One of my favorite concepts in science fiction is making one change and extrapolating it forward. What if Tesla and Edison’s war of the currents had resulted in most of the world outlawing electricity and doubling down on steam power? What if Superman had landed in Soviet Russia? What if somebody invented a machine that let you step between parallel worlds?
What Doctorow has done here is that, but instead of making one change, he doesn’t make a change, and extrapolates. What if we never fix copy right law? What if Juicero hadn’t collapsed? What if we never sort out healthcare?
The result is terrifying, because it feels… so very possible. It’s not the first time he’s done it, either — Little Brother was my first introduction to Doctorow, and it remains a poster child for the concept.
Reading both Little Brother and Radicalized, I didn’t feel like I was reading a novel; I felt like I was reading a warning. “We’re on a path that leads to this, or something just like it,” he’s saying. “I’m worried, and you should be too.”
Worry with me; it’s a good read, and well worth the time.1