonetheless. I did like that it's accessible speculative fiction -- no impenetrable technobabble. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
I'm a fiend for short fiction, and Doctorow's [b:Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present|115969|Overclocked Stories of the Future Present|Cory Doctorow|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1171719071s/115969.jpg|111691] is a thought-provoking collection of stories, often focused on intellectual property issues (it's more fun than it sounds).

I, Row-Boat and After the Siege were two favorites, though all the stories have something to recommend them.

My only complaint is that Doctorow is sometimes so eager to prove a point that he occasionally short-changes the story itself, or crosses that fine line between smart and preachy.

That said, this is a wonderful collection, and well worth your time. ( )
  TCWriter | Mar 31, 2013 |
Anche questo testo è ovviamente disponibile for free sul sito dell'autore che, come ricordo in ogni recensione, pubblica praticamente tutto sotto licenza Creative Commons.

Raccolta di racconti di qualità varia, di alcuni però vale decisamente la pena di recuperarli e leggerli.
Printcrime - ★★
Racconto brevissimo che evolve il concetto di stampanti 3D a replicatori di oggetti; contiene comunque i concetti cari all'autore.

I, robot - ★★★
Questo racconto è sia bello che scadente: è bello perchè si vede il desiderio dell'autore di avere un mondo digitale libero, è scadente perchè non lascia spazio alle opinioni (del lettore).
E' anche un omaggio ad Asimov, ai suoi robot dal cervello positronico e alle più famose leggi della fantascienza.

After the siege - ★★★★★
Questo racconto è disponibile anche in italiano come "Infoguerra".
La storia si ispira ai racconti sull'assedio di Leningrado che la nonnna raccontava all'autore; ovviamente il tutto è trasposto in chiave futuristica.
Nella città sotto assedio la tecnologia, più o meno velocemente, smette di funzionare e c'è la fame e ci sono i nemici alle porte.
Allora si inizia a combattere: la protagonista, Valentine, ancora una bambina, vedrà i genitori andare a combattere e dovrà lavorare per sfamarsi; un giorno però incontrerà un Mago, nella città, che vive in un'oasi dove tutto sembra essersi fermato a prima della guerra.
Oltre a riportare in vita la memoria di un assedio realmente avvenuto, Doctorow porta anche a far riflettere su guerra, tecnologia e media.
Un racconto da leggere.

Anda’s Game - ★★★
Questo è un assaggio delle idee che verranno poi ampliate in "For the Win". Il racconto ruota intorno al tema dei goldfarmers e alla contrapposizione tra paesi ricchi e poveri.
E' un racconto per certi versi semplicistico; se si è letto anche "For the win" il confronto non potrà mai reggere, anche per via del buonismo del racconto.

When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth - ★★★
E dopo l'apocalisse resteranno i system admin (principalmente perchè impegnati a sistemare server e altre amenità informatiche in edifici più protetti).
Questo racconto sottolinea le potenzialità e i difetti di Internet, e ancora una volta il sogno di un web libero da cui derivi una vera democrazia anche nel mondo reale.

I, row-boat - ★★★★
Un racconto molto particolare, in cui gli omaggi a Asimov la fanno da padroni: per prima cosa il titolo, poi Robbie, la barca protagonista e le più famose leggi della robotica.
Tutto però è stravolto: le leggi da programmazione sono diventate una religione e non si è obbligati a seguirle, e poi perchè seguirle? Gli esseri umani non esistono più, rimane solo la loro coscienza che può essere scaricata in robot umanoidi (ah che nostalgia ghost in the shell) interessati a particolari attività (come le immersioni).
Anche il cattivo è tutto particolare: chi avrebbe mai immaginato tanta malvagità in uno degli esseri più passivi al mondo?
( )
  Saretta.L | Mar 31, 2013 |
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Contains the following short stories:

Printcrime

When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth

Anda's Game

I, Robot

I, Row-Boat

After the Seige

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"In Cory Doctorow's new collection of stories, he offers up mind-bending science-fiction tales that explore the possibilities of information technology - and its various uses - run amok. "Anda's Game" is a spin on the bizarre new phenomenon of "cyber sweatshops, " in which people are paid very low wages to play online games all day in order to generate in-game wealth. "When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth" tells of the heroic exploits of "sysadmins" - systems administrators - as they defend the cyber-world, and hence the world at large, from worms and bioweapons."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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