Customer Reviews: Little Brother
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In some ways, this book harks back to the juveniles of fifties as written by some of the great masters of sf, most especially Heinlein. Like those earlier books, it portrays teenagers that are intelligent, resourceful, game-loving, and confrontational, but are still at times prone to making stupid mistakes in the name of peer-group status. In other words, they are real teenagers.

The setting is the near future, when some ill-defined terrorist group decides to blow up the San Francisco Bay Bridge. Marcus, our hero, and several of his friends are picked up in a rather wide sweep by Homeland Security forces as possible suspects. And therein lies the tale, as the actions of the security forces clash violently with Marcus's idea of what is right and proper in the supposed land-of-the-free America. What Marcus decides to do about this situation is an instructional manual to the reader in just how personal freedom and privacy have been restricted and what can be done about it in today's very high-tech world of security cameras, RFIDs, cryptography, computer databases, and the insidious insinuation of propaganda both at our schools and into everything we see and hear on the internet and our TVs and from the mouths of our political leaders.

The story bubbles with suspense, and the actions that Marcus takes are very believable as something a seventeen-year old could actually do. It is very easy to identify with Marcus and become very sympathetic to his cause, while the situation itself is stark enough to frighten the daylights out of the reader as being all too possible. The info-dumps along the way not only impart some very necessary information to the reader, but are handled very much the way Heinlein did it, as things that are necessary for the hero to either know or learn about to accomplish his desires, making them easy to swallow. The techniques and technology presented are real, as some of the afterword material to this book details.

The other characters of this book, while not presented with the detail that Marcus is (almost a given in any first-person narration), are both intriguing and in some cases frightening. Marcus's father is a major case in point, as a man with liberal leanings who nevertheless finds himself driven to support the majority view out of fear for his son, and Marcus's social studies teacher, who is very reminiscent of some of the `mentors' of Heinlein's books, as her willingness to engage her students in free-wheeling debate and attempts to get them to think for themselves leads to a very plausible and ugly fate. It is just such touches that make the whole situation ring with that touch of reality that marks excellent science fiction.

The politics of this book are decidedly left-wing. The Patriot Act and the Department of Homeland Security come in for some merciless beatings, but the reasoning behind such depictions is carefully laid out and form a clarion call to all Americans to look carefully at just what we are giving up in the name of `security'. Perhaps it should be compared and contrasted (as one of those infamous school assignments I don't fondly remember) with something like Tom Clancy's Executive Orders, which presents the right-wing rationale of why and when the government should be allowed to exceed the boundaries of the Constitution and its amendments.

Unlike the YA material of the fifties, this book does not ignore an item of great concern to almost every teenager, namely sex. I found the presentation of this material both appropriate to the characters and handled realistically without being too graphic. However, it might make this book inappropriate for pre-teens.

Teenagers should find this book a riveting read, with characters they can identify with, and like all really good YA books, adults should find this book just as riveting, with concepts and philosophies presented that require thought and contemplation. This is the best book I've read out of the 2008 crop so far, and I'd be very much surprised if it doesn't at least make the 2009 Hugo nomination list, if not take the award itself.

--- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
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on January 1, 2011
Probably the biggest hurdle to overcome when reading young adult fiction is the fact that I'm not a young adult. As most adults know, things look very different from this part of the timeline, and it's often very difficult to remember not only how you thought when you were younger, but why you thought the way you did. And it's not a matter of just denying the feelings and emotions of youth - it's that we literally cannot reset our minds to that state. We know too much, we've experienced too much. The best we can do is an approximation of how we think we remember how things were when we were still young enough not to know better.

It was with this in mind that I started to read Little Brother, and while I thought the book was a lot of fun to read, it probably wasn't nearly as cool as it would have been if I were fourteen years old.

