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Radicalized: Four Tales of Our Present Moment


Radicalized: Four Tales of Our Present Moment

Science fiction has long been the literary tool to explore the not-so-distant future through the motifs and collective fears people experience today. Many would say that technology, privacy, free speech and politics are topics relating to these current fears. Cory Doctorow, as co-editor of the blog “Boing Boing” and an activist for open-source sharing online and freedom of the media, is keenly aware of these concerns, as he expressed in his most notable novel, WALKAWAY. Once again, he takes on meaningful social issues in his latest effort, RADICALIZED.

Here is a collection of four novellas, meant to portray four different pictures of the present and near future. “Unauthorized Bread” --- the most well-known novella --- deals with the efforts of refugee families to evade a Boston high-rise’s restrictions, such as elevators stopping for its rich residents and appliances only meant to work with certain brands' ingredients. In “Model Minority,” the efforts of superhero American Eagle hurt the victims of racial violence and police brutality rather than help them. The title story follows a man involved in an online support forum after his wife is diagnosed with cancer. But his livelihood is put on the line after members of that forum bomb hospitals and insurance companies. “The Masque of the Red Death” rounds out the book with a lucky few holding their own against the encroaching apocalypse in a hidden desert retreat.

"RADICALIZED is hugely entertaining and humorous, and takes specialized care in capturing the uncertainty and casual prejudices we all experience."

While all the novellas present precarious situations, they are ones that still feel intriguing and all too real. The story that is sure to connect most with readers --- at least from an American viewpoint --- would be “Radicalized.” The main character experiences much pain and conflict over his involvement with the online forum: “They were secret things, things he’d never dared say to any other human because…they were the kinds of things that you couldn’t say aloud without risking incarceration or involuntary commitment. Here were men saying those things. And other men who heard them and told them they understood, that they had felt the same unspeakable feelings and they understood those feelings. Even before he posted his first message to the forum, it had soothed something raw inside him…” “Unauthorized Bread” is by far the most well-thought-out and engaging piece, without playing too much into clichés used in other stories about refugees.

While some of the ideas here are more thought-provoking than others, the settings and plots of these dystopian universes are the shining stars. RADICALIZED is hugely entertaining and humorous, and takes specialized care in capturing the uncertainty and casual prejudices we all experience. It is for eager fans and newcomers alike, and is certain to introduce Doctorow to wider audiences and take traditional sci-fi out of its comfort zone.

Reviewed by Gabriella Mayer on April 5, 2019

Radicalized: Four Tales of Our Present Moment
by Cory Doctorow

  • Publication Date: March 3, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250229251
  • ISBN-13: 9781250229250