Little Brother
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Product Description

Marcus, a.k.a “w1n5t0n,” is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works–and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems.

But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they’re mercilessly interrogated for days.

When the DHS finally releases them, Marcus discovers that his city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: to take down the DHS himself.

Customer Reviews:

  • A Great story that makes you think about freedom
    I enjoyed this book much more than I expected to, as it isn't the usual genre I read but this was a selection for our book club. I was engaged by the character of Marcus and his actions were easy to understand given what happened to him.
    The computer hacking and technology creations were well explained and, for a person with no computer programming abilities, I was able to keep up with what Marcus was doing even if I couldn't tell you exactly how he was doing it.
    The contrast between his parents feelings and his about the events that were happening around them and Marcus understanding of what his imprisonment had done to them, particularly his father and how that motivated his actions was well done. Marcus wasn't a self-centered teenager but was thinking of others beside himself.
    I don't want to say too much and give spoilers but if you are looking for a thought-provoking read, outside of the usual storylines, you're sure to enjoy this book....more info
  • not as effective as it should have been
    Doctorow had all the right ideas in writing this book. Through his fictionalized account of a terrorist attack on San Francisco's Bay Bridge and BART system, and the resultant crackdown on the city by the Department of Homeland Security, Doctorow tries to paint a picture of what can happen when the zeal for security bests protection for civil liberties.

    Unfortunately, his excellent point is drowned out by his heavy-handed sermonizing. Anyone reading this book will probably already understand the danger of protecting America by taking away civil liberties, so Doctorow is preaching to the choir to begin with. To hammer in his message so emphatically is somewhat insulting to his readers' intelligence. More subtlety would have made this both a better book as well as a more effective one....more info
  • A Cautionary Tale
    Doctorow's book looks at a possible future in which the excesses of "enhanced interrogations" are visited upon US citizens by the Department of Homeland Security after a terror attack. The book follows a precocious 17-year-old and his friends who are caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    While the book makes villains out of America's right wing as perpetrators of making a terrorist attack serve as an excuse to take over, I wonder if Doctorow might change his tune now that we have a White House Chief of Staff who's said that a crisis must not be wasted?

    Despite my political misgivings, I enjoyed the book and concur with Doctorow's observations regarding how security measures almost always inconvenience the innocent and miss the guilty....more info
  • a bit too simplistic
    This is a good book to encourage thoughtful discussions about the differences between secrecy and privacy or freedom and liberty. It is, though, a bit too black and white, too simplistic in its viewpoint. Of course, teenagers tend to be simplistic in their worldview, it comes from their lack of life experience. The frequent asides to explain the geeky stuff were interesting, even fascinating, but ultimately too distracting from the story. The use of every modern "evil despot" trope was too much. It became a child's story of ever escalating horrors and lost its effectiveness. A good cautionary tale does not serve up every evil on the same plate. That said, I think the book is quite enjoyable as a near future thriller. As an aside, I found the VampMob charming and funny....more info
  • Meh.
    Little Brother was blurbed by the likes of Neil Gaiman and Scott Westerfeld. It's appeared on multiple best books of 2008 lists, received a ton of great reviews and is a contender for The Hugo Award for best novel.

    Marcus, a seventeen year-old hacker, is skipping school with three of his friends when Bay Bridge is blown up. In the chaos, he and his friends are mistaken for perpetrators and captured by the police. They are taken to an unknown location where they are interrogated for days. When they're finally released, Marcus is shocked to discover the methods police use to "prevent terrorism" (which often include taken away citizens' rights).

    He refuses to take this lying down-ultimately, deciding to take the problem into his own hands. He's a smart, technologically aware teen and soon he's found himself leading a following of people, devoted to exposing the government's misdemeanors.

    At first, I found the book engaging, informative (but still interesting) and hard to put down. However, subtle would not be the best word to describe the book. It's filled with paragraphs explaining technology (such as LARPing, gait-recognition software, etc.) and paragraphs that almost seem to lecture you. On one hand, I knew very little about the technology Marcus described and the way it was presented was easy to understand and in some cases, absolutely fascinating. But, on the other hand, those moments tended to take me out of the story. Sometimes I felt as if the book sacrificed a better-developed plotline and characters for the message.

