Thursday, March 13, 2014

Review: Little Brother

Little Brother
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was about 5 different really good books.

This a good teen adventure romp, with smart, believable characters who are interesting for adults to read about and (shouldn't, I must presume, by virtue of no longer being qualified to be sure) condescend to the teens it is aimed at. It's got a love story in it, but it's a pair of _people_ falling in love, not a pair of cardboard cutouts of 25-year-old-models-pretending-to-be-teens bumping up against one another because Destiny.

This is a chilling tale of post-9/11 America, taken a notch further by a second major attack, where we become essentially a police surveillance state. A world where all your freedoms are removed in the name of keeping you safe.

This is a wild yell of rebellion. Of fighting the good fight from the inside. Of outsmarting authority when authority is wrong. Of hackers and geeks knowing the system better than the bureaucrats, who don't know enough to realise that they're not even keeping us safe by spying on us. A rallying cry to not take your freedoms for granted.

This is quite literally the best layman's explanation I have ever read for a number of fascinating technical issues that impinge on everyone's modern lives. It does it in quick little asides - a paragraph or two, here and there - that add to the story rather than distract from it. Non-technical readers will follow it effortlessly; technical ones will still learn something new that may intrigue them.

This is a painting of a place. A picture of San Francisco that I recognise in its people and its places. It breathes. And yet it's a bit abstract; a bit surreal. It is the SF that I knew, but with twists and turns of counter-cultures and youth cultures that I never knew, but feel as real.

I don't think we live in Marcus' world. Not yet, anyways; hopefully not ever. I'm no molotov-lobbing anarchist who thinks we should abolish the entire government. And anyone who knows me knows that I'm no mindless "wit us er agin us" patriot either. But you've got to keep an eye on your own government - they probably _aren't_ actually evil, but they'll take away your freedom just because it simplifies the paperwork, if you let them. If we end up in a police state like Marcus', it wont be because we lost a war; it'll be a cost-cutting measure, for our own "good". This is a story that reminds us of that.

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