Young Marcus Yallow, AKA w1n5t0n, AKA m1k3y, is a senior at Cesar Chavez high school in San Francisco, and he's what we used to call a "computer whiz" back when I was a kid. Marcus has an excellent grasp of how systems work, and finds great pleasure and thrill in either strengthening or outwitting those systems. Thus, he is able to fool the various security measures in place in his school building so that he can do the things his teachers don't want him to do - send IMs in class, sneak out whenever he wants, steal library books, that kind of thing. He's a hacker supreme, a trickster, and a very big fish in his little pond. He's so confident and cocky, in fact, that within twenty pages I wanted nothing more than to see him get his comeuppance.

Which is pretty much what happens. A series of bombs go off, destroying the Bay Bridge and killing thousands of people in an attack that dwarfs 9/11. In the chaos that ensues, Marcus and his friends get picked up by Homeland Security, taken to an undisclosed location (which turns out to be Treasure Island) and interrogated within an inch of their lives. They quickly break Marcus' smug self-confidence and assure him that there is no way he can win against them if they decide he's a threat to national security. When he is sufficiently cowed, Marcus is released back into the city, which has become a zone of hyper-security.

In this post-attack San Francisco, the police and Homeland Security have unprecedented powers to search and seize, access to every trace of electronic records of citizens' movements and transactions. In other words, everyone is a suspect until proven otherwise, and DHS is confident that the security they provide is worth the loss of liberty.

Marcus, of course, disagrees. His natural tendency to buck authority meets his desire to get back at DHS for what they did to him and his friends, and comes together in a plan to not only subvert the Department of Homeland Security, but to actively drive them out of his city. To that end, he creates a youth movement, powered by a secret internet known as the XNet and kept safe by means of complex cryptography. The youth of the city come together to cause chaos, to show Homeland Security that they are not all-powerful and that if anyone is terrifying American citizens, it's not al-Qaeda.

In the end, of course, the good guys win, though not without some losses and some disappointment. Freedom triumphs over security, but how long that triumph will last is unknown. All we do know is that the right of the citizens to tell their government what to do - as enumerated in the Declaration of Independence - is maintained. So in that sense, all is well.

It's a fun book to read, and I'll admit, there were times where I could feel anger building and my heart racing as the story moved along. Perhaps that's because, like Marcus, I have a solid distrust of authority. I don't automatically assume that governments act in their citizens' best interests, so in that sense, this book is targeted at people just like me. Or, if it's a younger reader, at creating more people like me. The narration is well done, a believable 17-year-old voice, and it's a pleasure to read. Moreover, it all holds together very well.

In some ways, this book reminded me a lot of Neal Stephenson. Doctorow has clearly done a lot of research on security, both electronic and otherwise, cryptography, politics and history, and found a lot of cool stuff that he's incorporated into the novel. Unlike Stephenson, however, Doctorow makes sure the story is more important than the trivia. All the cool stuff serves to support the plot, rather than having a plot built up around all the cool stuff the author's found, which is what Stephenson seems to do a lot. So there are some asides where Marcus takes a few pages to explain, say, how to fool gait-recognition software or how public and private keys work in electronic cryptography, but he does it in an interesting way and you can be sure that what he's telling you will feed into the story sooner or later.

With a couple of caveats, and a pretty major plot hole, I'd be glad to hand this off to a nearby teenager and say, "Read this." But the caveats are kind of big. So let's get to them.

First, the plot hole, which bugged me from the moment I saw it. And as with all plot holes, I may have missed something, so let me know if I did.

After the bombing of the Bay Bridge, Marcus and his friends are picked up by DHS and given the Full Guantanamo Treatment. While it looks like they were picked up randomly, the Homeland Security agent who puts them through the wringer implies that they were specifically looking for Marcus and his buddies, seeing them as a very real and imminent threat to national security. My question is: Why? It's never explained why DHS picks them up, nor why they treat them as severely as they do. If DHS knew something about Marcus' activities as a hacker, why weren't we told what they knew? It looked like DHS was just picking up random citizens and trying to scare the piss out of them. Which, given the characterization problem that I will discuss later, is entirely possible.

