8.02.2010

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow - a late review

In 2008 I went to see Cory Doctorow  talk about books, Big Brother, and rights-free content. That night I bought a book, which I intended to read soon after and just got to this month, a few years late. Such is life sometimes for the Bookrastinator.

As I finished reading Little Brother on the express bus heading home to my home in Queens, I felt a sense of relief. I was free.
I looked down a street which was closed off for a block party and realized that even in today's restrictive world, we still live in a place where we can close off the street to throw a party. This is not the case in many parts of the world.

I really enjoyed Little Brother, even if half of it was a whirlwind of hacking terminology and lengthy explanations, with me being one of the least techy people I know, I sometimes felt out of my league. I kept thinking, man, I have friends who need to read this. They’d love it.

I did totally dug the main character, tech-obsessed high school senior, Marcus, known online as “w1n5t0n” and quite often in the principal’s office for hacking his way through school-mandated devices. 

When a terrorist attack disrupts an unsuspecting Bay area around San Francisco, a bunch of friends are caught right in the middle of it. And suddenly it's not so great to be the techy kid with all the gizmos in his backpack. Curious teen becomes a suspect. Suspect gets taken in for some unfriendly questioning. Things get serious.

Author Cory Doctorow mentions in the afterword that reading George Orwell's 1984 when he was twelve years old changed his life. I remember reading it in high school and it also affected me in a profound way.

Will Little Brother have this type of effect on the next generation? I'd like to think so. Government control, and surveillance is a big issue and will only continue to be so in the world we live in today. Will the torture scene scare kids? Sure. Did 1984's torture scenes scare me, absolutely. If it stirs up conversation, debate, shouting matches even, then it did it's job.

I feel like this is the type of book I need continually loan out, force people to read, because it's profoundly important in some way that is not completely clear to me yet. All I do know, as a father, is that this is a book I want my son to read when he's a teenager, so that we can have a debate about it like Marcus and his father in the book. 


And yes, I am dating myself saying that the title reminds me of the rap song from the 80s. I sang it in my head each time I opened the book. I'm not sure if Doctorow was going for that as well as evoking the spirit of Orwell. But either way, it worked for me.

2 comments:

Kerry said...

Gotta love a place with block parties! I've heard good things about this, someday I will find the time to add it to my non-existent list!

Little Red Reviewer said...

Great review! Little Brother is an incredible story, and it was the first book I read online, thanks to some freebies off Doctorow's website. I made the mistake of reading it during slow times at work. What made it a "mistake" was that I was practically crying at work! Little Brother also got me absolutely hooked and addicted to Cory Doctorow.