    Still, the novel's an excellent way to spark a discussion-the exact discussion that needs to be had at a point where we all rely on technology so much (without fully understanding it) and how easy it would be for our rights to be taken away.

    Little Brother is also a coming-of-age novel. By the end of the novel, Marcus had made a lot of mistakes (and learned from them..most of the time), fallen in love and grown up. He's a smart, believable character just like the novel (in fact, the novel's premise is frighteningly realistic). Despite my problems with the book, I would still recommend reading it...more info
  • Couldn't put it down
    I thoroughly enjoyed this book and couldn't put it down from the moment I started reading. It was the kind of book that had heart-racing moments, genuinely emotional moments and times where I laughed out loud. I read another review indicating that the villains could have used some fleshing out. While there is some truth to that, I don't feel it detracted from the story for me. I would recommend this book to anyone who appreciates the spirit of rebellion with a liberal dose of current pop-culture thrown in. ...more info
  • Thought provoking, powerful novel. Not just for young adults!
    In an attempt to win over a new generation of sci-fi readers, Cory Doctorow's "Little Brother" is marketed as a young adult book. However, adult readers shouldn't worry that Doctorow's book will leave them behind or have them feeling juvenile for reading it.

    "Little Brother" is a mature, contemporary novel that looks at the issue of security in a near-future that doesn't seem too far from today. When San Francisco is attacked by terrorists, seventeen-year-old hacker Marcus and his friends are out playing the latest mission of the most popular game of the day. Because of their proximity to the attack and their background as hackers, Marcus and his friends are detained and questioned by the Department of Homeland Security. Stripped of his rights, Marcus is eventually set free, but finds that new restrictions placed on the Internet and the world under the banner of making his country more safe are having the opposite effect. Marcus sets out to restore his true freedom and take out the oppressive regime of the Homeland Security Officers.

    "Little Brother" doesn't shy away from the big questions. While this novel is set in a non-defined near future, Doctorow is clearly commenting on the ways and means used today to keep our country and world "safe" from the next attack. At one point does it go from keeping us safe to denying us our freedoms and is that tradeoff worth it in the long run? Doctorow's story of Marcus and his fight against the larger Big Brother is fascinating and terrifying all at the same time. As you read the story, you may realize just how much of our basic, assumed freedoms have been abridged all in the name of security and safety.

    Doctorow also takes this opportunity to provide readers an education of security systems and computer programming. In what easily could have been some of the driest portions of the novel, Doctorow is able to give the reader some insight and knowledge, which may leave you curious to pursue more information on the inventors and security methods.

    Doctorow is something of an Internet celebrity, having revolutionized the marketing of his novels through taking advantage of on-line distribution. He's grown as a writer since his debut in "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom" and with "Little Brother," while he's writing for a young adult audience, he's found a new level of mature and assured writing that makes "Little Brother" one of the more remarkable and haunting books I've read this year...more info
  • Should be required reading for both teens AND adults...
    Based on a recommendation from a friend, I took the opportunity to read Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. While this is technically categorized as a "young adult" novel, it completely and totally transcends age boundaries. This should be required reading when it comes to thinking about what our "terrorism-adverse" society is coming to. Of course, the government would probably prefer you just ignored the book and trusted them to look out for you.

