Friday, November 5, 2010

Friday Flashback Review (10): Little Brother by Cory Doctorow ★★★★

Friday Flashback is hosted by Jen @ The Introverted Reader

I originally read this book in March of 2010. 

My review:

Little BrotherI have to admit that the first couple pages or so had me rolling my eyes and wondering if I would be able to actually finish this book. There's so much technoslang that it seemed to me to be trying too hard, even though it is a book about hackers and technokids... Like, "Spending Fridays at school was teh suck anyway, and I was glad of an excuse to make my escape." Teh suck? Really. Ugh. (Although, to be fair, at least he spelled out "suck" and didn't write "teh sux" or something. I probably would have just had to close the book right then and there. *shudder*) Another example is using "vibe" rather than "vibration" when talking about receiving a text message, or "h4wt" for "hot", which doesn't make sense to me anyway, because it's longer and more cumbersome to type "h4wt" than it is to type "hot". But then later, the full and unabbreviated word "tarpaulin" is used rather than just "tarp", which felt out of place considering the shortening/slang usage of other stuff. I don't understand the stupidifying slang netspeak anyway, but then I'm older than 25, so I'm probably a lost cause.

Add to that that there is a lot of hacker exposition and explanation that I didn't really think was necessary, and you have the only two reasons that I couldn't give this 5 stars. I appreciate the author/narrator explaining the technical aspects of the story for those of us who aren't technologically super-savvy like the characters in the book, but it seemed like there was a lot that could have been contextualized (like gait-cams) rather than explained for pages.

But these are small nit-picks. Other than these two things, the book was brilliant, relevant and prophetic. I want to buy copies and hand them out at schools. I want my library to pick up 10 more copies and I want them to just magically appear in people's check-out stacks. I want people to read this book. I want people to learn from it and take away the knowledge that our freedom is more likely to be taken from us by Americans than by anyone else, and to fight against it when it happens.

This book is set in the not-very-distant-at-all future, after a "terrorist" attack in San Francisco, which essentially results in SF being turned into a vicious data-mining police state... Now with even more "With us or against us" mentality per square mile! *Used car salesman smile* It's frightening, because it's already happening right now. Innocent people are being held without trial, without representation, without anything, in the name of "security". This terrifies me more than anything, because there's no limit, no boundary. When there's a nameless, faceless, general "threat", "security" must by necessity become ever more pervasive and intrusive in our lives to find it. And the only people who suffer are us.

Benjamin Franklin said "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." The characters in this book understand this concept and they go about fighting for their freedom and their rights as American citizens even when the people they are fighting are the very people who are supposed to defend their rights as American citizens. Color me proud. Considering that this book is told from the point of view of a 17 year old, I can only hope that REAL 17 year olds think about this stuff, like prejudice and fear-mongering and overzealous uniformed officials, among others...

Anyway, I loved Marcus's character. Most of the time, probably because of the technoslang and the gaming, he felt younger to me than 17. More like 15. But in a way, that only made him more impressive to me. I loved that he was smart, and willing to stand up for himself and do the right thing, and learn from the world around him and from his own mistakes. When I have kids, I hope that they are something like Marcus... only minus the skipping school to play games stuff. Marcus carried the book well, and was believable as both a smart, mostly responsible teen, and a freedom fighter. I liked his honesty, and how he was unsure of himself but didn't let that stop him.

I expected certain things to happen as the story progressed, and I was right about many of them. The escalation of the security/police-state, the defenders of the security measures, the dissidents, etc. (They were done in a more high-tech way than we have now, but they aren't far off. RFIDs are already gaining popularity and there are 2 cameras that I can see from my house without leaving my porch.) But I was wrong about some predictions and suspicions that I had as well, which always makes me happy, because I really hate knowing where a story's twists will be.

This book should be a must read for everyone, right along with Nineteen Eighty-Four. Go read it. Look past the slang, and the technical explanations, and read this for the snapshot of our future if we aren't wary and vigilant with this so called "War on Terror". See you on Treasure Island... ;)

View all my reviews


  1. I know! This book was amazing! (And I'm a little bummed that you used that Jefferson quote in your review, because I'm planning to review this one soon, and have been excited for a chance to use that quote because I just love it sooo much!)

    Anyway, I agree with a lot of what you said. The geek-speak was a little overwhelming, but the point was amazingly brilliant, and I can't believe how relevant and important this book is!

  2. LOL! Sorry Ashley! I'm glad that you enjoyed the book though. It really is a must read!

  3. No worries Becky. I'm sure I'll use it anyway! :)
    I wish more people knew about this book!