Radicalized by Cory Doctorow is four short stories turned into a novel. I checked this out from the library. The cover grabbed me, it is black and white with four red and black images, a piece of toast with a no sign marked through it, a person in a heroic pose with a cape trailing behind them, a pill with a hand reaching up through it, and a red skull on a black background.
I enjoyed “Unauthorized Bread” about digital rights management. The heroine is very empathetic and she gets help from an employee who decides to do the right thing (and will probably get fired). It is an uplifting story. “Model Minority” tells the story of an alien superhero who stumbles on police brutality. All of his attempts to help the man abused by the police result in causing the man more pain and harm. It puts a new spin on the well worn trope of the alien being treated like an alien. The final story “Masque of the Red Death” talks about a wealthy man who is a doomsday prepper. And then a pandemic hits. (I checked the date, this was published in 2019.) The man’s refusal to help anyone from the outside or be helped has serious consequences.
But the one I can’t stop thinking about is “Radicalized” where a man joins a dark web group when his wife’s experimental life saving cancer treatment is refused coverage by his insurance company. The group starts as support for people whose wives and children cannot get the treatments that they need. Treatments that are too expensive to cover without insurance. The man spends more and more time on the internet, with men who understand the impossible situation he’s in. As he starts reading about people’s deaths due to cancer and other terminal illnesses, the group starts fomenting the idea that these insurers need to die. And insurance companies start getting blown up.
It is easy to linger on this story when we acknowledge how incredibly broken the US insurance system is. Cory Doctorow is certainly not arguing that we should blow up insurance companies. But he makes you empathize with the characters that are in so much pain that this is what they do. I will continue to think about this story, and probably will for some time. I liked this. Cory Doctorow is a writer who makes you think. I will definitely continue to check out his works.