BookBITS: “Red Team Blues” by Cory Doctorow

Originally published at: BookBITS: “Red Team Blues” by Cory Doctorow - TidBITS

Adam Engst recommends Cory Doctorow’s latest thriller. It’s an exciting read set in the tech world of today but populated by characters whose history dates back to the 1990s. It’s all fiction, but broad swaths ring surprisingly true.

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I’ve read many of Cory’s books and always find something worthwhile to take away. Little Brother is YA fiction but I think it’s his best novel.

I have Red Team Blues, I’ll read it once I’m done with “Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow” (which I recommend and which may appeal to those with Nineties video game nostalgia).


Great minds read alike? :slight_smile: I just finished Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow as well, and I briefly considered writing about it, but in the end, I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as Red Team Blues.

I have dipped into Cory’s fiction at various times over the years, but I may need to go through it in order now that it’s readily accessible in Libby.

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You write

"It’s easy to brush aside concerns by saying that people can tell the difference between fact and fiction, but I think our fiction has gotten so good and so compelling—and in the case of visual genres, so realistic—that at some low level, we really are having trouble separating what’s real from what’s imagined. "

which reminds me of a situation I encounter daily. In our neighbourhood there are several schools and I regularly meet groups of youngsters – male and female – deeply immersed in their cellular phones completely disregarding their environment including me who has to find a way to pass through them. I wonder what their world view is.

Following your recommendation I downloaded a sample of “Red Team Blues” by Doctorow from the Apple bookstore, but did not finish reading it. I cannot stand these over-confident characters that seem to be inclined to show off, instead of conversing constructively. Perhaps too much time has passed since I lived in the US.

Best regards.


I’m loving the book, not just because of the milieu it evokes so skillfully but because it’s homage to the work of the prolific crime fiction writer John D. MacDonald. Calling the mobile home the Unsalted Hash (after Travis McGee’s houseboat the Busted Flush) is just the tip of the iceberg…

Also fascinating is Doctorow’s description of the way the 67-year-old protagonist’s modest lifestyle changes (or doesn’t) after he comes into possession of $250 million.

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I wonder whether it’s not just fiction which - in the terms of the article - primes the intuition pump. I’m thinking about the banalisation of violence by war reporting, by reporting in horrific detail the gun violence in the US and elsewhere, reporting the violence of the Mexican drug cartels, and so on. It’s not fiction but from comfortable suburbia it might just as well be.

And then include the “influencers” - make-up (think: Kardashian), through “ideal” bodies, through body mutilation and self-harm, to Andrew Tate.

There’s an awful lot of stuff out there which is priming an awful lot of pumps.


I’ll listen to any book read by Wil Wheaton.

Being old enough to have gone to several MacWorlds in the 90s, I look forward to revisiting the tech culture of the time.


Sadly, I think you’re right. I have a friend who said he and his wife were seriously considering moving to Canada because they have elementary school-age daughters, and all the school shootings have made him anxious. He’s fully aware that this isn’t entirely rational—that the odds are still incredibly low—but some people have trouble controlling catastrophist thoughts.

Personally, I avoid such stuff by not reading, listening to, or watching the news hardly at all. Actually newsworthy events always filter through from word of mouth or in side mentions from other types of coverage. I also like the Future Crunch newsletter, which primes the intuition pump with positive news, as does the Reasons to Be Cheerful newsletter.

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Funny how a similar topic came up on a completely unrelated forum.

The discussion there was talking about cruise lines and some people were calling them death traps, citing high-profile news events like norovirus outbreaks and Carnival’s catastrophic breakdowns at sea a few years ago.

But reactions like this are irrational. According to an article I found there were 323 cruise ships, worldwide in 2022. If you assume that each one makes 50 cruises a year (1 week each, with 2 weeks downtime each - what I consider a low estimate), that means there are over 16,000 trips a year. How many disasters do we read about in the news? I can’t remember any year where there were more than 3 major incidents, which comes to less 0.02%. Hardly the death-traps the press would like you to believe.

I see this sort of thing whenever the press reports on something I know a lot about (or where I can take the time to research the raw data), so I can only assume that they are doing the same thing about the hundreds of topic I don’t know much about.

So it’s not very surprising (to me, at least) that the public now believes the press is deliberately trying to mislead them.

And it’s also troubling that such a large percentage of people believe that there’s malicious intent here—that the media wants to mislead—rather than the far more likely explanation of articles misleading through a combination of ignorance (lack of statistical awareness, say), laziness (the effort of researching), and greed (if it bleeds, it leads).

Perhaps that’s why I was so taken with Cory’s article about fiction feeding intuition pumps because fiction authors get to make everything up, whereas journalists usually stick to something at least resembling the facts.

Maybe content creators of all types need to sign on to something akin to the Hippocratic Oath.

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“ Being old enough to have gone to several MacWorlds in the 90s, I look forward to revisiting the tech culture of the time.”

And I have very fond memories of the Ice Cream Socials Adam sponsored after the MacWorld shows in NYC.

I also attended some MacWorlds in San Francisco, and these were more focused on b2b. I remember in around 1985-86 when a presenter debuted Mac’s ability to create color spaces and profiles; every attendee’s jaw dropped.

I only went to San Francisco. If B2B refers to business-to-business, that wasn’t the impression I came away with. I mostly remember staying at the Press Club, a rather elderly hotel, and wiring my 512K Mac modem into the phone receptacle, as there were no phone jacks. Mostly I went to HyperCard presentations. An application I dearly loved, and in my opinion Apple botched its handling of it very badly.

I was too shy to go to any of the parties :|

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You are correct! I thought about it some more, and it was the Seybold shows, not MacWorld I attended in San Francisco when print digital publishing production was just getting off the ground around 1984, and Macs very much, and very quickly, began changing the world. They were initially focused on prepress print and other graphics. After a very few years they added in multi media.

The MacWorld shows in New York were more broadly focused, and covered both consumer and general b2b stuff. But attendees in the SF and NYC Seybold’s shows got to see Steve Jobs showcasing Mac’s amazing powers. Adam’s Ice Cream Socials during NYC MacWorlds were so much fun.

Yeah, as someone who went to all the Macworld Expos (with one except in 1996, I think), I can say that there was no general distinction between them in terms of location. San Francisco may have had more parties because more people were familiar with the city and lived nearby, making organization easier.

They all seem very far away now.