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Little Brother - Book Review

Posted on September 4, 2014 by Tao There have been 0 comments

So, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow is probably the best Young Adult book I've read in a long time. It's set in an alternate reality modern day (or maybe just a little ahead of where we are) and focuses on Marcus's fight against 'Big Brother' once they take over San Francisco after a terrorist attack. Unwilling to trade his privacy for 'safety', the book chronicles his exploits and does a little teaching along the way.

Again, I'm not going to post about the actual book contents and plot beyond the basic synopsis above since that would reveal too much in my view.  Instead, I'll talk about the book in more general terms.

While it reveals and discusses a lot of the underpinnings of the technology and science that hackers and other activists use, Little Brother isn't a 'how to' book.  Obviously, that's not viable in a fiction book, so this is not unexpected. Instead, it provides an overview of things like how gait technology, facial recognition, data mining, cryptology and more as they relate the book and the exploits of Marcus. It's a great jumping off point for people who want to learn more, and after reading you are almost certain to want to know more.

The book central theme on privacy vs security tackles a rather important trend in our modern world. That is, that we are trading our privacy for perceived security - not actual security. It's closing the barn door after the horses have bolted. Unfortunately for us, the horses in this case are much smarter and are actively working on getting out (or in as it may be).

Of course, any book that tackles such a discussion might have the question 'what else can we do?' thrown at it. In the book, the protagonist offers a simple answer 'I don't know'. It's a realistic answer for a 17 year old, but it certainly does raise the rather urgent question for those of us in the real world who might object to such measures.

Another interesting theme for me is one of the books slogans of 'Don't Trust Anyone Over 25'. It's a teen book of course, one written from an angry rebel teens viewpoint. It's true that in many ways, we (or the Boomers or the generation after us) have traded security and safety and comfort for various liberties and the future. Yet, I'd like to think I'm not part of the problem - at least not as such.

Overall, the book is very well written. It's engrossing and informative, while the plot chugs along at a good pace. There's a lot to think about after you put the book down, yet the book itself is easy to read. I can't recommend Little Brotherenough.

This post was posted in Books and was tagged with authors, book reviews, books, cory doctorow, discussions, review