Monday, January 18, 2010

Little Brother

Book review 2010.01

Author: Cory Doctorow

This is a book I first encountered on Mur Lafferty’s podcast, “I should be writing.” And I’ve spent the past year trying to remember to find it and read it. I picked it up at the library last week and wolfed it down.

The title is a play on the Big Brother concept (that’s how I interpret it), and the first chapter reminded me of Harry Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat. The main character, Marcus Yallow, is a 17-year-old computer hacker who quickly finds himself in a tight spot. The first chapter is great, introducing the characters and their modern cyberpunk lifestyles. Not really full-on cyberpunk, but the characters represent OUR children who are growing up immersed in an amazing level of technology. (Seriously, how much longer will it be before our technology becomes “sufficiently advanced” enough to be like magic?)

Doctorow doesn’t give you time to get bored because no sooner does he have the characters on the stage and having fun than he literally jerks the stage out from under them. And from here on, the story is all too frighteningly real as Big Brother steps in and takes over.

I couldn’t put the book down. Like I said, these characters represent OUR children in the modern world. Their lives are filled with social networks, pocket computers, and constant surveillance by an un-caring and non-representative government. I loaned this book to George Orwell and upon reading it, he turned to me and said, “Holy shit…this is scary as hell!” I kid you not.

But Doctorow gives us hope that for all of Big Brother’s evil, there’ll always be a small, rebellious army of Little Brothers out there subverting the Idiot Savant’s control. And that helps me sleep at night.

Little Brother is a Young Adult novel, so you’ll have to look for it in your library or book store’s YA section. And I strongly encourage you to do so.

Remember kids: Overthrow the dominant paradigm and never trust anyone over 30.

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