Mini-Review: Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Those of you who saw my bookcase filled with recommendations may have noticed two books on there by Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom and Eastern Standard Tribe. I am a fan of Doctorow’s work, and his newest title, Little Brother, did not change that. Like all of Doctorow’s books, you can read it online for free. This is the first book of his where I went that route instead of buying the hard copy.

Ostensibly written for the young adult crowd, Little Brother is the story of a young man from San Francisco who gets caught up in a DHS dragnet after a terrorist attack.  He is treated like a suspected terrorist and vows to take his revenge the only way he knows how: by using and spreading technology that will help people keep themselves safe and secure, and that will foil any DHS plans that violate the bill of rights and the freedom of Americans.

Doctorow always writes very simply and forthrightly, and I think that he did not have to work very hard to fit his style to the young adult genre.  The book is perfectly accessible to adult audiences as well, and actually some of the simplified explanation of various technologies such as cryptography and DNS is helpful to the average adult reader as well.

I thought the book very good; I generally don’t review things I don’t like, but I did find a few faults, and no review would be complete without at least mentioning them.  The characterization, I felt, was pretty weak.  I didn’t identify with the characters as strongly as I thought I would; I generally share their politics and their passion for technology but their personality and personal details were left very vague.  The somewhat stilted nature of the romantic and sex scenes didn’t help.

Overall the strength and passion of the politics of the book are what make it worth reading.  What is a society like when everyone is a suspected terrorist?  What is it like to be arrested and imprisoned as an enemy combatant?  Why is the bill of rights important and in what ways is it being trampled?  Do we have a responsibility to fight for freedoms we cherish dearly?  I’ll leave you with a quotation from the Declaration of Independence which features prominently in the book:

Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Revolutionary!  Read this book!


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