Before that, though - this is a book of its time, and is ultimately less about Marcus than it is about the time in which Marcus lives, i.e. about ten minutes in our future. It was published in 2008, which means it was being written during a period in American history where the debate over privacy versus security hit its peak. After September 11th, after the creation of Homeland Security and the Iraq War, Americans had to answer a lot of questions about how safe they wanted to be. It was possible, they said, to be very safe, but only if we sacrificed some of our freedoms. Thus the no-fly list, warrantless wiretaps, and waterboarding. It's a dilemma that mankind has faced since we started organizing into societies, and it seemed, in the opening years of the 21st century, that America was willing to give up a good deal of its personal liberty in exchange for not having thousands of citizens die.

Doctorow believes this is a very bad exchange to make, and has been publicly vocal in saying so. On Boing Boing, a webzine that is decidedly in favor of intellectual and informational freedom, Doctorow has repeatedly railed against ever-intrusive technology measures by both governments and corporations. He, and the other editors of Boing Boing, champion the personal liberty of people, both as citizens and consumers, and I tend to agree with them.

But that makes Little Brother less a book about the issues that affect young people than a book about what it's like to live in a hyper-security culture. And that's not a bad thing, mind you - like I said, it makes for a very exciting book. I just don't know how long it will last once we stop having the liberty/security argument as vocally as we are now.

Which brings me to my other caveat, and one that bothers me more than the book being period fiction - bad characterization. Marcus is great, as are his close friends and his eventual girlfriend, Ange. They're real, they're complex and they're interesting. In fact, most of the "good guys" in this book are well-drawn. Depending on your definition of "good," of course - after all, Marcus is technically a terrorist, so long as you define "terrorist" as "someone who actively operates to subvert, disturb or otherwise challenge the government by illegal means."

If Marcus and his subversive friends are the good guys, then that makes the Government the bad guys, and this is where Doctorow falls flat on his face. The characters who operate in support of security culture, whether they're agents of Homeland Security or just in favor of the new security measures (Marcus' father being a prime example), are cardboard cut-outs that just have "Insert Bad Guy Here" written on them in crayon. There is no depth to their conviction, no complexity to their decisions. Doctorow makes it clear that anyone who collaborates with DHS is either a willful idiot or outright malevolent, without considering any other options. He gives a little in the case of Marcus' father, but not enough to make me do more than roll my eyes when he came out with the hackneyed, "Innocent people have nothing to fear" line.

Any character who acts against Marcus in this book (and, it is implied, disagrees with Doctorow) is a straw man, a villain or a collaborator straight from central casting with all the depth of a sheet of tinfoil. They are all easy to hate and make Marcus look all the better, even though he's acting as, let's face it, an agent of chaos.

While this may make the story easier to tell (and, from my readings of Boing Boing, turning those who disagree with you into objects of ridicule is a popular method of dealing with criticism - see disemvowleing), it cheapens it. As much as I - and Doctorow - may hate the idea of security infringing on liberty, as much as we hate the reversals in personal freedoms that we've seen over the last eight years, and as much as we may want Marcus to come out on top, it has to be acknowledged that sometimes people who want to restrain liberty aren't doing it out of malice.

There are those whose desire to see a safe, orderly nation is so strong and so honest that they're able to make the decision to curtail those liberties that make order harder to attain. And they're not doing it because they hate young people, or because they're some cinema villain out for power or just to see people suffer. They're doing it because they truly, honestly believe it is the right thing to do. To write them off as "Bad Guys," as this book does, is to ignore the reality of the situation and boil it down to an "Us vs Them" scenario, which is not how the world works.

Now it could be argued that this was a reasonable artistic decision - after all, Marcus is the narrator of this tale, therefore we're seeing things through his eyes and his perceptions. But that doesn't wash. Marcus is obviously an intelligent person who understands complexity, and if Doctorow had given him the opportunity to see shades of gray, he could have been able to handle it. More importantly, though, that argument is a cheat. A book like this is meant to open eyes and minds, and that can't be done by reducing the issue to us versus them. Doctorow does his readers a disservice by not allowing them the opportunity to question their own attitudes towards the issue.

