ABR's full Overclocked audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook Reviewer.
Overclocked is composed of five Novellas (or long short stories). All are future tales based on high technology affecting society in a catastrophic way. The general feeling of the stories is something like the classic SciFi of the 50s and 60s (Bradbury, Asimov, Dick, etc.), but with distinctly 21st Century themes: alienation, poor vs. rich nations, availability of high tech, terrorism, and post human technology.
Short stories are intriguing for their ability to drop us headlong into the characters and action without the slow development of a book. Doctorow is quite good at this. Within minutes of starting one of the stories, you are immersed in one of his carefully crafted worlds. The characters are unusual and believable.
In After the Siege, the main character is a teenage girl caught in the horrors of prolonged war, all of it tragic because it is so unnecessary and avoidable. As the story unfolds and we learn how the outside world is using the conflict as a form of entertainment, we are brought to a deeper level of horror and shame. Shame because we can empathize with the victims and see our own complicity in their pain.
I Row-Boat is a playful twist on Asimov’s famous novel, I Robot. Robbie the Row-Boat has gained consciousness, as have many high-tech devices. He contemplates the meaning of life as he rows tourist human divers around the Australian coral reefs. Too bad for all of them when the billions of processors imbedded into the reef cause it to gain consciousness itself, and it is angry. It is outrageous, inventive and pure fun.
When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth is a terrific story of geeks trapped inside clean rooms as the world disintegrates around them. They, and others like them around the world, survive because they are trapped in the filtered air of the computers they protect and keep running. The Internet limps along as billions die. Of course, email spam lives on. It is a story written with a lot of technical jargon and geekspeak. Don’t let that throw you, this is a good story with a lot of real human themes.
Each story is narrated by a different performer. All are excellent and bring the stories to life without flaw.
This is a decidedly high-tech group of stories. Hard SciFi at its best. If you are intrigued by technology, do not hesitate to listen to this book. If on the other hand, high-tech jargon and technological themes don’t interest you, try the audio sample first. You may still find something to enjoy, but know that these stories appeal to a specific audience and do it well. If you find yourself in the former category, you will likely enjoy these stories immensely and listen to them more than once.
Audiobook provided for review by the publisher.