Book info

Eastern Standard Tribe (2005)

Eastern Standard Tribe (2005)
Author
Rating
3.48 of 5 Votes: 2
ISBN
0765310457 (ISBN13: 9780765310453)
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English
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publisher
tor books
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Eastern Standard Tribe (2005)
Eastern Standard Tribe (2005)

About book: It’s hard to put my finger on exactly why I didn’t like Eastern Standard Tribe. The writing is engaging and clever, the editing is spot on, the topic is interesting, but something about the book is just ... off. Maybe I’m not hip enough, not a proud enough member of the target technorati audience, or simply not plugged into the prevailing zeitgeist of cultural change. If that sentence sounded pretentious to you, boy do I have some bad news for you. Of course it’s also possible that Eastern Standard Tribes is a snapshot in time of a futurist’s view from 2004 ... one that no longer feels relevant in 2014; a story degrading over time is nothing new.Art Berry is a User Experience genius who somehow gets himself talked into leaving the place he loves, the EST coast of New York, Boston, Toronto, etc., and moving to London to actively try and sabotage the UE efforts of Virgin/Deutsche Telekom (a multinational corporation based in GMT). Things would have been fine for Art had he not accidentally hit Linda with his car. Relationships ensue and soon Art is embroiled with Linda (a firm PST’er - you know those California hippies can’t be trusted) and caught up in trying to hash out a money making scheme with his fellow EST’er Federico. Things go sideways and Art finds himself trying to escape a looney-bin in time to sell his mega-awesome music licensing idea to the Jersey folks before it’s stolen out from under him.The Good:I genuinely laughed out loud several times, so it is humorous in places. I wish it were funnier, but Doctorow’s characters aren’t that likeable to be honest, so you’re never really rooting for them when the inevitable weirdness does come along. The book does have some interesting philosophy attached about our cultural preferences that extend outside the digital world. It did inspire me to think about where our culture and subcultures are headed now that communication-at-a-distance in no longer a limiting factor. It also cleverly slipped into my head the idea that anyone stupid enough to dedicate their life to a shadowy and vague cultural identity formed by something as ordinary as a time zone…is actually crazy and therefore belonged in the nut house all along. The Bad:Doctorow uses a few tricks like POV shifts and a flashback-heavy narrative to try and milk the most from this story. If you deconstruct the plot, it’s clear that the tricks are there to distract the reader from realizing than there’s not much going on until very late in this relatively short book. At page 30, I found myself not really understanding what was going on or why. By page 100, I realized I no longer cared. As I mentioned, the characters aren’t particularly likable; Art is kind of a prick, Linda is a stereotypical bitch, and Federico is a slimy backstabber. Anyone else populating the book is simply a cardboard cutout for Doctorow’s mini rants, some of which are funny, but most of which are superfluous. Recommendations:I’m going to have to recommend you pass on this one, unless you’re a huge Doctorow fan or want to indulge in some cultural archeology from a decade ago. The book is chock full of cursing and has a few sexual parts that definitely bump it off the early teen list. I have a strong feeling that this book would have gotten more stars in 2004 at its release, but alas time catches up to us all.

