The first thing you notice when reading Eastern Standard Tribe is that it suggests a methodology that Doctorow follows when building his novels: identify and research a cool new idea, add more and more cool bits to that idea, and then build that into a story. In Down and Out the cool idea was reputation-based economies, and in Tribe it's a new kind of social group emerging that chooses to abandon its local standard time to live and work in stop with another more desirable one...
Damien Broderick, in a recent review, coined the rather amusing term "blogpunk," which seems to very much apply to Doctorow's work. It refers to the tendency of writers of online journals to accumulate fascinating factoids and then share them amongst themselves. And, to an extent, you can see that in Tribe. The novel's background is full of cool things — cars running on lard and such — but it's just that, background. At its heart, Tribe is a witty, sometimes acerbic poke in the eye at modern culture. Everything comes under Doctorow's microscope, and he manages to be both up to date and off the cuff in the best possible way.
— Jonathan Strahan, Locus Magazine
As Cold War hysteria inflames America, FBI agents knock on the Bronx apartment door of a Communist man and his wife. After a highly controversial trial, the couple go to the electric chair for treason despite worldwide protests. Decades later their son, Daniel, grown to young manhood, tries to make sense of their lives and deaths — and their legacy to him. Like millions of other Americans, he is attempting to reconcile an America based on the highest human ideals with the tragedy of his parents. This is the framework for E.L. Doctorow's dazzling masterpiece, as he fictionalizes an actual social and political drama to create an intensely moving, searching, and illuminating tale of two decades, two generations, and a troubled legacy of passion and purpose, martyrdom and meaning.