Little Brother

Are you concerned about the new surveillance methods being implemented in New York City? Do you believe that it is stupid that we have to take our shoes off while going through airport security? Do you think it is stupid even after hearing the head of TSA explain the reason for it? Does security theater, for theater’s sake annoy you? If so, you need to read Little Brother by Cory Doctorow.

I know that this book is being marketed as a YA book. However, just because teens can read it doesn’t mean that adults shouldn’t. Further, I think that the fact that it is marketed as a YA book makes Little Brother much more accessible than his previous books. For example, I loved Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town. However, I would not suggest the book to just anyone.

If you don’t know who Cory is, he describes himself as “an activist, a writer, a blogger, a public speaker, and a technology person.” He used to be the Director of European Affairs for EFF and he is the co-editor of Boing Boing.

Little BrotherLittle Brother resolves around Marcus, a teenage computer geek, who along with his three friends gets picked up by the Department of Homeland Security because they happen to be at the wrong place when terrorists attack the Bay Bridge in San Francisco.

After being held incommunicado for several days, some but not all of the group is released. After being released, Marcus realizes that DHS has essentially suspended civil rights in San Francisco and is treating everyone like a suspected terrorist.

Marcus spends the rest of the book fighting against DHS and trying to expose the things that they have done. One of the good aspects of this book is that Doctorow explains, in accessible language, how the various security systems work and why some systems provide effective security and why other systems provide only security theater.

The only knock I have on the book is the most of the “bad guys” are one dimensional. However, the individual bad guys appear to be intended to be stand ins for DHS rather than individual characters in themselves. Given this, I really didn’t have a problem with their single dimensionality.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and highly recommend it. In addition to picking it up at a your favorite bookstore (brick and mortar or online), you can also snag a copy from Cory’s website, where he has released it under a Creative Commons attribution, noncommerical, share alike license.

While you are there, check out his other novels as well, including Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, which I think provides an interesting foreshadowing of Web 2.0 and social networking.

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