What I’m Reading Now: Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
What’s It About (Jacket Description): 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.
Do I Like It: Yes, plus it makes me think (but not in an obnoxious way).
Thoughts: There is no doubt that Doctorow has an agenda with this book, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Orwell had an agenda too, and 1984 is fantastic. And so is Little Brother. I’m not too far in yet (probably in the first 1/3 of the book) but I’m already impressed. I feel like even though Doctorow’s agenda is obvious, he never lets it get in the way of natural character and plot development (plus he makes some good points). Marcus is an extremely likable character, not in spite of his geekiness and slight tendency towards arrogance, but because of it. He’s very accessible – I feel like I know him and like he’d be a good friend to have.
Of course, liking Marcus so much makes it worse when bad things happen to Marcus. Which they do, very early on in the book, as the description mentions. The scenes of Marcus being held and interrogated by DHS are brutal. Not in the same way as a torture-y movie like Saw or Hostel, or even in the same way as reading about World War II. But in a “this probably does, or easily could, happen to people in our country” kind of way, which makes it seem very real and very scary. I felt Marcus’s helplessness when he realized the only way out was to give up all pretense at privacy and agency.
With a set-up like this, I have high hopes for the rest of the book. I love the tech speak (even if I can’t actually understand all of it – it makes me want to learn more so I can understand all of it.) I love Marcus’s tight group of friends and the way they support each other, even when they disagree. I love the righteous anger and rebellion that I have no doubt will keep me cheering for Marcus and his friends for the rest of this book. So preach away, Cory Doctorow, if you can make all your sermons this great to read.