    Marcus Yallow is a teenager who is much more comfortable in front of a computer than in trying to obey the rules of society. He resorts to a few techno-tricks to throw off the school's monitoring system so he and a friend can head off to play a popular online game involving tracking clues and solving puzzles in real life. While he and his three friends are tracking down the latest hint, a bomb explodes on the Bay Bridge in San Francisco (where the novel takes place). Marcus flags down a military vehicle to get help for his injured friend, but this simple act throws him into a Department of Homeland Security Gitmo-like prison where he is grilled as a possible terrorist involved in the bombing. He's eventually let go after four days (with threats of harm should he tell anyone), but his injured friend has completely disappeared. With each passing day, more and more "security measures" are put in place to track all the citizens and find patterns that would indicate criminal activities. While some consider this government action necessary for public safety (like Marcus's parents), Marcus sees this as a complete destruction of the rights he is supposed to have as an American citizen. He helps organize a large encrypted network called Xnet to spread the truth and counter the government and media distortions. But as the DHS continues to crack down on all sorts of freedoms in the name of fighting terrorism, his anonymity and safety becomes even more tenuous than it already is, and he's in a fight for his life and the lives of his closest friends. He has to figure out whether the fight for truth is worth dying for, or whether he should just acknowledge the fact that he can't fight an entire government and change things.

    The action in Little Brother takes place at a time not too much in the future from where we are now. In fact, the time could be here and now, as the technology used in the book is nearly all functional and available. It's utterly impossible to read this book without drawing references and parallels to what America has experienced and implemented since 9/11. Doctorow weaves a story that paints media and government in a very bad light when it comes to motives and truth, but you'd have to be totally naive to think that much of what happens in Little Brother isn't possible (or in some cases isn't already happening). The stated "young adult" audience will identify with the characters, while being forced to think about their rights and freedoms that are increasingly being destroyed. Adults, especially ones with a techno-bent, will have to question some foundational beliefs in the integrity and the role of government that no longer hold true.

    Doctorow also has a very different view on copyright material, and his beliefs make this book available to anyone at no cost. You can go to his website and download the book in various electronic formats for no charge. He practices what he preaches when it comes to the Creative Commons license structure. I read Little Brother as a combination of text emails from a service called DailyLit, as well as from the PDF when I wanted to read some longer passages. It made for a unique reading experience, and one that was seemingly appropriate given the subject matter.

    I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who is concerned about where we are going as a society. And if you're not concerned, then you need to read this book even more...
    ...more info
  • Plenty of science but eerily not quite fiction!
    This book turned out to be a lot better than I expected. I feel like I have rare perspective on this book. I have worked in the security industry. I have worked in the computer industry. I have been in the free-speech and defense of the bill of rights movement. I lived near the locations of this book for several years. I have had friends arrested as Hackers in my high-school and I have had friends arrested by the DHS as terrorist suspects (torching Humvee's but subsequently acquitted). I have seen concerts that were called riots by the police. I have seen the news fail to report things I have seen with my own eyes. Finally, as a science and math teacher and tutor I work with teens everyday.

    This book rings true. I almost feel like some parts of this book were assembled from the lives of my friends and acquaintances and even to a small extent my own. I disagree with many reviews here that claim that the villains are one dimensional. From the perspective of a person who has been through things a little like this, this is really what these people seem like from the perspective of their victims. Maybe they are kind compassionate people who love their country when they are not doing their jobs, but believe me, these people act like thugs with hearts of stone when they are doing their jobs. I have tried to talk to them reasonably and their brutal arrogance is often superhuman. This is in fact normal human behavior (see the Stanford prison experiment and the book "The Lucifer Effect") If you don't believe me.

    Further, as a person that knows computers, science and hacking I was impressed by this book. The author really did his homework. Even as a person that has been in the legitimate and shady part of of the computer world, I learned a few things. I actually went ahead and googled several topics while reading this book and found out that they were real. I think this is a book that can certainly get teens interested in several aspects of computer science and mathematics. There is no actual information though that allows or encourages teenagers to participate in hacks that are dangerous or immoral. Just stuff on maintaining your privacy and secuirty and even that stuff would require the teen to learn a lot about, science, math and computers.

    Finally, as a patriot and teacher I think this book is an intelligent two sided debate on freedom and security. Yes, it does take the perspective that abuse of power is the bigger threat than terrorism, but I feel that both sides are presented intelligently and it made it clear to me why some people chose fear over freedom.

