In light of the recent popularity of Cory Doctorow’s first YA joint, Little Brother , I decided to re-read one of his earlier works. I chose Eastern Standard Tribe because I enjoy Doctorow’s writings and the premise had seemed a bit wacky at the time. As I suspected, it has gotten more plausible in the intervening years.
The novel’s basic premise is that our high-tech world has created new Tribes, ones wherein its members have more in common by the hours they keep and the types of activities they remotely participate in rather than by proximity, blood, or soil. The main character, Art, is a kind of spy working to advance the interests of the title Tribe. Art is a User Experience consultant for a European communications corporation where he actively designs poor-quality products and services that help to give his Tribe an edge in the global marketplace.
No longer wacky is the idea that people who live in disparate parts of the world “synch” themselves up to each other. At the time of its release, the electronic world was not as seamlessly integrated into everyday life as it is has become. Six years ago, most had never heard of Facebook, Skype, or other advanced social network platforms that are an integral part of today’s social life. Communication between cell phones, PCs, laptops, and audiovisual peripherals was difficult – when not impossible – so that one’s online time was allotted to mostly one thing or the other rather than today’s everything anytime situation
Art confronts very real existential questions about meaning and loyalty throughout the book. The narrative is intertwined in two stories – Art’s present-time incarceration in a mental ward and the months leading up to his current predicament – with each perspective presented in alternating chapters. Doctorow throws in just enough of a mystery twist along the way to give the tale some oomph and enough humor to make Art’s musings less ponderous than they could have seemed.
I would recommend this story for lovers of cyberpunk, “lad lit” (humorous British authors such as Nick Hornby ), and the fiction of Douglas Coupland.
*Download Eastern Standard Tribe or Little Brother for FREE! Thank you Cory Doctorow.*