Thursday, February 19, 2009

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Plot Summary: Marcus, a.k.a “w1n5t0n,” is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works–and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems.But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and whisked away to a secret prison where they’re mercilessly interrogated for days.When the DHS finally releases them, Marcus discovers that his city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: to take down the DHS himself.

Cory Doctorow offered this book as a free download not too long ago. I promptly downloaded it, told all my friends, and then never read it. I guess I'm just not equipped to read a book electronically yet...but that's a discussion for another day. :) Anyway, I had to get it from the library, read page one, then couldn't put the thing down. I'm seriously sleep-deprived. :)

I had also planned to discuss a different book today, but in light of the elements in LITTLE BROTHER, I changed my mind.

Last week and this week, I've been discussing messages that authors put in stories, either intentionally or unintentionally. This book is a prime example of everything I've been talking about. Funny how the universe works, huh? I ponder a subject, then the universe hands me a book similar to it. I wonder if I can make requests... :)

There is an obvious message in LITTLE BROTHER, and yet there are no hit-you-over-the-head lessons or morals or anything of the sort. It presents a what-if scenario - terrorists blow up a bridge, killing thousands, not long after 9/11 - and then shows us a potential outcome - the Dept of Homeland Security turns San Francisco into something like a police state. The potential outcome told in this story is scary and heavy, and I think touches on the fears that probably live in most of us. Fears that have been lurking since 9/11. I can see this book evoking a strong reaction, positive or negative, from many readers.

The story itself is well written, with great humor to lighten the seriousness of the subject, and breakneck pacing that wouldn't let me put it down. I started it tuesday evening, which was a big mistake. I stayed up way too late reading, and then carried it around everywhere, sneaking in page after page until I'd finished it. If nothing else, this story is an excellent example of how effective good pacing is.

There was another aspect that I enjoyed, but that I can see others finding tedious (except PJ). There was a lot of technical information given to the reader. I loved it, mostly because it was clearly authentic and the author did his research well. But there was so much, and often in large doses, that I could see the average reader saying "come on already!" :)

Overall, the story really hit home for me, and I got angry as I read it (I am sure this was the author's intention). I am the perfect audience for a book like this, because it got me all riled up and wanting to Do Something. I am sure this was the kind of influence the author intended for his readers. I am not sure how far this influence will go with me, but I can see others picking it up and running with it, which is a great thing.

A good story, and I definitely recommend it.


Unknown said...

Loved, loved, LOVED this book! So well written. I was first attracted by the concept of giving away the entire book as promotion, but I walked away feeling it was strongly written and in love with the characters. There is absolutely a message there--it's the driving force of the novel, which can sometimes be off-putting--but overall, it's a strong book with a stong hook and--above all--great writing.

PJ Hoover said...

OK, I'm totally skipping reading the review because this in on my list!

Tabitha said...

Beth - it's a great book, isn't it? I could NOT put it down, and wished I had started it at the beginning of the day instead of the end. :)

PJ - I think this is a book you'll really enjoy. Actually, as I was reading it I kept thinking of you. :)

Carrie Harris said...

I just finally got this from the library after a long waiting list stint. Can't wait to tackle it!

Tabitha said...

I think this book will be right up your alley. Just give yourself ample reading time when you pick it up, because you won't be able to put the cursed thing down. :)

C.R. Evers said...

sounds great! I'll have to add this to my list!


Tabitha said...

It's a great book. You'll love it! :)

Christina Farley said...

Thanks for the review. Sounds like something I need to check out.

Tabitha said...

Definitely! :)

Nora Maeve Downing said...

Scott and all his friends read this, then passed it on to me, and it is one of my favorites of the year. I also have been secretly cycling it through my students because our elementary school library can't carry it for "content reasons". But, my students are LOVING it as well.

I am delighted that my husband and his friends are into YA, it appears those are the books they are preferring these days.

Angela said...

I really want to read it now.
I thik it is great that you had such an emotional connection to the book.