Radicalized: review of tomorrow by Cory Doctorow

Radicalized: review of tomorrow by Cory Doctorow


What unites a hi-tech oven, a superhero struggling with the world, a desperate father and a terrible epidemic? Apparently nothing. Unless you have read Radicalized, an anthology written by Cory Doctorow, published by Mondadori as part of its Oscar Fantastica series. The Milanese publishing house has shown, in recent times, that it has again focused its attention on science fiction, as demonstrated by Cyberpunk: Absolute Anthology or Murderbot - The Killing Machine Diaries. But as we all know, science fiction has a thousand ways of manifesting itself, and Radicalized represents a different and, if you like, more immediate vision than the authentic spirit of the literature of anticipation.

Before going into the reading of Radicalized, it is good make a clarification. Even those authors who write their own stories thinking about the international market are still influenced by their daily lives, by the social environment in which they grew up and from which they absorbed their own analytical tools with which to interact with the surrounding world. This condition, like it or not, is a cornerstone of their narrative, making the works more assimilable by those who share some aspects of the author's emotional and social experience. A premise that is always valid, but which in the case of Radicalized is even more important precisely because of its current and possible nature. At least in two of the four stories in this volume.

Radicalized: four stories from a disturbingly near future

Despite the writing 'four stories of the future' on the cover, in fact, Doctorow does not set his stories in a remote tomorrow, but rather it bases everything in a futuristic dimension that could manifest itself sooner than we imagine. Radicalized is not just an anthology of science fiction stories, but it is one of the most recent manifestations of that current of literary sci-fi that wants to push us to reflect on our current choices, trying to identify those obscure points of our current society that in the future could turn out to be bitter regrets.

Doctorow has all the tools, not only narrative but above all analytical, to be able to create a synergy between the science fiction story and the photography of contemporary malaise. The Canadian journalist, in fact, is a well-known name in the world of the internet, due to his commitment to digital rights and information security, also carried out on the Boing Boing portal, one of the most visited destinations in the digital world. This Doctorow experience was an ideal tool to give life to these four flashes of the future, which while on the one hand may seem like splinters of unreality, on the other hand they leave the feeling of having taken a look at a future that is not too unattainable.

Stories like Unauthorized bread, in fact, start from current situations, both socially and from a technological point of view, giving life to a synergy in which today's undeniable social disparities are intertwined with the growing interference of hi-tech in the our daily. What would happen if one day our appliances became yet another element of social separation? Or what if the importance in the social ladder was revealed by the use of an elevator? As paradoxical questions may seem, Doctorow finds a way to make these seemingly unrelated elements coexist, creating a disturbing tomorrow with a vague cyberpunk flavor. Perfect environment to talk about discrimination and oppression, revisiting it in a technological dimension, but no less stinging.

On the other hand, this critical streak of Doctorow is at the basis of the story that offers the title to his anthology, Radicalized (Radicalized, in original). In a society like the American one, where the right to health is a luxury rather than a security, how will those people who will see their loved ones die because of the reluctance of insurance to guarantee them the right treatment? A very current issue in the States, especially after the famous Obamacare and its downsizing during the Trump presidency. Doctorow does not stop to analyze this reform, but delves into the depths of the human soul, highlighting the desperation that arises from the sense of abandonment and the danger of a radicalization of this anonymous hatred in online communities. A condition that risks affecting everyone, even innocent people who would like to stop this spiral of violence. Doctorow must be recognized for his ability to grasp human nuances and intertwine them with surprising clarity to his plots.

Tomorrow becomes our present

A narrative force that appears evident also in Model Minority , a story that combines the theme of the superhero with racial disparity. The characterization of the superheroes is deliberately inspired by the two great names of the superhero scene, Batman and Superman, of which Doctorow presents a passionate and competent portrait, enslaving him to his invective against police brutality, animated by the racial intolerances seen even recently overseas.

Let us return, in this, to the initial premise. Doctorow sets the stories that make up Radicalized not in the distant future, but in a version disturbingly close to our present, to the point that in some cases, such as Radicalizati and The Mask of the Red Death (in which there is a great debt to Edgar Allan Poe) , the feeling of anguish is enhanced by the ferocious contemporaneity of the ugliness told by the writer. Whether it is the social violence that has given rise to mass phenomena such as the Black Lives Matter movement or the coexistence with an epidemic like the current one linked to Covid-19, Doctorow always finds a compelling narrative key, makes the present different but recognizable. , in some cases he takes its characteristics to extremes to transform it into the settings in which his stories capture the reader, pushing him to reflect in a subtle but unequivocal way.

Radicalized is a volume that can be devoured within a few hours, not so much because Doctorow's dialectic is elementary, but because the worlds contained in Mondadori's book are engaging, they fascinate and worry us at the same time, relying on our emotions thanks to an impeccable empathic construction, made up of lived situations and easily assimilable emotions . Especially the darker and meandering ones, such as anguish and despair, creating a functional and impeccable synergy between readers and characters.

Of course, it cannot be denied that in the case of Model Minority the risk of leading to situations already seen in the comics, especially in some Elsewhere of DC Comics is palpable, but Doctorow's skill allows him to avoid this trap, setting up a game with the reader in which the familiarity both to the spirit of the characters and to the triggering events of the stories make these aspects overlook . Radicalized is not science fiction, it is possibility, incredible and disturbing, a warning not to stop looking at reality and looking for the cracks to be restored before they become the breaking point of our tomorrow.

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