Knights of the Rainbow Table - Cory Doctorow

A few years ago, having enjoyed Boing Boing, I read a book by Cory Doctorow (Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom). This was a foolish move, as the book was utterly dreadful.

Recently, Cory posted an ever so subtle "vote for me" entry for the Hugo awards, listing his eligible stories. He appears to have previously won some awards. Had I been too hasty to condemn his sci-fi writing? After all, I'd only read one book.

Knights of the Rainbow Table is a freely-downloadable novella. The title sounds fun and cryptographically literate. I had a go at it. It's a story about the possible future of security. The problem is, it's utterly technologically ignorant, but completely fails to realise it. There's some nice jargon, but unlike, say, a Charlie Stross book, it quickly becomes clear that it's just not backed by actual understanding.

It's clear that Doctorow doesn't understand, amongst other things, algorithmic complexity, cryptographic algorithms and the economics of HPC systems. Or maybe he's just decided to completely ignore them for the sake of dumbing down a story. In any case, it utterly undermines any point he was trying to make.

Otherwise, the characters are basically the same morons who populated his Fear and Loathing in the Magic Kingdom. Their geeky behaviour is paint by numbers. Otherwise, I think it difficult to find any redeeming features in this writing whatsoever, beyond being able to use "I read and enjoyed Knights of the Rainbow Table" as an instant way of identifying an idiot.

Posted 2012-01-08.