Saturday, June 4, 2011

Review of Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cory Doctorow was a very enthusiastic panelist at Aussiecon4 last year. He tended to appear on panels about the future of writing and publishing, a subject that interested me, so I found myself attending many of the panel discussions he appeared on. As a small tribute to his energy during Aussiecon, I purchased a signed copy of the novel.

The story is set in a near present San Francisco. The novel centers around a 17 year-old geek called Marcus. Marcus enjoys role playing games and computers, but unlike your typical stereotyped geek, he has a social conscience and is prepared to stand up for himself.

The story begins with Marcus and his friends playing a game where clues are left around the city. The group find themselves near the bay bridge when terrorists blow it up. In the aftermath Marcus and his friends are all arrested by the Department of Homeland Security.

Marcus is eventually released into a changed world, where the DHS has imposed a massive security and surveillance crackdown. As a way of getting back at the DHS, Marcus uses his considerable computer skill to battle this crackdown.

The novel is written in first person. It has large "information dumps" about how to set up particular computer systems to combat prying eyes. These sections are almost written in second person as he tells "you" how to do it for yourself.

Cory Doctorow worked for four years for the Electronic Frontiers Foundation so the subject of web censorship is near to his heart. The novel is very much an argument against censorship and surveillance.

I did find the main character just a bit too good, a bit too courageous. But in the end I enjoyed the novel. Little Brother is a young adult novel, but adults will also enjoy reading it.

Cory Doctorow is into free agency on the web, so Little Brother is available for free download. As I found it easier to read on my Kindle, I also downloaded a free version of his novel from his website.

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