Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town
Reviewed date: 2007 Mar 2
Cory Doctorow is the darling of science fiction right now, but I don't think his latest book is much good. Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town is a bizarre fantasy. The main character is Alan. His father is a mountain and his mother is a washing machine. That's meant quite literally, and even Alan himself doesn't understand it.
Alan is normal, but his six brothers are as strange as his parents. We meet Alan when he moves to Toronto. He has a great time bothering his neighbors, procrastinating from his writing, and helping Kurt blanket the city with free wireless internet access. All this comes crashing down when Alan's undead brother Davey shows up: Davey wants blood. Doctorow never explains why Davey is a sociopath, to the detriment of the story. Alan spends some time anguishing over Davey's violent ways, but fails to take any reasonable steps--like arming himself in self-defense, for example. What, have they outlawed knives in Canada now? Or sticks? Does the law say you have to walk alone and unarmed at night, to make it easier for the criminals? Here's a hint, Doctorow: I'm not an idiot, and your characters shouldn't be, either.
In the midst of dodging Davey's insane attacks, Alan develops a friendship with his neighbor Mimi, who has wings. That's not explained either: she was an orphan, doesn't remember much of her childhood, and has wings growing out of her back.
At times the book seems to be striving for absurdist humor like Douglas Adams, but Doctorow always keeps it too serious. That's too bad, because even a fantasy must make some kind of sense. I regret every minute I wasted reading Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town.