Saturday, June 14, 2008

Little Brother (Book #57)

If I could've read Little Brother (Cory Doctorow, 2008) back in 2002 or 2003, I probably would've thought it was pretty much the Best. Book. EVAH! It's set in the near future. The time is never specified, but I'd guess it to be no more than eight years ahead of now. The protagonist/narrator, a 17-year-old hacker named Marcus, happens to be cutting school with a backpack full of high tech gizmos on the day San Francisco falls victim to a terrorist attack on a similar scale to 9/11. He and his friends are apprehended by Homeland Security and treated as terrorist suspects. When they're finally released into what's turned into a police state, Marcus uses his hacker skills to fight against the disappearance of civil liberties.

In '02 or '03, I doubt this book would've sold. It took a few years after 9/11 for the idea that maybe the government had gone too far in restricting civil liberties to gain widespread acceptance (and maybe for people to be comfortable speaking out about it). But now, in 2008, while I still enjoyed the book and read it in about four hours flat, I found it just a bit too heavy-handed. In a way it felt like an after-school special for, you know, active but nonviolent resistance to government tyranny. And I think my ideal "you must be willing to fight to keep your freedoms" book would be a bit more allegorical, and set somewhere other than near-future America.

All of which should not be construed as major criticism of the book, because I did enjoy it. And I could totally see something like it happening in the event of another major terrorist attack, though I like to think the mere fact Little Brother was published to rave reviews and a place on the NYT bestseller lists means it's less likely than it would've been a few years ago!

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