Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Book Info
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
©2008 Tor Teen, New York, NY
ISBN 978-0765319852

Plot Summary
In a not-so-distant future, Marcus is a seventeen year old high school student in San Francisco, and somewhat of a hacker using the handle “W1n5t0n.” His school implements extensive security measures on their school internet and school provided laptops, and even utilize cameras with gait recognition capabilities to monitor student behavior, but Marcus always finds a way to outsmart the system.

When San Francisco becomes the target of a terrorist attack that destroys the Bay Bridge, many people are killed or go missing, but Marcus and a group of his most tech savvy friends manage to become prime suspects. They are imprisoned by the Department of Homeland Security and heartlessly interrogated for days without contact with one another. When Marcus is finally released, he finds that San Francisco has essentially become a police state, but he’s smart enough to realize that this only incites further fear instead of actually protecting anyone. As a hacker, Marcus made it a point to have a firm understanding of the rights guaranteed to him by his country and realizing that these rights have been diminished, makes it his mission to lead a rebellion to ensure that these rights are restored. Marcus assumes the alias “M1k3y” and fights the good fight for the right to freedom and privacy.

Reader’s Annotation
The United States is often referred to as “The Land of the Free,” but after a vicious terrorist attack on San Francisco freedom is in question. Can a group of tech savvy teens lead a rebellion for basic rights?

Critical Evaluation
Doctorow is impressively good at taking incredibly complex concepts and making them easy to swallow. This book takes very technical things like encryption and basic computer programming and explains them in a creative manner that anyone could understand. Not to mention, many of his examples reflect real hardware and software and might plant a seed in readers to further explore them outside of the book. For example, at one point in the story he mentions PEARL programming language being a very good language for beginners to learn and use, and almost goes so far as to point them in the direction of where to go outside of the book for further information about it. This kind of interaction and connection with the reader is both very clever and unique, and meshes seamlessly into his storytelling.

Information about the Author
Cory Doctorow (craphound.com) is a science fiction novelist, blogger and technology activist. He is the co-editor of the popular weblog Boing Boing (boingboing.net), and a contributor to The Guardian, the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, Wired, and many other newspapers, magazines and websites. He was formerly Director of European Affairs for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (eff.org), a non-profit civil liberties group that defends freedom in technology law, policy, standards and treaties. He is a Visiting Senior Lecturer at Open University (UK) and Scholar in Virtual Residence at the University of Waterloo (Canada); in 2007, he served as the Fulbright Chair at the Annenberg Center for Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California.

He co-founded the open source peer-to-peer software company OpenCola, sold to OpenText, Inc in 2003, and presently serves on the boards and advisory boards of the Participatory Culture Foundation, the MetaBrainz Foundation, Technorati, Inc, the Organization for Transformative Works, Areae, the Annenberg Center for the Study of Online Communities, and Onion Networks, Inc.

On February 3, 2008, he became a father. The little girl is called Poesy Emmeline Fibonacci Nautilus Taylor Doctorow, and is a marvel that puts all the works of technology and artifice to shame.

From the author’s website.

Genre
Science Fiction

Curriculum Ties
Social studies – politics, privacy, freedom, Bill of rights and Declaration of Independence.

Booktalking Ideas
Discuss how you would react to a terrorist attack on your city?

How do you feel about privacy and monitoring by the government? How much of this novel could be true?

Reading Level/ Interest Age
15+

Challenge Issues

  • Sexual content.
  • Violence/terrorism/torture
  • Anti-government and rebellion.

Defense options

  • Be aware of your library’s collection development policy.
  • Be familiar with the material in question, and the context of the questionable content.
  • Assert the principles of the ALA Library Bill of Rights, and standards of intellectual freedom.
  • Consult online book reviews, and others who have read the book.
    • This book has strong political themes that might be difficult for some to grasp. Have an understanding of the book’s message and themes to be able to break it down for challengers.

Why Included?
Having been familiar with Cory Doctorow for a while, I have always wanted to read his work but never actually got around to doing so. This book was assigned reading for my Libr-265 class which finally forced me to dive right in and also include it in my blog project.

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