Review of To Market, To Market: The Branding of Billy Bailey

Science Fiction Audiobooks - To Market, To Market: The Branding of Billy Bailey by Cory DoctorowTo Market, To Market: The Branding of Billy Bailey©
By Cory Doctorow; Read by Cory Doctorow
FREE MP3 DOWNLOAD – 23 Minutes 37 Seconds [UNABRIDGED]
LINK: http://www.craphound.com/audio/Doctorow_-_Billy.mp3
Publisher: www.craphound.com
Published: 2001
Themes: / Science Fiction / Dystopia / Humor / Satire /

Billy Bailey was the finest heel the sixth grade had ever seen — a true artisan who kept his brand pure and unsullied, picking and managing his strategic alliances with the utmost care and acumen. He’d dumped BanginBumpin Fireworks (a division of The Shanghai Novelty Company, Ltd.) in the _fourth_ grade, fer chrissakes. Their ladyfingers were too small to bother with; their M-80s were so big that you’d have to be a lunatic to go near them.

First published in Interzone, To Market, To Market: The Branding of Billy Bailey© is set in a world in which advertising has taken over every institution. This dystopic tale is a fun little story. Billy Bailey® is a 6th grader, who’s something like a smarter Dennis The Menace®, but that’s probably selling Billy short. Dennis The Menace® is just a fictional character. In this REAL world, REAL people are by far the more profitable brands. If you’re a 6th grade boy in elementary school, you want to wear Billy’s© shoes, drink what Billy© drinks and say what Billy© says. Billy Bailey® is at the top of the brand list. Everything Billy Bailey© does is predicated on what he thinks will most benefit his brand. The Billy© brand is all about playing the rake, the prankster who always beats the authority figure, which in this case is Billy’s school principal. But when Billy® gets tarred with a pathetic M-80 down the toilet prank in his Pepsi Elementary© girls bathroom, Billy® must fire his agent and come up with a whole new corporate strategy – he better re-brand his image if he wants to keep his sponsors.

Doctorow does this as a plain reading. I don’t expect all authors to be gifted readers – that’s why they pay the professional narrators – but that isn’t the problem. The problem here is with the recording. It isn’t terrific. It sounds as if was cobbled together from more than one recording. Apparently it was recorded using the built-in microphone on his iBook©, but in the multiple sessions it took to record it must have been at different distances from the mic, because the sound is inconsistent. You can also hear the pages as they turn, and what sounds like a squeaking computer chair with other occasional background noises. Despite this, it’s more than worth the money – it is after all completely FREE!

Doctorow’s story is interesting and original. It tackles the invasion of capitalism into children’s lives, and does it with a biting satire. See, even in our world, a corporation has only corporate legal responsibilities and no moral ones. Seeing as corporations have all the legal status of persons in our capitalist society it is no small wonder that people might come to think of themselves as corporations. Heck, our celebrities really are corporations! This is a very sad world. Everyone uses catchphrases to define their personal “brand”, and everyone is jockeying for sponsors. Morality has been completely subverted by marketing. Those who are successfully marketed are good and those that aren’t…. well, they aren’t even worth thinking about – just has-beens or never-will-bes.

On Cory Doctorow’s website he says he’s planning to read all of his stories and release them as free downloadable MP3s. This is a wonderful idea, and I’ll be sure to listen in however he does it, but maybe he should take a page from James Patrick Kelly’s FREE READS website and consider recording in a professional studio. Apparently it costs about $200 per session, but the sound quality and consistency in one makes the recording archive quality. Kelly’s stuff is free too, but he does ask for PayPal donations.

Posted by Jesse Willis

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