I’ve read a lot of Cory Doctorow’s novels and short stories lately. They’re available for free through various e-book readers like Stanza (iTunes link), and of course also as regular books on Amazon etc. If you want a real eye-opener, then grab one of his stories!
Most other free books are free and public domain because they are age-old. Take, for instance, novels written by authors like H.G.Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and so on. These are all good books — each one has earned its “classic” status. But … they’re old. Ancient fantasy, or sci-fi, or adventures can all be entertaining and very interesting, but they miss a certain little spark that Doctorow’s stories have.
What is that spark? I love Doctorow’s stories because they are modern. They are based in today’s society, based on today’s political and economic situation. They wrangle with challenges we face now and in the near future, and they offer fascinating insights, either as a documentary of Chinese sweatshop working conditions, or on entrepreneurial spirit vs. unscrupulous capitalism, or as a snapshot of how modern work transcends old limits such as time zones.
Some of the stories presumably and implicitly take place a few years into the future — just enough to allow the author a little wiggle room in terms of realistic technology advances, but nothing too outrageous. On top of all that, his stories are every bit as high-quality in their suspense, thoughtfulness, and ability to inspire as those old classics. His stories are also often hilarious, but the satire blends very well into the core of the stories. Many of the stories have left me in a state of awe, hope, and inspiration. Or, in one case, of fear:
Stunningly, his novel Little Brother is on the verge of coming true. When I read it, only a year or two ago, the premise seemed a dark warning of what USA might become if the so-called “security theater” continues to expand. But given today’s very scary real stuff like NDAA, SOPA, and ACTA, this novel seems more relevant, and more scary, than ever.