Thursday, June 26, 2008

Little Brother

This is Cory Doctorow's latest novel. It's a cross between 1984 and The Hacker Crackdown. It's being marketed to the Young Adult market. This is the bookselling segment that Orson Scott Card and John Scalzi have been singing the praises of lately, and if Little Brother is truly representative, that's the part of bookstore I should be shopping more than the adult SF section.

The book is set in San Francisco. It's protagonist is 17 year old Marcus. He and his friends resent their school's intrusive surveillance, and like many a teen from Tom Sawyer on, figure out how to get around it. They're gamers and hackers, and they skip out of school to play an ARG, an Alternative Reality Game. While they're playing, they're almost at ground zero of a terrorist attack as deadly as 9/11. They're definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time, getting caught in a Department of Homeland Security sweep.

What happens to Marcus, how it changes him, and how he fights back makes for one of the most exciting and thought-provoking books I have read in ages. It has a smoothly written first person narrative, and the frequent info dumps do not interrupt the flow of the story. In fact, the info dumps remind me a great deal of the long bull sessions my best friend and I used to have when we were teens.

The most amazing thing, to me, is how Little Brother pushes the old "sense of wonder" button that only comes from the best of science fiction. If this book does not take the major SF awards next year, and I mean wins, not nominations, then there truly ain't no justice.

By the way, this book, like nearly everything Cory Doctorow writes, is available as a free download. Check out his website for details; then, it's worth looking at the blog he co-writes, Boing Boing. And then, help make sure Mr. Doctorow can continue writing such novels; go out and by a copy. No, buy two, one to keep and one to give to a teen in your life.

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