August 21st, 2009


Your only weapon is your ability to make them look like morons.

60) Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (Tor, 2008, 392 pages)
Short subject: Damn you Cory Doctorow!

Capsule Review:
Seventeen year old Marcus Yallow (aka W1n5t0n) skips school to head into the San Francisco on a scavenger hunt expedition (hosted by website Harajuku Fun Madness) just in time for terrorists to detonate the Bay Bridge. The Department of Homeland Security picks up the protag and his three pals and detains them for several days (detains with extreme prejudice), and once three of the four are released, Marcus finds a new calling in life: fight the DHS in any way he can. It's a long, weary, frantic, frustrating, and occasionally joyous journey to Fight The Power.

This is YA at its finest, speculative fiction at its most compelling, and this is one of the best books I've read so far this year.

What a doozy of a book. The prose is pretty unadorned, though given to asides and tech explanation, and I found protag Marcus to be pretty well drawn. As the story is first person, it's fascinating to watch the narrator's portrayal of other characters (particularly those he is sympathetic to) blossom from single minded one-d personalities into something a little richer (revealing Marcus' own maturing; nice). Of course, the bad people are pretty rotten to the core, but are they really this way? Ah, the unreliable narrator, how I love thee!

The book is a loving (?) homage to George Orwell (with a title like Little Brother? Ya think?) as well as hacking and a host of tech. The universe is clearly the product of an alternate history to ours, but its themes of sacrifice and security, as well as the motif of the Incompetent But Ubiquitous Authority are quite haunting (and rather scary for their plausibility).

It's a book that kept me turning pages long, long, long after I shoulda gone to sleep. And it got me teary eyed and smiling and frustrated and exhilarated . . . Yes, it played my emotions like a finely tuned concert piano. Well done, Mr. Doctorow. You bastard.