I really think the book would have been better, and had a deeper meaning, if Doctorow had made an honest attempt to show the other side in a more honest light. I still would have rooted for Marcus, and hated the DHS, but his ultimate victory would have been more meaningful if it had been a fairer fight.

Of course, I say this as an adult, who understands things in a different light than a teenager. Perhaps if I had had this book when I was thirteen it would have changed my life. And despite my misgivings about the characters and the universality of the story, I still think it's a great book and well worth reading - probably one of those books that will be a model of early 21st century fiction. Indeed, the core lesson of Little Brother - that citizens have the responsibility to police their government - is a lesson whose time has come. The G20 protests in London this year are a great example - many incidents of police abuse were clearly and unambiguously recorded by citizens armed with cell phones. The ability for information to be quickly and reliably distributed is the modern countermeasure against government abuse, though I doubt it'll end as cleanly as it did in this book. Reading this book in the context of the last ten years or so gave me some hope for the power of the populace.

But it also served to remind me that I'm not that young anymore. The rallying cry of the youth in this book is "Don't trust anyone over 25," and I'm well past that stage in my temporal existence. The rebels of the day are young. They're tech-savvy and unafraid, with nothing to lose but their lives. In this age of rapidly evolving technology, in a time where youth is everything, is there a place in the revolution for people who have advanced in age to their *shudder* mid-thirties?

Other people pull muscles trying to play sports like they did in high school, I have existential dilemmas reading young adult fiction. I never claimed to be normal.

"They'd taken everything from me. First my privacy, then my dignity. I'd been ready to sign anything. I would have signed a confession that said I'd assassinated Abraham Lincoln."
- Marcus, Little Brother
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on April 29, 2008
I enjoyed this novel immensely. I want to make that clear from the start. There are many reviews that are going to talk only about how important and topical Little Brother is. They're going to talk about how this novel needed to be written. They're all right, but I think everybody should know how much FUN it is to read (even while you're being outraged by how possible it all is). I started reading it and didn't put it down until I was finished.

Little Brother is the first-person narrative of Marcus, a 17 year-old with a talent for technology. Doctorow gets Marcus' voice just right. He alternates between street-swagger and vulnerability, between naivete and expertise. I found him to be an entirely believable contradiction, which is a pretty good definition of a teenager. At first, I found Marcus' love of explaining technology a little irritating, but I couldn't figure out why. Then I realized that it reminded me of my own poorly restrained tendency to try to explain computers to anyone who would listen (35 years ago). Nothing reaches you quite like seeing your own flaws in the hero.

Marcus finds himself at the wrong place at the wrong time. Without revealing any plot details, suffice it to say that he comes to the attention of a law-enforcement agency with a broad remit and limited oversight. Deceit and mistrust test his family and friendships as he comes face to face with the conflict between personal safety and the responsibilities of a citizen.

Cory Doctorow has managed to create a wonderful fusion of science fiction, action novel, political thriller, and whimsical romp. It's very hard to bring those elements together, but he has succeeded admirably. I haven't seen anyone pull this off since "The Long Run" by Daniel Keys Moran.

Buy it. Read it. Buy copies for your kids. Once they start reading it, they'll finish it.
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on July 6, 2008
Little Brother fits in perfectly with the rest of Doctorow's body of work: intriguing plots marred by two-dimensional characters who don't actually interact with one another so much as they preach at each other. This tendency isn't quite the narrative buzzkill as it is elsewhere, but it doesn't make the book any more fun to read.

His characters are leaden caricatures without a hint of subtlety. The government henchfolk are Evil with a capital-E, the supporters of the new regime are mindless drones who seem to forget each frustration and lesson as soon as they've happened, and our hero's friends are all good but apparently weak willed. Meanwhile, Marcus, while no paragon of virtue, is simply too good to be true. In fact so many of his beliefs and interests are ported from Doctorow's posts at BoingBoing that I began to feel that Marcus was even less of a character and more of a surrogate for Doctorow's wish fulfillment: an anti-establishment "hacker" who speaks 1337, has a host of neat au courant interests, loves cutting edge bands, believes in the boilerplate of the EFF and the ACLU and gets the girl too!

