Monday, January 05, 2009
monday book review: little brother, by cory doctorow
Little Brother is the highly readable and frighteningly plausible story of Marcus, aka "w1n5t0n," a 17-year-old gamer and hacker living in 2015 San Francisco.  Precocious, wickedly smart and a fierce lover of privacy, Marcus spends much of his time subverting his school's absurdly intrusive surveillance system, a system that treats its students like criminals under the guise of safety.  

Things were certainly annoying for Marcus before terrorists attacked San Francisco's Bay Bridge, but afterward life becomes just plain hell.  Finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his friends are arrested under suspicion of terrorism, falsely imprisoned in a secret location, and made to endure "enhanced interrogation" techniques.  After his eventual release, Marcus finds that his city has become a police state, and its inhabitants treated more like potential terrorists than free citizens.  Many seem willing to endure the new regime, accepting it as a necessary evil in the wake of the attacks, however Marcus knows better.  The Department of Homeland Security is completely out of control, and if no one else is willing to step up and fight then Marcus will take it upon himself to take his city back.

As an avid skimmer of Boing Boing, I felt as if I'd been hearing about Doctorow's newest novel since it was a mere literary fetus. (Doctorow being both the author of Little Brother and the coeditor of the aforementioned blog, which is by far my favorite nerd blog.) However, despite my exposure to the title I'm not exactly in the habit of reading a novel simply because its author keeps insisting on its awesomeness, so I sort of ignored the brief period of incessant Little Brother posts on the site, never feeling a strong compulsion to read Doctorow's 1984-inspired young adult novel.  Fast forward several months and I, while attending a conference on new YA releases, was once again reminded of the book that set the Internet nerd herd on fire.  The presenter just GUSHED over Little Brother, so I finally broke down and started to read it.  

And dear me, but I was hooked by page five.   "Unputdownable" is a word that is greatly overused in the book industry, but even still I can't think of a better - although, admittedly, made-up - word to describe Little Brother.  It's freaking unputdownable.  I tore through it in a day despite it heft - abandoning hygiene, sustenance and sleep until I reached the end.  Sure, there were things that bugged me.  It oversimplified issues of homeland security and the author's politics (although mine own) were beyond transparent, however the story was so darn good that although I noticed these flaws I didn't really care about them.

I recently listed this title as my favorite YA release of '08, but the truth is that it was probably one of my favorite literary releases of '08, period.  Little Brother is smart, cool, gripping, scary, and - dare I say - important.  Really. I can't recommend it enough.

Cory Doctorow
2008, 382 pages

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home