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The Unincorporated Man

by Dani Kollin, Eytan Kollin (Author)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Unincorporated Man (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5111833,387 (3.69)22
The Unincorporated Man is a provocative social/political/economic novel that takes place in the future, after civilization has fallen into complete economic collapse. This reborn civilization is one in which every individual is incorporated at birth and spends many years trying to attain control over his or her own life by getting a majority of his or her own shares. Life extension has made life very long indeed. Now the incredible has happened: a billionaire businessman from our time, frozen in secret in the early twenty-first century, is discovered and resurrected, given health and a vigorous younger body. Justin Cord is the only unincorporated man in the world, a true stranger in this strange land. Justin survived because he is tough and smart. He cannot accept only part ownership of himself, even if that places him in conflict with a civilization that extends outside the solar system to the Oort Cloud. People will be arguing about this novel and this world for decades.… (more)
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    The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein (grizzly.anderson)
    grizzly.anderson: Heinlein makes much more than a straw man argument for minimal government and libertarianism.
  3. 00
    Beyond this Horizon by Robert A. Heinlein (Carnophile)
    Carnophile: Both works are SF novels featuring a person from roughly our era being reanimated in the future. Both offer ruminations on political and economic matters. Also, the brothers Kollin are plainly politically influenced by Heinlein.
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» See also 22 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
Pretty good. There is a very interesting premise: A man from roughly our time goes into suspended animation and is re-animated several hundred years in the future, where veritably every person has sold stock in himself/herself.

Stock is like debt, except that instead of having to pay your creditors back a fixed amount, you have to pay them a certain fraction of your income. Someone who owns 1% of the stock of a corporation is entitled to receive 1% of the corporation's profits. Also - and much more importantly - a corporation's stockholders have the right to vote on certain decisions the corporation makes. If you own 1% of the stock, you control 1% of the votes.

Now imagine that other people had the right to make these decisions for you. For example, in this fictional universe, if you want to be a musician, but your stockholders think it's in their best interest for you to become an actuary, they can vote to force you to be an actuary! Horrible!

Our hero, having been born centuries before this became prevalent, is one of very few people who has no stockholders who own a stake in him. Some people really don't like this example of person who has the right to do whatever he wants, without being ensnared in the constraining legal and financial web of stock ownership. They fear the masses will be inspired by the example of this "Unincorporated Man" and will press to end stock ownership of individuals.

That's the basic set-up and conflict. I don't want to give any more specifics, to avoid spoilers.

Other comments:

• The main villain is one of the better-drawn ones I've seen in a long time.
• There is a very good surprise near the end.
• It would have been 4 stars, but for some didacticism, some incompletely-thought-out economics and politics, and a love angle that I somehow just didn't find interesting.
• Also, the divagation on virtual reality seemed like a setup for something that would reappear later in a big way, but it never did.
• And the ending is blatantly unresolved, plainly to set up a sequel, because we don't find out what happens to the villain. (Update: It turns out that there are three sequels. Not that there's anything wrong with that.)
• Overall, good, and the end seems to come faster than the 479 pages would suggest. ( )
  Carnophile | Dec 31, 2018 |
Started off okay but halfway through it started getting tired. The writing was mediocre at best, and the story could have been so much more interesting and original. By the end it just turned into a re-hash of Atlas Shrugged.

I'm right
No Society's right why don't you understand
Freedom! I'm right
No Society's right why don't you understand
FREEDOM! I'm John GantJustin Cord! I'm right
Oh right you're Justin Cord, you're right
  simonspacecadet | Jul 29, 2018 |
So... meh. I give it three stars instead of two because it is a debut, and first books are (almost) always a bit rough.

Good stuff:

1.) I like new authors. New voices are good.
2.) There is a good story here... though, see below.

Main problems:

1.) Getting clubbed over the the head with repeated, repeated, repeated socio-political-economic talk; it's not as bad as e.g. Ayn Rand (maybe 3 - 4 pages is the worst here, no 20-ish pages diatribes), but that's not exactly praise.
2.) Paper thin characters; especially female characters. Even the nemesis is barely a caricature.
3.) Okay, this is just a pet peeve. "Narticles." Really? Don't coin words just to coin words. Man... "narticles." Why?
4.) Gaping holes in history. This isn't a problem per se, except the book goes into the history of this future in some detail. Key things in history don't make any sense: the 'VR Plauges' wiped out most of humanity because first world people all became, essentially, helpless hyper-addicts who died of starvation. Without the economic activity of the first world, the third world all starved. (Wait, what?) China and India and Turkey (I forget, actually, who the third player was) all nuked each other. (Really, just when the US and Europe self-destruct, then China and India decide to go to war?) What was left of the world was dominated by the 'Alaskan Federation', which united the world by force. Everyone is, apparently, some kind of American, just futurized (just how much ethnic cleansing was involved in the Alaskan Federation's take-over...?) One wonders what all of non-third world Africa, South America, Australia, etc. were doing, even in this skewed world history.

Oddly enough, this was one of the things that bothered me the most about this book: it's not just the Ayn Randishness, or the thin characters, or the ridiculous portrayal of current (real) society and government... its that I can't help but feel a kind of not-so-subtle... Xenophobia? No. Rascim? No. I don't think those, per se.... but something. It's the hyper-American-centric libertarian fantasy of it all... so jingoistic. That's it. It's the barely concealed American libertarian jingoism.

It so starkly jars with the real world that using the real world as a touch point in the book just keeps 'breaking the illusion' that this kind of SciFi needs.

