I don’t read much fiction but I must say I truly enjoyed Cory Doctorow’s Makers, set in the near distant future. It is neither techno-utopian nor dystopian. Doctorow has matured as a writer since Eastern Standard Tribe, an interesting novel but lacking the depth of characters and storyline of Makers. I think it’s also better than the more recent Little Brother, which is oriented more to young adults but is still a good read.
The novel, told from the future, includes human drama as well as several business plans and their unfolding. It’s a business book written as fiction and is better than most business plans I’ve read. I’ve also learned more from this book. Doctorow delves just deep enough into the future of open source, crowd-sourcing, personal video surveillance and other current trends to give some idea of their large scale potential. However, it’s not so deep that it detracts from the story, which includes some interesting and complex characters. Here’s Lester, one of the protagonists and a real “maker”, talking about the constraints of working inside a large corporation:
“Working here. They said that they wanted me to come in and help them turn the place around, help them reinvent themselves. Be nimble. Shake things up. But it’s like wrestling a tar-baby. You push, you get stuck. You argue for something better and they tell you to write a report, then no one reads the report. You try to get an experimental service running and no one will reconfigure the firewall. Turn the place around?” He snorted. “It’s like turning around a battleship by tapping it on the nose with a toothpick.”
I purchased the book, as the form factor was best for a 400 page novel, though you can download it or read it online as well.