Review of Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Earlier this evening I sat down to read a wee bit of Cory Doctorow’s new novel Little Brother. Little Brother is a novel for young adults that involves a bunch of young hacker kids going toe to toe with the department of homeland security(DHS) in the US, you’ll forgive me for not linking to their website I hope.

The basic plot of the book is that these kids in San Francisco are skipping school to play a game that involves online and offline play, an ‘Alternate Reality Game’, when a terrorist attack destroys the Bay Bridge. The kids get scooped up in the dragnet of the DHS and whisked off to an interrogation centre cum jail and held, interrogated and abused for a week. Upon release they are told not to talk to anyone under threat of being disappeared. One of their number however is not released and knowledge of him is denied by the DHS. The kids decide to fight back with all the talents that they as hacker kids posses.

I started reading it earlier this evening, well as it goes yesterday evening and have just finished it. Thanks Mr Doctorow for keeping me up so late when I have an early start tomorrow/later. I couldn’t stop reading it as the story unfolded and the horror of living in a technological police state manifested itself and the wonder at the inventiveness of the kids in their use of technology to fight back increased with every page.

The book deals sensitively and realistically with issues that have been faced by teenagers and young adults throughout history and places them in a thoroughly engrossing and terrifying science fiction dystopia that is far closer to the real world than many people would like to admit. Bullying, teen sex, parental arguments and relationship confusion are all covered by this book in a way that is frank and honest and at no point condescending. Cory obviously remembers what is like to be a teenager and writes well for that audience which is why I think it is also perfect for those of us who waved our teenage years goodbye some years ago. He treats young adults as adults; the novel can be fully enjoyed by us old fogies because of that.

All of the technology in this book is real and pretty much all of it is available today, well some of the products are dreamed up by Doctorow but the tech behind them is available. The book also has plenty of little howto’s written into the plot that point you in the right direction when it comes to encrypting your web browsing and generally protecting yourself and your privacy from state intrusion.

This book is a must read for everyone and should be required reading for everyone under 25, if you read it you’ll find out why.

The book is available electronically under the Creative Commons Public License and is free to distribute on a not for profit basis. It is also available for purchase in print as well as audio. The audio book is also licensed in a way that allows you to sample small parts of the audio and remix them.


Cory Doctorow

Little Brother Print version

Boing Boing


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