Little Brother – Cory Doctorow


My “to read” list is hundreds of entries long. This is mostly because I am curious about and ignorant of everything. This is in some ways a virtue, but time is limited and there is only so much I can do in one day. So it sometimes happens that I finally pick something up from my reading list and I have no idea why it was on the list to begin with.

That’s what happened with Little Brother.

Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother follows a teenagers who, after surviving a terrorist attack on his home city of San Francisco, finds himself rebelling against the government reaction to the terrorist attack. Being incredibly more technologically savvy than the government, he is able to put systems into play that circumvent and troll with the United States department of Homeland Security.

Anything I say about this book needs to be prefaced by one fact I am very far from the intended audience of this book. Not only am I not a young adult, but I was so utterly boring as a young adult that one could argue that I skipped the process entirely, to my later determent. So if something I say sounds off, keep that in mind.

There is something of a weird, baby’s-guide-to-security feeling to the whole book, which comes from the fact that the main character is constantly narrating ever action he does and why he does it. It is interesting (and informative) enough but also felt like bad writing (its the bad writing early sci-fi was often accused of), and it makes me wonder if Doctorow thinks less of his childish audience. When I was the age of the protagonist, I was reading normal, adult books and could recognize some bad writing when I encountered. Maybe I am just confused as to who this book is for, or maybe Doctorow doesn’t know his audience all that well.

This confusion was compacted by the fact that this book seemed to speak to me in so many ways. I was the age of the protagonist during the September 11th attacks, and we were both motivated into political awareness by our respective events. Some years ago, I developed an interest in security that made all the factoids the protagonist dropped both old and irritating. Or maybe because of my age at the time of reading, I have overgrown many of the simplistic beliefs this book expounds. It doesn’t help that, knowing something about the author, I find that he doesn’t really live up to the principles he preaches in this book.

And from all that I came away with the impression the the author is not really very interested in challenging his audience too much. Which is a shame, because if you are not going to challenge them at that age, when are you?

Frankly, I have no idea. And I am happy this way.

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