Walkaway. 2017. by Cory Doctorow

August 1, 2017

The pleasing surprise is that the dystopian Mecca of the near future is Toronto.  In fact huge chunks of the novel play out across the Eastern Ontario landscape culminating in a final scene in, of all places, Joyceville.

Doctorow has written a speculative piece about what happens to those who leave society by walking away into the countryside in a future without scarcity, where “feedstock” can recycle through printers and produce prescription drugs, clothing to order, or foodstuffs and weapons.  These walkaways remain at the leading edge of technology, of course:  it seems the smartest are those most inclined to quit “default” society.

No doubt the dictionary will acquire a number of new terms from the book.   “Foof”, for example, is a derisive acronym to describe someone from a Fine Old Ontario Family.  Derivatives of this term, foofery and foofy are self-evident in their usage.  Doctorow has coined “beautiful child” to describe someone younger than oneself who surpasses one’s technical skills or even intellect, i.e.:  “Did you see the beautiful child who did the surgery on Uncle Alex?”

The novel’s thesis runs along lines that people walking away from default pose an existential threat to the defaults, even though they demand nothing from them, and choose regularly to move on rather than fight for land and possessions.  It’s fairly easy for the walkaways to do as they have unlimited material, youth, and health.

The construction of an elaborate camp (known as a B&B) is quite easy with the help of online information and a sic-fi-level salvage network of abandoned factories and warehouses from which materials may be liberated to recycle into the new building.

Of course it is easy for default — portrayed as shadowy corporate interests and embodied in one wealthy Toronto family — to turn its sense of abandonment into fear, and portray all walkaways as terrorists of the ISIL variety.

I’ll try not to spoil the book for you at this point.  If you like Neal Stephenson’s writing, or that of Douglas Coupland, Walkaway is a likely read.



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