You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

My Photo
Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town

Cory Doctorow's Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town is best described as magical realism. It's the tale of a man named Alan, or Allen, or Andy, or Albert. His father is a mountain; his mother is a washing machine. His brothers are a fortune teller, an island, a dead man, and set of Russian nesting dolls.

That sums up the tone of the story. Alan's background and fantastical family defines his life, and he is always coping with ripples of his past. Alan lives in Toronto, where he has bought and rebuilt a new home. He meets his neighbors, one of whom is Mimi, a woman with wings that she cuts off when they grow too large. Her boyfriend Krishna dislikes Alan from the start.

Alan has opened and closed many successful businesses. He meets a punker named Kurt who searches dumpsters for computer parts to build wireless access points. His goal is to blanket part of Toronto with free wireless Internet access, and Alan immediately jumps on board enthusiastically.

The story alternates between Alan and Kurt's attempts to get store owners to install free access points and work on free machinery, and Alan's history with his brothers growing up in the mountain. As the oldest, Alan helps his brothers grow up and deal with being different. However, Davey, the fourth child, grows up with a chip on his shoulder and terrorizes the other brothers. Eventually Alan and the others kill Davey and bury him in Caleb, the island. But years later, Davey returns.

Alan has to deal with Davey again when two of the nesting dolls comes to see him and tell him the third has been kidnapped. Eventually the other two disappear too, and Alan tries to fails to track Davey. Later, Alan invites Mimi to stay with him to get away from her thuggish boyfriend Krishna. Alan helps her see that her wings are an important part of her, not something to be shamed about. The two of them go to Alan's home, and on the way they find the body of George, the smallest brother. They leave it at the cave where Alan grew up.

When they return to Alan's house, Alan finds that Davey and Krishna have teamed up against him. He also finds Billy, the second brother and fortune teller. With all the players together, Alan manages to escape his past and take Mimi with him.

I enjoyed reading this book. It had a good mix of reality and fantasy. Alan's past was presented in such a realistic manner that it becomes easy to suspend disbelief. He is an earnest character, so it's easy to identify with him. He's also dealing with his past and growing up in a strange family. I read the return of Davey as the impossibility of completely escaping one's past. No matter how much he wants to, he cannot live as if his family didn't exist--they are an important part of who he is. He uses his own background to help Mimi cope with herself, and she ends up truly embracing her body instead of rejecting it.

I was a little put off by how the story flowed. After Alan discovers that his youngest brothers are in trouble, I expected him to go after them and find Davey. But instead he goes back to work with his mission of making the free wireless network. I found the two different parts of the book a little strange, like they didn't go together very well. In the end though, the two worlds do come together, at least in a literal sense. I also found the very end to be a little jarring, as if I didn't trust how the story was unfolding. There's a certain amount of trust an author has to bring to the story, and it almost fell apart at the end. But it held up well enough to earn a B+.


Post a Comment

<< Home