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Friday, March 5, 2010

Little Brother by Corey Doctorow

Genre: Young Adult

Copyright: 2008

Pages: 382

Rating: 4 Crowns

Synopsis: Marcus, a.k.a w1n5ton, 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 are 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.

Review: 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).

Lady in Waiting

Visit Elena at her blog All Booked Up.


fredamans said...

It sounds like a different kind of story, that I can appreciate. Great review!

Elena said...

Thanks fredamans. It was a different story, and I wouldn't mind finding a few more like it.

Erika said...

I really liked this book! I agree: the way it's written can be appreciated by adults and teens. :)

Also: you misspelled the author's name in the title of this post. Might want to fix that. :)

J.T. Oldfield said...

I've been curious about this book for a long time. Thanks for the review!

misskallie2000 said...

I agree. What is really scarey is this can be happening now and will escalate into a complete Home Land Security run country or some other govt office taking over the USA. When you keep seeing the political leaders breaking the laws of man and wedding vows it makes you wonder if there are any good guys out there. Does everyone lie??
There are billions of dollars owed in back taxes by policital party individuals and other govt employees and here they are spending our money like mad.
Where are our heros?? We use to have heros but not any longer.

Alaine - Queen of Happy Endings said...

Great review Elena, glad you enjoyed the book so much!

Elena said...

Erika, thanks for noticing that. Don't think I can make edits like that here, but I'll definitely remember it for when I re-post the review to my own blog.

J.T. If you give Little Brother a try, I'd love to know what you think of it.

misskallie2000, that's exactly what I found so spooky about the book.

Thanks, Alaine. Glad you liked it.