Book Review: Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
If you're looking for beautifully lyrical writing embellished with metaphors and symbolism, then you do not want to read Little Brother.
However, if you're concerned about an Orwellian 1984 surveillance state, then the themes of this book will speak to you and inspire you.
I had seen a few reviews where people complained that Doctorow employed one info dump after another...much to their annoyance. To avoid feeling clobbered by technical language, I listened to the audiobook. Since Doctorow employed first person narration, Kirby Heybourne's reading felt more like someone talking to me.
The sense of subversive sneakiness made me feel like I was helping Marcus, the teen hacker who was wrongfully imprisoned by the Department of Homeland Security after a terrorist attack on San Francisco. Of course, the rallying cry of "Don't trust anyone over 25" did get a little hokey. Felt like Mel Gibson screaming "Freedom!" at the end of Braveheart.
Since the protagonists were a group of teenagers, the teenage romance subplot scenes read as awkwardly as teenagers must feel. So, I suppose that made the scenes even more authentic. But still, not an authenticity I felt inclined to experience.
I did love how Doctorow encouraged everyone to own their education. He wrote about tunneling, hacking, pinhole cameras, bump keys, and RFIDs. He had me thinking I could learn to code. I researched a few of the technical terms as I was reading. Doctorow even gave that research a hand by adding a bibliography and two afterwards to this book.
If I were a teenager, this book would invite me to question institutionalized attitudes. Having characters from different generations react to the surveillance state created in this novel is thought-provoking. I imagine classroom teachers could assign this book with supplementary readings, and watch students engage in a highly charged Socratic Seminar! Without spoiling any specific plot points, Marcus does reach a point where realizes he needs adult help. But he still follows his own moral compass, if you will. He's willing to be guided by those he trusts, but not dictated to.
I've been living in San Francisco for about four months, so reading this book was particularly fun for me. I know several of the locations mentioned in the book because I'm around those same neighborhoods. For some other landmarks, I was pulling up the satellite images on Google maps to see where all the characters were.
I'm picking up the audiobook for Little Brother's sequel Homeland next. Wil Wheaton narrates that one, so I know I'll love the narration!