In an attempt to win over a new generation of sci-fi readers, Cory Doctorow’s “Little Brother” is marketed as a young adult book. However, adult readers shouldn’t worry that Doctorow’s book will leave them behind or have them feeling juvenile for reading it.
“Little Brother” is a mature, contemporary novel that looks at the issue of security in a near-future that doesn’t seem too far from today. When San Francisco is attacked by terrorists, seventeen-year-old hacker Marcus and his friends are out playing the latest mission of the most popular game of the day. Because of their proximity to the attack and their background as hackers, Marcus and his friends are detained and questioned by the Department of Homeland Security. Stripped of his rights, Marcus is eventually set free, but finds that new restrictions placed on the Internet and the world under the banner of making his country more safe are having the opposite effect. Marcus sets out to restore his true freedom and take out the oppressive regime of the Homeland Security Officers.
“Little Brother” doesn’t shy away from the big questions. While this novel is set in a non-defined near future, Doctorow is clearly commenting on the ways and means used today to keep our country and world “safe” from the next attack. At one point does it go from keeping us safe to denying us our freedoms and is that tradeoff worth it in the long run? Doctorow’s story of Marcus and his fight against the larger Big Brother is fascinating and terrifying all at the same time. As you read the story, you may realize just how much of our basic, assumed freedoms have been abridged all in the name of security and safety.
Doctorow also takes this opportunity to provide readers an education of security systems and computer programming. In what easily could have been some of the driest portions of the novel, Doctorow is able to give the reader some insight and knowledge, which may leave you curious to pursue more information on the inventors and security methods.
Doctorow is something of an Internet celebrity, having revolutionized the marketing of his novels through taking advantage of on-line distribution. He’s grown as a writer since his debut in “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom” and with “Little Brother,” while he’s writing for a young adult audience, he’s found a new level of mature and assured writing that makes “Little Brother” one of the more remarkable and haunting books I’ve read this year.