Review of “Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town” by Cory Doctorow

Read it: Yes

I wanted to read a book by Cory Doctorow for two reasons:

  1. I like Boing Boing, and since Cory is a Boing Boing editor, I figured I’d like a book written by someone who writes for Boing Boing.
  2. Cory releases all his books under a Creative Commons license and makes them available for free in a variety of formats which I think is very cool. Ironically, I actually bought the book in order to support the idea of giving books away for free. Hmm.

Anyway, I picked Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (which I will refer to from here on out as Someone) from his canon of five books for no other reason than I thought it had the most intriguing name, and the most compelling cover art.

I’ll warn you right from the beginning that if you’re not an open-minded reader, don’t bother with this review, or this book. Save yourself the time. Someone is so unique that I’m not even sure what genre it fits in to other than fiction. Science Fiction? Fantasy? Cyberpunk? Yes.

I’m not into spoiling plots, but just to give you some idea of what you’re getting into by reading this book, Someone is about a man who will answer to any name which begins with the letter "A". He seems to be most commonly called Alan, so we’ll go with that. Alan’s father is a mountain, and his mother is a washing machine. Literally. And his brothers are Russian nesting dolls, a clairvoyant, and a psychopath. Alan’s neighbor has wings which she’s so committed to hiding from the world that she has her sadistic boyfriend saw them off on a regular basis.

The book follows two paths:

  1. Alan’s unconventional childhood growing up in a cave.
  2. Alan’s present day struggle to restore an old house, deal with the return of his psychopathic brother who is supposed to be dead, blanket a bohemian neighborhood in Toronto with free WiFi, and come to terms with his depressed winged neighbor.

I want to say that Someone is an unconventional book, but it’s not so much the book or the writing style that is unconventional as it is the plot and the characters. In fact, that’s what struck me most about this novel (and what I liked best about it): the plot and the characters are completely bizarre, however Doctorow treats it all with a great deal of literary care and respect. I’ve read strange books before where the author seemed to revel in the oddity of his work, adopting a writing style as unconventional as his subject matter. Doctorow, on the other hand, takes this world he’s created extremely seriously and writes about it passionately, almost as though he’s unaware of how strange it is.

Someone is certainly not for everyone, but I found myself entirely immersed in Doctorow’s world, and able to take it every bit as seriously as Doctorow himself.

2 thoughts on “Review of “Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town” by Cory Doctorow

  1. I also bought one of cory’s books in order to support his giving them away, LOL. Haven’t read it yet, it got packed during our move and hasn’t surfaced yet.


  2. SCTT,SLT is the strangest book I’ve read in my 45 years on this earth. It is so compelling I can not put it down. The 1st 90 pages flew by last night and all I could think about at work today was getting back home to see what happens next. I am thoroughly enjoying it. Great review, by the way. Thanks!


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