Little Brother Review

February 25th, 2008 by Potato

I managed to get my hands on an advance copy of Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, so I might as well use the opportunity to give it a quick review here. It makes me kind of feel like some big-shot member of the media to have something like this in my hands, but it was actually given to Wayfare in her role as a potential big-shot librarian collection-builder. I’ll try not to include any spoilers that aren’t already on the back cover.

It’s a (very) near-future story about a teenager dealing with the consequences of a country gone security-mad. In the wake of a terrorist attack on San Francisco, the department of homeland security goes bananas, and everyone driving through a toll gate or taking the bus starts to feel the pain of the airline traveller, where you are always under suspicion, and no proof is needed to detain you. After being arrested for nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time, getting thrown in a decrepit prison for days without a lawyer, hearing, or phone call to his parents, after being accused of being called a terrorist, and then upon release finding that he’s still considered to be under suspicion, our protagonist decides to take on the department of homeland security. He sets out to expose the illegal heavy-handedness of the department of homeland security, and to show the american people that giving up their freedoms for the illusion of security and to live constantly in fear is just as terrorizing as the terrorist attacks themselves were.

It’s a young adult book, but I didn’t find that out until after I read it. Like a lot of YA scifi out there these days, it’s of very high quality and doesn’t really talk down to the reader or anything that would preclude this book from making the reading list of “less young” adults. It’s a touch on the short side, but at no point does the story feel rushed or simplified. I quite enjoyed the book, finishing it off in a single night (insomnia strikes again!). It was definitely a book with a message, but since it happened to be one I agreed with it never felt preachy to me (YMMV).

There were a few points through the book where the text became really familiar, giving me a sense of deja vu. In fact, these were the parts where the action seemed to take a slight break for a bit of exposition about cryptography, security, privacy, politics, or the science of networking. It seemed like Cory had cut & pasted a blog post or rant or speech from somewhere else right into the story; I was half expecting to see the fonts change for some of these bits they had such a strong “I’ve read this part somewhere else” vibe to them — and as Wayfare says, since it was an advance, uncorrected proof, that could be quite possible! Even then, it wasn’t like that was entirely a bad thing, as those parts did go with the story, it was just strange, like “breaking the fourth wall.” However, that’s because I’ve read a lot of Cory’s stuff out on the internet (via BoingBoing or other columns/speeches), so a normal person who hasn’t already read so much of his stuff wouldn’t notice or be bothered by it at all.

One Response to “Little Brother Review”

  1. Potato Says:

    Cory has now put the book up on his site for download if you want to read it for free, get a sample before buying, or get a jump on it while you wait for Amazon to ship…