Not that he doesn't have doubts and fears, but at no point did I ever think that he'd change his ways. No sooner does he worry that he might be going to far but something comes up to prove him right. Over and over again: Will our hero persevere? Of course! Why worry? Especially after the fourth crisis of faith.

Is it an informative read? Yeah. There's a lot of talk about civil liberties and networks and internet privacy that's worth reading. Is it a fun read? Not even close. Between the seemingly constant preaching and the completely unsatisfying conclusion, I finished the book simply to say I was done with it. And I am: I'm done with this book and, unless someone convinces me otherwise, I am done with Doctorow's work.
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VINE VOICEon May 2, 2008
Scott Westerfeld gives Doctorow's latest novel a blurb of "A rousing tales of techno-geek rebellion."

I was kindly given an Advance Reader's Copy by the unparalleled force known as Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and now in return, its time for me to talk about the novel.

Doctorow is more known these days for his often controversial and definitely iconcolastic positions on matters technological. Editor at Boing Boing, crusader against the excesses of Digital Rights Management...Doctorow definitely doesn't keep his head down.

I haven't actually read any novel-length fiction of his until now, and I am glad that I did, even if I am not the intended demographic of the novel.

Little Brother is set around 2010, in a US which has had a Republican return to the White House in the 2008 elections. The story centers around Marcus Yallow, whose original screenname of w1inst0n and the title of the book gave me immediate "spidey senses" of where this novel was going. We get a primer on Marcus' carefree life, and a lot of infodumping on technology--enough that the novel felt a bit like a throwback to SF novels of yore which would do the "as you know, bob" approach to science fiction.

Marcus' SF becomes the target of a terrorist attack on the scale of 9/11, and as he and his friends are cutting school as part of an alternate reality game, they are caught in the DHS dragnet. His anarchic and rebellious attitude do him no good, and he spends a short period in a "Gitmo by the Bay".

Once released (and tellingly, one of his friends is *not*), Marcus becomes even more radicalized by the experience, enough that he is willing to challenge the DHS when San Francisco is put into a lockdown that would be the wet masturbatory dream of authoritarians everywhere.

And therein lies the tale.

Little Brother is written in first person, and so we get everything filtered through Marcus' perceptions, prejudices, attitudes and experience. While I suspect that Marcus' opinions may be very close to Doctorow's (although that's not guaranteed; I wouldn't make the assumption that authorial voice always equals protagonist voice), my meta-knowledge of Doctorow suggests that Marcus' radicalization and voice came very naturally to the author.

Too, aside from the infodumps which slow down the book here and there, the novel sounds like a YA novel. The teenage protagonists sounded, to my ear, like teenagers. They are real characters in a near future world that readers in the same age group can identify with.

I think Doctorow softpedals the confrontations between the teenagers and the security forces a little bit, having them result in mostly non violent confrontations. I suppose Doctorow did load the dice a little bit--a couple of shooting deaths at the hands of the DHS would have destroyed Marcus' movement, and would have turned the book into a parallel, rather than a counterpoint, to 1984. This book doesn't end completely happily...but Marcus makes a difference.

It's a very good book, whatever you think of its politics and opinions, and it fits well as a gateway book. This is the sort of YA science fiction that could, and should, and must bring new readers into the graying genre of SF. And for the rest of us, too, its an indictment of the dangers of security theater, and security which does not make us any safer.

I enjoyed it and commend it to the rest of you.
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VINE VOICEon May 19, 2008
High school is a bit of a drag, but Marcus manages to get through it--thanks to the great games he plays, and his proclivity for computer hacking. Living in San Francisco, he's learned the way the game is played, and he's willing to face down the Vice Principal who would really love to have him expelled. But when terrorists blow up the Bay Bridge (and the Bart tunnel underneath it), everything changes. Marcus is picked up by a Department of Homeland Security team and, when he uses the same sass on them that he uses on his teachers, he's thrown into a mini-Guantanamo Bay prison camp. When he's freed, days later, Marcus is angry and radicalized, but finds that his normally understanding father has gone over to the other side, willing to accept restrictions in personal freedom that he would never have agreed to before the bombing.

