Customer Review

28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic novel, either as standalone or sequel, February 24, 2013
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This review is from: Homeland (Hardcover)
I read and loved Little Brother when it came out two years ago, but I was fuzzy on the details by the time I got around to Homeland, its sequel. So I approached Homeland essentially as a stand-alone novel.

Both are dystopian novels about surveillance societies, but in many ways, Homeland is a more immediate, present day thriller. The vast majority of surveillance technology Doctorow describes exists now, and is already deployed in schools and by governments and corporations. Schools are today monitoring kids, taking pictures of them at school, in their homes, in various states of undress. Governments are installing spyware, with its own weaknesses that then make it easier to for criminals to get access to your computer. Companies are turning vast quantities of personal data into ever-more targeted marketing.

While I recall being outraged at the spectre of draconian surveillance in Little Brother, that feeling turned more to fear in Homeland. The future is here, and it's not pretty.

As another reviewer noted, 'Severe Haircut Lady' is not very threatening as the villain of the story, but I would say the true antagonist is the surveillance state itself, rather than any one person.

Like most Doctorow novels, Homeland is one third entertainment, one third education about the state and direction of technology's influence on us, and one third practical lessons in privacy defense. Since reading it I've changed and lengthened passwords, turned on two-factor authentication, encrypted hard drives, and started using a secure VPN.

This is the sort of novel I'd want my kids to read as teenagers: to learn when and where it's appropriate to question authority, how to act independently and responsibly, and to see positive examples of how they can create change in the world. I attended Cory Doctorow's reading for Homeland in Portland, and was heartened to see teenagers present at the talk who went on to ask intelligent questions about copyright laws, remixing, and rooting phones.

It's a fun read (you'll certainly get caught up in the story, and I did as well, finishing it over three evenings), and it's probably one of the most important books you could read this year.
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