Friday, October 9, 2009

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow


My first introduction to Little Brother was on StarShipSofa. Back in May of last year, Tony played a 30 minute sample of the book. I got to hear the start of a young super-hacker's adventure. He snuck out of his heavily surveilled school, fooling gait-cams, arphids, and brown-nosing snitches to do it. It was fun, and enjoyable. I never expected what was to come.

Our hero, Marcus, and his friends are out of school, trying to play an internet game that involves doing things in the real world as well as online. Suddenly, a terrorist attack occurs, and while trying to get help, our main characters instead get arrested by the Department of Homeland Security. This is where the story takes a sharp left turn and changes from what I had expected it to be, judging by the preview StarShipSofa provided, to what the story really was about.

There are some really difficult moments to read in this book, including several incidents of state sponsored torture, but it is all well worth it. This book was absolutely terrific. Anyone who reads more than a book a year or so knows the feeling when you get into a novel, and all you want to do is keep reading. It gets late at night, and you have to be at school or work early the next morning, but you can't bring yourself to put the book down. Your house is an utter disaster, and you really should be cleaning up, getting your kids dressed, changing the baby's diaper, but instead all you want to do is read more in the story. My wife is particularly susceptible to this disease. She tends to finish books in a day or less, because once she pops, she can't stop.

Well, I'm not so susceptible as that, but it happens on occasion, and with this book, it hit me hard. All I wanted to do was read...or listen anyway. I had the audio version of the book, read by Kirby Heybourne (why, by the way was a great pick for a reader. He was a completely believable 17 year-old. I'm sure that might be a drawback if he's reading other books, but perfect for this story). It's harder to be addicted to a book when you have to listen to it. Well, maybe that's not true. You can take care of a lot of those chores that you might have to ignore if you had to read the book with your eyes. I could mow the lawn and read at the same time...how talented am I? But when you're addicted to a book, and you're listening to it, you can't go any faster to find out what happens next like you can when you read.

Anyway, after several nights of less sleep than I needed, I finished this book. It only took me a matter of days. And I recommend it to anyone. It's a fun read, but beyond that, it opens your eyes to a lot of things that you've probably never considered. I hadn't. Wandering aimlessly through my suburban life, I never considered the impact of surveillance, of spying on our own people, and what it might lead to. I have been concerned with what rights we might have given up in the name of security, and this story is all about that kind of stuff. Check it out and enjoy.

Up next for me? The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams. It's a short one, so I should be back soon with another report.

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