    A couple of words of caution. This is a morally complex book and I would not recommend it for immature teenagers. There are references to defying authority figures, lying to and hiding things from adults, the slogan "don't trust anyone over 25" appears several times in the book, there are, some neutral/casual references to drug use, and some mildly favorable references to teen sexuality though nothing pornographic. I would not give this book to a teenager already prone to antisocial behavior or one that cannot handle ambiguity or appreciate the consequences of rash actions. Nevertheless I think this book will be exciting, provocative and very educational for most teens 15+ My 15 year old is reading it currently. I intend to discuss it with him to make sure he understands the context. ...more info
  • Revolutionary
    Fast paced, up to date, and shockingly real. If more people, especially young people, read this, than we would live in a more just and free society. I also recommend buying this book to support Cory Doctorow and the publishers that allow him to put so much of his work online for free. ...more info
  • Solid book for young Civil Libertarians
    A fine start for any emerging civil libertarians, though older readers may find some elements a tad oversimplified and unbelievable. ...more info
  • Geekery, Security, Community!
    (Edited from my response to another review)

    I like the book's continuous current of technical ideas. It reminds me of the plonking technical asides in Larry Niven novels, only, well, it's continuous, unrepentant. You're inside the mind and problems of a teenage geek instead of a conventionalized hero.

    It's also a refusal to fudge technical detail (as movies and TV shows often so lamely do) in situations where details matter. The issues of security, good and bad, are both vital and sorely misunderstood by the general public these days. Doctorow plows right in there and uses the plot as a series of opportunities to survey real security, from the important basics to both the current state of the art and the current state of travesty with its frightening effects. Geeks care enough about technicalities to know when the experts are wrong.

    So, the book has an underlying support of geekitude, but it's about how life doesn't allow geekiness to be enough. The plot is a little melodramatic or simplified, like a political thriller as understood by a teenager who starts out with a simplistic political point of view. But, Marcus runs into the larger ramifications of the things he does, that can't be dealt with by mere hacking, and has to decide to take responsibility for them, which he does, first by higher forms of hacking, but finally by choices that have more to do with responsibility and other people than hacking.

    One of the themes of the book is the place of individual heroism in a world where many different people have to be involved for significant change to happen. Can you foresee what the effects of your actions will be? If not, are you still responsible for them? Since you can't do it all yourself, is it worth the effort? Who's going to help? If you don't know, then how can you get people involved? If you get people started, will you be happy with the directions they go? What if your friends let you down? What if you let them down? Marcus and his friends are in the teeth of these kinds of questions throughout the book....more info
  • Buy this book. Now.
    This book is not only insightful, important, and educational, it's also entertaining. I got it at about 3PM and by 8PM I had finished it. I had planned for it to last me several weeks.

    More importantly, get copies of this book into the hands of your younger siblings, your children, your young friends, and anyone else you know who has yet to be crushed into conformity by the pressures of corporate life, family, and years of kneeling before The Man. You might just save them, and the world....more info
  • The liberal spin will make you dizzy.
    What started out as an enjoyable book about a group of "hackers" took an extreme left turn.

    The city in which this book takes place, San Francisco, is already filled with anti-war and anti-government and it is not a far stretched idea that the events in this could only happen there.

    The author does a good job in portraying the student and teacher who are in favor of government, essentially not liberal; seem unintelligent, timid and unable to discuss opinions in a calm manner. A student in Marcus' class, who deems what DHS is doing is for their protection, is made to be an anger filled child who is unable to express himself without interrupting others and shouting.

    A reporter from Fox News is shown as hateful and is described as acting superior to others. Fox News as a whole is portrayed as "evil". I should not be surprised that a book dripping with liberal bias and spin is being marketed to children but I find that I am. This book takes place in a world where NONE of the events would EVER or could EVER happen but it is reviewed as a very real and very possible future for the U.S.

    I feel sorry that liberal books like this are being passed off as real literature. I would NEVER recommend this book to ANYBODY for it does nothing more than to reinforce the stereotypes that are being spouted by the left.
    The fact that an author would write a book about undermining the United States government and in sense acting like terrorists because you're being tracked or photographed is disturbing to say the least.

