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Stories of the Future Present

A-OverclockedIn his second short story collection (after 2003’s A Place So Foreign and Eight More), Cory Doctorow closely examines our near future. "Anda’s Game" (think Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game) features cyber sweatshops and an online fantasy game with a dreadful twist. In "I, Robot," which pays homage to Isaac Asimov, intelligence experts duke it out in a techno-totalitarian state. "I Row-Boat" similarly explores artificial intelligence, while a radical activist in "Printcrime" tries to democratize technology. In "When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth," the Internet—and humankind—try to survive a biowarfare attack. "After the Siege" narrates a war over proprietary technology. In each story, technology run amok controls people—and perhaps our future.
Thunder’s Mouth Press. 304 pages. $15.95. ISBN: 1560259817

Sci Fi Weekly 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Doctorow is just doing, after all, what Robert Heinlein did at his best: steeping himself in the culture of the present and then amping up what he registers as significant to a day-after-tomorrow condition. … Reminiscent of Geoff Ryman’s mournful humanism, and inspired by the real-life tribulations of the author’s Russian grandmother during the seige of Leningrad, [‘After the Siege’] is both timely and timeless, a genuine classic of the genre." Paul Di Filippo

Entertainment Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"If you want to glimpse the future of copyright policing, video-game sweatshops, robotic intelligence, info war, and how computer geeks will survive the apocalypse, then Overclocked, Cory Doctorow’s latest collection of shorts, is your oracle. I, Robot meets Dr. Strangelove." Noah Robischon 4 of 5 Stars
"Overclocked is a reminder that we can’t hope to keep up and shouldn’t bother. But we do need to keep alert, to keep ourselves caffeinated, to run as fast as we can—if we hope to stay in the same place. Getting ahead? That’s, alas, a thing of the past." Rick Kleffel

Gazette [Montreal] 3.5 of 5 Stars
"For Doctorow, belonging to the cyber-generation is not just a lifestyle, a consumer choice or an accident of birth, it’s a political statement." Claude Lalumiere

Critical Summary

Overclocked bears witness to Cory Doctorow’s strong presence on the Internet and immersion in that subculture. With the stories (all previously published) set in the near future, the collection lends a terrifying "what if" quality to our present. Doctorow’s intimate knowledge of the techno-cyberculture gives his stories more credibility than a casual reader might think: it doesn’t take a hardcore SF fan to believe that zombies, invisible ants, a 3D-printer world, video-game sweatshops, and global catastrophe may be lurking just around the corner. Most critics agree that "After the Siege" is the best of the collection, but all of the tales contain provocative scenarios and believable, nonconformist protagonists. Smart, entertaining, and at the vanguard of the genre, "Doctorow is rapidly emerging as the William Gibson of his generation" (Entertainment Weekly).