09 March 2012

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Little Brother Bookplate

Marcus, a.k.a “w1n5t0n,” is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works–and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems. But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they’re mercilessly interrogated for days. When the DHS finally releases them, Marcus discovers that his city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: to take down the DHS himself.
Little Brother was a thoroughly chilling book in that way that only a truly realistic near-future dystopian is. It took me a while to finish this book because though the plot was engrossing I just couldn’t push through more of the scary, realistic prose. The plight of Marcus and his friends was crazy, but in a way that made me imagine that it could be happening right outside my front door and I would never know. There are a few times where the plot gets a bit preachy and the characters break so you can see the author talking, but it’s not so often that I got annoyed with it. Perhaps because I see it too: people are really quick to hurt other people when they’re afraid, and right now people are most afraid of terrorism. Or perhaps it is because Marcus is just a teenager. I don’t approve of some of the things he does, but teenagers often take things to extremes without meticulously thinking things through, and Marcus’ bullheaded plow through the government forces helped to make the book more real. Also, Marcus himself was a thoroughly realistic character. I liked how he was sarcastic but not over the top with it, just like his tech knowledge and his rebellion against authority. Doctorow’s way of breaking down and describing what Marcus and his friends do in a way that is thoroughly accessible to all but the most conservative luddite is one of the high points of the book. It is true science fiction that explains the science and what is happening and doesn’t just leave the reader to figure things out or have faith.

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