Monday, May 16, 2011

Little Brother Book Review

Release date: 2008. Author: Cory Doctorow. Publisher: Tor Teen. ISBN: 978-0765323118.

Annotation: After being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus Yallow, high school senior and computer whiz, launches a cyber war against the corrupt Department of Homeland Security that brutally interrogated him and his best friends following a terrorist attack.

Personal thoughts: This thought-provoking novel, though a little far-fetched, is still an enjoyable read for teens. It has a huge technology component that many readers will enjoy, and the San Francisco bay area setting is very interesting as well. The novel will definitely resonate with budding conspiracy theorists as well.

Plot summary: Tech-savvy, gamer Marcus Yallow is a high school senior in a San Francisco of the very near future. Constantly trying to evade his school's many security systems to play hooky, Marcus with his three best friends, Darryl, Vanessa (Van) and Jose Luis (Jolu), spends his time playing alternatate reality games and jaunting around his beloved city streets. One ordinary day, however, Marcus, Darryl, Van and Jolu get caught up in the aftermath of the worst terrorist attack in US history, and are taken into custody by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). After being brutally interrogated, Marcus, Van and Jolu are released from prison and warned to never speak of their experiences as prisoners of the DHS. The return to their lives in San Francisco, only to find that the city is now overrun by menacing security precautions implemented by the DHS. Determined to expose the crimes committed by the DHS and thwart their efforts to "prevent future terrorist attacks," Marcus begins an all-out cyber war on the corrupt government agency. Using his computer hacking skills, new found love interest, Ange, and an army of high school students, Marcus delves deeper and deeper into his web of revenge. Will he be able to win this war, or will the government maintain its vice grip on lives of its citizens?

Review: Full to the brim with techno jargon, pop culture references, and "leet," Cory Doctorow's Little Brother is an entertaining, if somewhat far-fetched, story about how far governments can and should go to keep their citizens safe. The story is told in the first person by Marcus Yallow, high school senior and generally cocky computer hacker, who involuntarily becomes involed with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) after a large-scale terrorist attack on his beloved San Francisco. Bay area residents will appreciate Marcus' references to San Francisco streets and neighborhoods, and Doctorow's descriptions of the city are clever to the point that it almost becomes as important a character as Marcus himself. Equally as compelling are Doctorow's detailed descriptions of the methods Marcus uses to thwart the DHS, making the novel almost a lesson in computer technology and security systems. By the end of the story, the reader will have a clear understanding of "arphids," "gait tracking software," "Linux," and much more. Apart from the obvious mischief and havoc Marcus causes by exploiting his computer skills, the novel also acts as a critical examination of the application of these technologies in monitoring the behaviors of American citizens. Even before the terrorist attacks, it is clear that the world Marcus lives in is one of heavy surveillance. Using the experiences of his characters, Doctorow shows a very possible future of security taken to the extreme. Overall, the novel is a very relevant and thought-provoking read for teens and adults alike.

Genre: Fiction
Reading level: Grade 8+

Similar titles: N/A

Themes: Conspiracy, terrorism, technology.

New York Times bestseller for six weeks
Winner of 2009 White Pine Award
Winner of 2009 Prometheus Award
Winner of 2009 John W. Campbell Memorial Award
Finalist for Hugo Award for Best Novel

Series information: N/A

Discussion Questions:

- After reading this novel, do you think the author has a positive or negative opinion of technology? Why?

- Do you agree with the stance taken by Homeland Security after the terrorist attack? Does it remind you of any precautions that you've seen taken to prevent violence?

- Do you think the future in "Little Brother" could happen? Why or why not?

- Who was your favorite character in the novel?

- Did you like San Francisco as the setting for the story? Do you think the story could have worked in another major city? Which one?

No comments:

Post a Comment