Before DHS set Marcus free, they warned him that they'd be watching and that next time they gather him up, he won't be let go. Considering that one of his friends never was set free from the secret prison camp, Marcus can easily believe their threats. Technology, though, cuts both ways. Although the DHS can use it to monitor activities, to search for suspicious behavior, to track communications, it can also be used to hide secrets--and can be manipulated to overwhelm the human resources who must follow up with the discrepancies technology detects. Using an X-Box hack, Marcus creates a tunnel network in the internet that allows hops from X-Box to X-Box, accessing the Internet through multiple and changing patterns. He then works with a friend to convert San Francisco's music download system to support full encryption, allowing the encrypted traffic among the rebellious youth to hide in the far vaster traffic of music downloads.

Although Marcus is radicalized, his friends are frightened by the constant threat that the DHS, working with the local police, impose. His activities do bring him a new girlfriend, though, which, considering that Marcus (at 17) has only kissed three girls, is a positive step. Still, no matter how much technology Marcus can hack, no matter how clever he is in developing devices that detect hidden cameras, man-in-the-middle attacks, and phishing, the government has far more resources. Sooner or later, he knows he'll be caught.

Author Cory Doctorow asks critical questions about our national response to terrorist attacks. If beating the terrorists requires giving up the freedoms that the terrorists object to, can we really say that we've beaten them? If terrorism is a horrible, but ultimately minor threat (more people are struck by lightning in the US than attacked by terrorists), is it really worth subverting our entire economy and political system to fight it? And to what extent should ordinary people be inconvenienced by techniques that make the government look like it's doing something, but that don't actually reduce the chances of a terrorist attack (taking off shoes in airports, silly color-coding alerts).

Doctorow doesn't spend a lot of time really addressing nuances. The DHS in this story is bad--ultimately using torture at home, and turning inconvenient (but not necessarily guilty) people over to foreign governments for more torture and eventual disposal. I would have found the story more interesting if Doctorow had constructed a less extreme straw man. Unfortunately, a lot of his portrayals turn out to be accurate pictures of what Americans actually have done to one another--in the name of fighting terrorism.

For me, the story is strongest when Matthew is creating new hacks, new techniques to defeat the DHS's 'big brother' schemes to keep a watch on everyone in San Francisco--in the hopes of heading off another terrorist attack. The discussions of the X-Box hack, of public key encryption, of Yippie-style street-theater protests, Matthew's hidden-camera finder, and the RFID switchers, all make good reading and are plausible as approaches that protestors could use to make infringement of liberties more difficult. Of course, setting the story in San Francisco makes the protest atmosphere as well as the high-tech leaning of the story convincing.

Doctorow and Tor are positioning LITTLE BROTHER as a young adult story. Certainly Matthew is both a teen and highly capable--which will be attractive to the young adult market. Likewise, the idealistic freedom-loving element of the story, and the pranks Matthew and his friends play fit with that young adult group. Overall, though, the themes of the story, the issues being dealt with, and the social commentary span all ages.
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on May 16, 2011
Tech-savvy, gamer Marcus Yallow is a high school senior in a San Francisco of the very near future. Constantly trying to evade his school's many security systems to play hooky, Marcus with his three best friends, Darryl, Vanessa (Van) and Jose Luis (Jolu), spends his time playing alternatate reality games and jaunting around his beloved city streets. One ordinary day, however, Marcus, Darryl, Van and Jolu get caught up in the aftermath of the worst terrorist attack in US history, and are taken into custody by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). After being brutally interrogated, Marcus, Van and Jolu are released from prison and warned to never speak of their experiences as prisoners of the DHS. The return to their lives in San Francisco, only to find that the city is now overrun by menacing security precautions implemented by the DHS. Determined to expose the crimes committed by the DHS and thwart their efforts to "prevent future terrorist attacks," Marcus begins an all-out cyber war on the corrupt government agency. Using his computer hacking skills, new found love interest, Ange, and an army of high school students, Marcus delves deeper and deeper into his web of revenge. Will he be able to win this war, or will the government maintain its vice grip on lives of its citizens?

