Little Brother (by Cory Doctorow)

22 09 2010

little brotherCalling your novel “Little Brother” is not really leaving much to the reader’s imagination. There really are no subtleties at all in this novel about the abuse of individual rights, the attack on people’s privacy and the blatant assault on the Constitution of the USA in the name of ‘national security’ in the digital age.

The book starts with Marcus Yallow, aka w1n5t0n (later M1k3y), and his friends Darryl, Van and Jolu in the aftermath of a terrorist attack on San Francisco (not coincidentally also the birthplace of a lot of the digital age tycoons as well as the traditional epicenter of liberalism in the US). After the Bay Bridge is attacked, they find themselves arrested and ‘questioned’ by agents of the Department of Homeland Security. Three of the boys are eventually released (but are terrified into not letting anyone know what happened to them, or else…) but Darryl’s fate seems uncertain: dead, locked up someplace else,…

This experience, as well as seeing how his home city has turned into a police state,  leads Marcus  to set up his own version of a ‘safe and untraceable’ network of  his own, the Xnet, which starts to lead a life of his own in this teen version of a techno-revolution. What follows is a whirlwind of technical tidbits, (semi-)mathematical explanations about the ifs and hows of some of the Internet and the Xnet’s security issues and a race against time to bring down the DHS to save individual liberties and obtain justice for all…

Yes, those are the stakes that Marcus is up against. The themes and references in this book are very much in your face, but you keep reading because you want to know if – and especially of course how – Marcus succeeds in destroying this oppressive DHS-tyranny. At times the book is really quite enjoyable, but as many times, the writing style of this book bothered me with its amateurism and shallowness. Nevertheless, Little Brother is an interesting and enjoyable read for all you compu-geeks out there. You might get a tech-buzz out of all the references. Of course, the themes are what they are, and of course, one shouldn’t ridicule any attack on a person’s civil liberties, just don’t expect a stylized novel with carefully chosen language or you will be in for a disappointment.

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