Damn, I think I just convinced myself to lower this to two stars. ( )
  dcunning11235 | Oct 17, 2016 |
Great debut novel. Cool concept of incorporation, with interesting predictive future of our presnt. I couldn't really tell where the author was headed, which was a nice thing.
I'm not totally comfortable with the Corporate Titan Hero, especially in a book that seems to be making the point that we shouldn't let corporations run our lives too much. Hopefully the "Pennies" will have more important roles to play in the upcoming revolution. ( )
  DanTarlin | Sep 7, 2014 |
See the review at http://www.walkerofworlds.com/2011/02/review-unincorporated-man-by-dani.html

A brilliant industrialist named Justin Cord awakes from a 300-year cryonic suspension into a world that has accepted an extreme form of market capitalism. It's a world in which humans themselves have become incorporated and most people no longer own a majority of themselves.

Justin Cord is now the last free man in the human race - owned by no one and owning no one.

It’s a premise that Ayn Rand would love and a character that she might have created; a world recovered from the excesses and failures of government she predicted in Atlas Shrugged, at the apex of human achievement due to the capitalist system she loved and trumpeted in her egoist philosophy. And that civilization is at a turning point, due to the extreme nature of this future society’s form of capitalism: individual capitalism.

Justin Cord wakes from a cryogenic sleep to a world where each individual is incorporated at birth, their shares traded on the open market. Using the capital raised through sale of shares, individuals finance their education, business ventures, homes and investments. Corporations—real companies, not just individuals incorporated—are more powerful than governments, produce and regulate their own currency, and control the lives of the individuals in whom they own stock.

And that’s the rub for Cord. For while he is and was an avid defender of capitalism in the 21st century, incorporation of the individual strikes him as a form of slavery. Despite the unprecedented wealth and technological progress it has created, Cord can’t help but see injustice in the system of ownership of others. As he pushes back, fighting against the giant corporations that want to own a piece of him, he begins to reveal cracks and fissures that will lead to systemic change and revolution.

Ostensibly science fiction, The Unincorporated Man makes deft use of futuristic technologies. We see a world of “haves,” who own luxurious homes constantly and fluidly reshaping to the whims of their owners, and “have-nots” who live in “fixed” dwellings of wood and steel and who are lucky to own a small percentage of themselves. Virtual reality has not only been developed to an apex as good and better than reality, with some horrifying results. Artificial intelligence is an integral and essential part of daily life, as is physical mutation by biological manipulation. Death is all but conquered, and even taxes are merely a portion of a person’s share that is allotted to the government at birth. It is, without a doubt, an amazing world.

Without a doubt, in taking principles of market capitalism to their extreme, combined with the most fantastic of futuristic technology, the Kollin brothers have hit upon an idea that is mind-popping in scope. I consider myself to be both very politically active and an ardent fan of the free-market system, but the Kollins kept me guessing, questioning, and reconsidering my assumptions and conclusions about democracy, capitalism, technology, and power. It is a libertarian world they want, and they never shy from promoting that world.

Indeed, if there are any critiques of The Unincorporated Man, it is the message in the novel, not even slightly transparent. The Kollins clearly consider the modern state of government with contempt, especially the “giving something for nothing” that modern government, in the Kollins’ eyes, seems intent to do. Their argument is that of the libertarian: by providing more freedom, more choice, and more capital, they argue, we can create more wealth, not just for the upper echelons of society, but for everyone. When people have incentives to create, they do. When given something for nothing, they do not create. When too much power is accrued to one person or entity, liberty is restricted and destroyed.

This is reinforced when the near utopian society of the far future, rather than continuing on to further glory, begins to fracture under the hubris and weight of unscrupulous and corrupted corporate bureaucrats faced with, as the premise states, one man “owned by no one and owning no one.”

The plot itself wobbles under the clear eyed idealism in the Kollins message. Nothing bad ever seems to happen to Cord. He always comes out on top, losing nothing in the process. Despite being the protagonist, the problems and obstacles that the Kollins set up for him feel almost contrived. As Cord overcomes each, I began to feel like he was like Midas, that everything he touched would turn to gold. He is, as the saying goes, lucky in love and life, and nothing in the story seems to slow that feeling. As a result, the novel occasionally seems to lack the tension that builds and creates tension in the plot and characters.

In spite of the heavy handed message and lack of serious plot tension, the creativity and speculation with which the Kollins create their world gives the novel wings. It’s a world that is alive, vibrant, interesting, and, as science fiction is supposed to be, thought provoking and, occasionally, mind blowing. Most importantly, I enjoyed reading it, and I enjoyed talking about it. I recommend it without reservation.

7/10 ( )
  publiusdb | Aug 22, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
Science fiction is full of examples of books that are somewhat crudely written, but succeed because of the fascinating ideas they present. There are also numerous examples of novels that are compelling more for their prose style and characterization than in their utilization of any new or controversial ideas. The best science fiction novels, of course, combine both style and ideas into one great story. The Unincorporated Man, unfortunately, fails on both counts.
added by dukeallen | editSF Site, Greg L. Johnson (Aug 15, 2009)
Imagine the late, philosophical Heinlein crossed with cheesetastic 1980s Buck Rogers TV series, and you've got a good feel for political economy adventure novel The Unincorporated Man.
added by PhoenixTerran | editio9, Annalee Newitz (Mar 23, 2009)

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dani Kollinprimary authorall editionscalculated
Kollin, EytanAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Baker (Getty Images), ChadCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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To Mom and Dad,
who assured us with their
unflinching belief, who steadied us
with their unending support, and
who inspired us with their undying love.
This book would not exist without you.

To my beloved Deborah,
without whose patience, encouragement, and
endless support
this book could not have been written. I love you
more than the
stars in the sky and the sand in the sea.

To my children, Eliana, Yonatan, and Gavriel,
thank you for giving me the best job in the world.
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Though he was filthy from head to toe, bloodied, and his skin shredded as thoroughly as a cat's scratching post, Omad couldn't suppress a grin.
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