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Little Brother Paperback – Bargain Price, April 13, 2010
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About the Author
Cory Doctorow is a coeditor of Boing Boing and the former European director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He writes columns for Make, Information Week, the Guardian online, and Locus. He has won the Locus Award three times, been nominated for the Hugo and the Nebula, won the Campbell Award, and was named one of the Web’s twenty-five influencers by Forbes magazine and a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. He hopes you’ll use technology to change the world.
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It very brilliantly portrays the power of the State to destroy all we have in order to “make us safe.” How readily people give up their rights and freedoms to people who promise to keep the wolves from the door. All you have to do is watch a Trump rally to see how that works.
It also shows that, yes, we all can take a stand, and even one person can matter. But you do have to realize that it may come at great personal cost.
I could probably go on at length on the perfection of this book. Many have already. I’d like to address two glaring areas that needed work, however.
The first failure: The protagonist is as much a 17 year old as I am (*cough* NOT). Nor does this child exist in any reality in America. Marcus is so very clearly a construct of an adult. I’ve read other books that more accurately capture a smart young person. Doctorow tries to jam this character into the cultural zeitgeist too hard. Yes, a lot of kids are into role-play, cosplay, cons, and online stuff. But every single solitary movement of his time? No. It just tries too hard and misses a lot of nuance. However, the “love scenes” ring truer than most of the rest. (I also get why adults are almost the “talking horns” of a Charlie Brown cartoon. But it was often depressing that every adult was 2 dimensional).
No Millennial is allowed to roam around without their parents checking in with them on their cell phone every few hours. Even in San Francisco, kids (especially well-heeled kids) aren’t allowed to run around low-rent areas by themselves, and certainly not at night. Then the parents allow Marcus to travel the same routes by himself after he’s held up? I found that part hilarious.
This doesn’t invalidate that the book is readable by a teen… or an adult.
The developmental editing fell short (I’m a developmental editor, so stuff like this rattles my cage). I realize that famous authors get away with stuff that regular authors don’t, but this really should have been flagged. Marcus goes on for pages describing the intellectual or authorial sources for the thing he’s about to think (or in the process of thinking). I am married to a geek. Yes, they think deeply about stuff most don’t. And they can absolutely recite pages of information to you about any subject. But they don’t “think” about that. They think thoughts around that. Had I edited this, I would have made these “asides” into website information pages at the start of a chapter. Or hypertext, or links, or something. It just wasn’t realistic, and slipped into didacticism that distracted the reader from the story.
But those are quibbles, really. This is an important book for our times. I’m glad this is being taught in schools (or at least, some schools). Kids need to understand that they are as much a part of the American experiment as anyone else. A powerful, forceful argument for personal liberty.
This, we soon learn, was all a big mistake. DHS has taken on the wrong 15-year-old.
Using his advanced programming skills and intimate knowledge of online security and encryption, Marcus sets out to organize a teenage rebellion to take back the city. Drawing his friends into his net, along with their friends and their friends' friends, Marcus soon becomes the coordinator of hundreds of teenagers. This is a force that proves formidable even against the massed might of the Department of Homeland Security—and the resources of the White House, which unsurprisingly has instigated the DHS coup. With civil liberties suspended and the government's goons acting more and more brutally as resistance mounts, the rebellion predictably spreads to the more thoughtful adults in the city. We can all guess where things are going—but we'll still be surprised by the ending.
Cory Doctorow is widely viewed as one of the leading lights of the new generation of science fiction writers. As of mid-2017, he has written ten novels and at least seven works of nonfiction. He's also a prolific blogger on copyright law, digital rights management, file-sharing, and post-scarcity economics. Little Brother was Doctorow's fourth novel.
In his review for the New York Times Sunday Book Review, Austin Grossman treated Little Brother as a young adult novel—a natural instinct given the teenage protagonist and the peripheral roles of adults. Like so many contemporary YA novels, however, Little Brother can be rewarding for readers of any age. Grossman wrote, "An entertaining thriller and a thoughtful polemic on Internet-era civil rights, “Little Brother” is also a practical handbook of digital self-defense. Marcus’s guided tour through RFID cloners, cryptography and Bayesian math is one of the book’s principal delights. . . . This is territory the author knows well . . . His grasp of the implications of present-day information technology is authoritative. . ."