Full to the brim with techno jargon, pop culture references, and "leet," Cory Doctorow's Little Brother is an entertaining, if somewhat far-fetched, story about how far governments can and should go to keep their citizens safe. The story is told in the first person by Marcus Yallow, high school senior and generally cocky computer hacker, who involuntarily becomes involed with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) after a large-scale terrorist attack on his beloved San Francisco. Bay area residents will appreciate Marcus' references to San Francisco streets and neighborhoods, and Doctorow's descriptions of the city are clever to the point that it almost becomes as important a character as Marcus himself. Equally as compelling are Doctorow's detailed descriptions of the methods Marcus uses to thwart the DHS, making the novel almost a lesson in computer technology and security systems. By the end of the story, the reader will have a clear understanding of "arphids," "gait tracking software," "Linux," and much more. Apart from the obvious mischief and havoc Marcus causes by exploiting his computer skills, the novel also acts as a critical examination of the application of these technologies in monitoring the behaviors of American citizens. Even before the terrorist attacks, it is clear that the world Marcus lives in is one of heavy surveillance. Using the experiences of his characters, Doctorow shows a very possible future of security taken to the extreme. Overall, the novel is a very relevant and thought-provoking read for teens and adults alike.

This thought-provoking novel, though a little far-fetched, is still an enjoyable read for teens. It has a huge technology component that many readers will enjoy, and the San Francisco bay area setting is very interesting as well. The novel will definitely resonate with budding conspiracy theorists as well.

Like my review? Go to my profile to find the link to my blog to see other books I recommend!
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on May 1, 2008
I was halfway through Little Brother last night when I went to bed. As I lay in the darkness, all I could think about was the book. The questions it raised, the insecurities it provoked in me.
After about an hour of this I got up and went into the living room, sat down and finished it.

Few times in my life have I encountered a piece of art that reflected the zeitgeist so clearly.
This is a fabulously brave and important book, and you will hopefully learn a great deal by reading this.

Cheers to Mr. Doctorow!
This was like reading Ender's Game and the Diamond Age for the first time.
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on May 27, 2009
Doctorow had all the right ideas in writing this book. Through his fictionalized account of a terrorist attack on San Francisco's Bay Bridge and BART system, and the resultant crackdown on the city by the Department of Homeland Security, Doctorow tries to paint a picture of what can happen when the zeal for security bests protection for civil liberties.

Unfortunately, his excellent point is drowned out by his heavy-handed sermonizing. Anyone reading this book will probably already understand the danger of protecting America by taking away civil liberties, so Doctorow is preaching to the choir to begin with. To hammer in his message so emphatically is somewhat insulting to his readers' intelligence. More subtlety would have made this both a better book as well as a more effective one.
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on May 17, 2008
Every student in Marcus' high school is under surveillance through cameras both in and out of class, spy ware in the school computers and identification cards with microchips inside that let the powers to be know where they are at all times. Marcus is a computer guru who lives to beat the system; he and some friends cut school to participate in a scavenger hunt sponsored by a large corporation.

While they are trying to decipher a clue, an explosion occurs followed by a mushroom cloud rising in the sky. Terrorists hit the Bay Bridge and a San Francisco BART station. Marcus' friend Darryl is injured so they stop a Homeland Security vehicle. The teens are treated like terrorists and taken to prison where they are mentally and physically tortured. Three of them are freed but Darryl is nowhere to be found. Homeland Security has turned San Francisco into a police state, but Marcus knows the truth and organizes a resistance.

LITTLE BROTHER is a tense frightening thriller because with little spin it comes from headlines since 9/11. Marcus is a fighter yet a reluctant hero as he just wants freedom without insistent government meddling, peeking, and intruding under the guise of red alerts. Cory Doctorow has modernized 1984 with this exhilarating cautionary thriller; though one must wonder whether he will receive the Rushdie treatment from the Patriot actors.

Harriet Klausner
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