Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Little Brother

by Cory Doctorow
Part Young Adult technothriller, part polemic and part how-to, Cory Doctorow's latest novel was one of the most gripping page-turners I've read in a while. What happens when Marcus, a kid who loves to wrap his mind around solving puzzles (like, how do I sneak out of school when there are technologies in place surveilling my every move?) finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time after a terrorist attack, and ends up being questioned by the Department of Homeland Security? "Am I under arrest?" he asks, still under the impression that he has a constitutional right to speak to a lawyer. But no, he's definitely over his head. And when he's at last returned, shaken, to the streets, one of his friends remains in custody, possibly never to be seen again. And the DHS lets Marcus know he'll be watched. Marcus makes a vow that he's going to bring his friend back.

Little Brother is one of those stories that feels just around the corner from today. We've all heard plenty of arguments about privacy vs. security, but, for many of us, it's easy to feel that, if we have nothing to hide, we're not going to spend a lot of time worrying about our freedoms being taken away. Doctorow shines a bright light into the problems with this thinking, and vividly illustrates what happens when national security stops serving us and becomes another form of terrorism. Buy it for yourself and any smart young people you know.

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