As I've said before, and will surely say again, I think Cory Doctorow is an amazing human being and I am glad he has sufficient influence to force his vision of the future onto reality, at least a little bit. I mean, seriously, if there are any other modern, (relevant*) authors whose entire literary catelogue I can download without guilt or financial expenditure, someone needs to point me to them immediately. And for a few dozen pages each, Cory Doctorow's books really sing. I mean, really, who else looks at the corporate emphasis** (or lack thereof***) on usability engineering, and takes it to the logical extreme of business entities sabotaging each other by sending in rogue usability engineers to give the companies bad advice and produce products that are non functioning and overly cumbersome to use. . . .....OR IS IT HAPPENING ALREADY!****Moreover, the plot thread that gives the story structure--Our hero, Art, trapped on the roof of a towering monolithic sanitarium, a pencil up his nose, poised, ready to lobotomize himself--is wonderfully evocative and compelling.But actualy, the central plot kind of sucks. Art's friends Fede and Linda are obviously crazy from the get go**** and it's not really ever plausibly explained why Art would hang out with losers like them. Nor is the main conceit ever really explained. Art is a brilliant usability engineer. Why on earth would he be more useful as a saboteur...I mean there is no motivation even for the antogonism between tribes, really. And while we're on the subject, the tribes themselves don't even make sense. Yes, I get it, you start being friends with people in a particular geographic area and you want to chat with them online, this neccessitates a bit of sleep deprivation. But I don't buy for a second, that the only people you're going to want to hang out with live in one time zone, even if you allow for a very generous amount of homophily based movement. So yeah, ultimately, this book feels like a poorly rehashed****** Catch 22. But you know what, I had fun reading it, I had fun writing the review, and I have no qualms about saying, Go Download All of Cory Doctorow's Books Now. And better still, they're free.******** there are hundreds of self-published "authors" for whom this might true, but I don't have time to read them...that's what editors are for. ** Apple, early Google. *** Microsoft, late Google.**** See ***. ***** Not that there isn't a delightful irony in the fact that Art's crazy friends are the ones who try to have him committed, but a small amount of delightful irony does not make up for a large about of crappy plot. ****** Actually, drop the 're', and I hated Catch 22, anyway. ******* Footnote not realated to the text of the review, but I didn't have any good place for it above. One part of the book that I really enjoyed was Art's early foray onto the Eastern Standard Tribe chatrooms. It's a perfect logical enpoint to IRC chat rooms, complete with finding useful services via cryptographically secure means *and* dealing with obnoxious trolls. It's too bad social networking has all but killed off IRC (at least in my tribes, that is...)
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Reviews
Paul
Here is a near-future novel about an industrial saboteur who finds himself on the roof of an insane asylum near Boston.In a 24-hour, instant communication world the need for sleep is the only thing that hasn’t changed. The world is splintering into tribes based on time zones; those in other time zones will be at lunch or sleeping when you need them. Only those in your own time zone can be depended upon.Art lives in London, and he works for a European telecommunications mega-corporation. His "real job" is to make life as difficult as possible for those in the Greenwich Mean Tribe by inserting user-hostile software wherever he can. Of course, other tribes are doing the same thing to Art’s "home tribe," the Eastern Standard Tribe.Art is also working on managing data flow along the Massachusetts Turnpike. Most cars have some sort of onboard computer on which songs are stored, sometimes tens of thousands of songs. Art comes up with a system for wireless transfer of songs between cars, while they are driving on the Mass Pike. Art’s business partner, Fede, sends him to Boston to sign an agreement selling the system to a local company. After several days of being told to wait, while “details” are being finalized, Art realizes that he is being screwed by Fede, and Art’s girlfriend, Linda. The two met when Art hit her with his car in London. That is how Art finds himself on the roof of a forty-floor insane asylum near Boston; Fede and Linda had him committed there.As with any Doctorow novel, this book is full of interesting ideas. It’s easy to read, very plausible and very much recommended.
David Merrill
This one really hit the spot. I've been puttering around a few books lately, reading 40 or so pages and not being really grabbed. This one grabbed me immediately. It's an interesting read about near future hackers and personalities and getting committed to a mental institution. The story is told in two time lines that occur in Art, the main character's, which means the information in each timeline intertwined. If I go farther into it than that, I'll end up giving spoilers. It read quickly, partially because it's short, partially because the writing flows nicely. Definitely worth your time if you're into near future techie quirkiness.
Jennifer
Freaking. Awesome. I used this quote in so many college essays: “So you’re a fish out of water. You live in Arizona, but you’re sixteen years old and all your neighbors are eighty-five, and you get ten billion channels of media on your desktop. All the good stuff—everything that tickles you—comes out of some clique of hyperurban club-kids in South Philly. They’re making cool art, music, clothes. You read their mailing lists and you can tell that they’re exactly the kind of people who’d really appreciate you for who you are. In the old days, you’d pack your bags and hitchhike across the country and move to your community. But you’re sixteen, and that’s a pretty scary step.“Why move? These kids live online. At lunch, before school, and all night, they’re comming in, talking trash, sending around photos, chatting. Online, you can be a peer. You can hop into these discussions, play the games, chord with one hand while chatting up some hottie a couple thousand miles away.“Only you can’t. You can’t, because they chat at seven AM while they’re getting ready for school. They chat at five PM, while they’re working on their homework. Their late nights end at three AM. But those are their local times, not yours. If you get up at seven, they’re already at school, ’cause it’s ten there.“So you start to f with your sleep schedule. You get up at four AM so you can chat with your friends. You go to bed at nine, ’cause that’s when they go to bed. Used to be that it was stock brokers and journos and factory workers who did that kind of thing, but now it’s anyone who doesn’t fit in. The geniuses and lunatics to whom the local doctrine tastes wrong. They choose their peers based on similarity, not geography, and they keep themselves awake at the same time as them. But you need to make some nod to localness, too—gotta be at work with everyone else, gotta get to the bank when it’s open, gotta buy your groceries. You end up hardly sleeping at all, you end up sneaking naps in the middle of the day, or after dinner, trying to reconcile biological imperatives with cultural ones. Needless to say, that alienates you even further from the folks at home, and drives you more and more into the arms of your online peers of choice.
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