Saturday, April 10, 2010

Little Brother - Cory Doctorow

This review was originally posted at Royal Reviews.

Little Brother
Cory Doctorow
Tor Books
Copyright: 2008

The product description:
Marcus, a.k.a “w1n5t0n,” is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works–and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems.

But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they’re mercilessly interrogated for days.

When the DHS finally releases them, Marcus discovers that his city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: to take down the DHS himself.
Engrossing but somewhat spooky was my first  reaction as I started to read Cory Doctorow's Little Brother. Not because the book was a horror novel (which it's not), but because it was a warning of what our world could so easily become if we're not careful.

Little Brother is the story of Markus, a teen living in the near future (references to Windows Vista, wi-fi etc, all set the period), but it's a world where surveillance is everywhere, even in schools. One day he and some friends decided to cut school in order to continue with a multi-player game. Bad decision. They end up in the wrong place at the wrong time, during a terrorist attack and are gathered up by Homeland Security for interrogation.

When Markus is finally released, several days later, he discovers his parents had believed him to be one of the victims of the attack, and he discovers how much power Homeland Security really has. Too much. And everyone seems to think that's OK.

What's one teen to do? Try and stop them. That's what Little Brother is about, the struggle and the growing movement against Homeland Security and paranoia.

I liked this book a lot, it didn't feel young like some of the teen books I've read. Instead, I think it's just as good a read for adults as it is for teens. There's a lot of information in here as well, mostly tech-related but it all fits into the story well, IMHO, but not everyone may feel that way. The story is from Markus's point of view, and it's clear he's quite the computer whiz, as are a lot of other people in this time and place. It's good, because we get a very clear picture of his thoughts and feelings as he discovers the dark side of the world he lives in, but it's also a bit of a negative. I for one would have liked to see some of the reaction outside of San Francisco to the terrorist attack and the crack-down.

The ending was definitely interesting. Happy, but not complete, rather like real life. It felt like there was more to the story, although perhaps not enough for more stories. It wasn't too 'perfect' though, which is a bit of a change. On the other hand, was the tech knowledge of Markus and most of the other characters in the story realistic? I can't really say.

This book is, I think, designed as a warning against complacency and trading freedoms for security. It definitely left me thinking hard.

Recommended for people who like science fiction, technology and an exciting story (a.k.a. most teens and many adults).


Unknown said...

I really liked this book, too, and like you I found it rather scary. I did find that Marcus' enthusiasm for the tech stuff occasionally took me out of the story, but I also think it was very authentic -- it definitely fit his narrator's voice. He kind of reminded me of those people who tell a story but get sidetracked halfway discussing the history of the sweater they were wearing that day.

Unknown said...

I know people like that. As to the overload of tech stuff, I've seen that opinion in a few places. I didn't particularly mind it, but clearly a lot of people do.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...