    One character in Little Brother refers to America as "Gulag America" and this did nothing more than to enforce that the author has no shame. To compare the U.S to a Gulag is despicable.

    In short the book has such a liberal spin, by the time you finish it you'll be dizzy....more info
  • You'll learn something...
    I had already downloaded and read the free ebook version of the book and found it so good, so filled with ideas (techy, political, social...) that I had to buy the dead-tree version just so I could lend it to people that would benefit from the knowledge therein. So far, all have enjoyed it.
    Just go on and get it, I guarantee you'll be entertained... at the very least you'll come out a little wiser...more info
  • Should be required reading
    There's no question that terrorists (of various stripes) pose a threat to free societies. The real question is whether the anti-terrorist measures work. This book explores how a young man and his friends run headfirst into that question.

    While I am one who believes that much of what we've done in the US has made us less free as a people, I would hope that those who disagree with me will have read through a book like this to test their own conclusions. (Don't get me wrong--I'm not pro-terrorist, and I'm all for *smart* security measures.)

    Buy it for yourself. Buy it for the neighbor's kids. Buy it for your local library. Buy it as an act of protest, an act of patriotism, an act of loyal dissent. Heck, just buy it because it's a book you won't want to put down. ...more info
  • The State of the Union
    A very timely, and realistic portrayal of how our civil liberties are on their death bed - a 'what if' story that predicts, believably, what would happen after another 9/11 style attack, in a manner that should strike home with its readers. Our country doesn't have a problem with torture and secret prisons, this we have learned - what comes next?
    Very like some of Scott Westerfeld's books, in theme, pacing and writing style.
    The book started out like gangbusters - a 5(6!), but the pace slowed for me considerably. I felt that some repetition seemed sloppy.
    I was distracted by whether or not the characters were trustworthy, not an inappropriate train of thought for the story - but one that didn't ultimately satisfy in my reading. Some of the characters didn't seem very dimensional.
    These things not withstanding, the importance of this subject at this time in our nation's history is paramount - and I sincerely hope that many people are reading it and taking it to heart. Our future freedoms may well depend on it....more info
  • Marcus Yallow wouldn't review this openly
    Little Brother is the '1984' and 'It Can't Happen Here' for the current generation. I'm 25, and juuust on the brink of "trustworthy," in that I still have hope that we can change the system to avoid this scary near-future. But I'm also just old enough to be terrified of what could happen to me if that near-future happens and someone finds this review and traces it back to me.

    You see, Little Brother is a fun read, but it's also a chilling look at what can happen when a society blithely turns over its rights to privacy out of fear - fear of terrorists, fear of change, fear of losing our way of life.

    The terrible irony of giving up your rights in the name of security is that you're not secure without those rights. Marcus Yallow discovered that, given the right circumstances, his own government, his own *family* was willing to give up freedom of speech, privacy, and due process, and that fear made those who should be his strongest allies into his most dangerous enemies.

    But he fought back, and so should we all.

    We don't have to blindly accept the canned truth that terrorists are going to get us, that the only way to stop them is to spy on our own population and hope to catch one of the "bad guys" saying something incriminating. We can look for better ways. We can use the technology available to us to not only devise better methods to protect ourselves from the things we fear, but also to protect ourselves from the (allegedly) well-intentioned snooping of our government. Marcus used technology as a tool - hacking his XBOX to run a fully-encrypted version of Linux, working with friends to keep those using that Linux distro safe from prying eyes, devising simple ways to detect and foil privacy intrusions and display to the world just how ineffectual Bayesian math can be when misapplied, starting a "web of trust" with double-encryption, and using media outlets to get the message out.

    In the end, Marcus and those close to him go through hell to protect their freedom, and if that isn't patriotism, what is?

    This book is important, timely, interesting, and exciting to read. Highly recommended for any teenaged, young adult, aging hippie, or veteran citizen....more info
  • My non reading 11 year old son loved "little Brother" !
    I have a bright 11 year old son who can type faster than I on his computer but typically will NOT read books. After hearing of Little Brother on a Technology Podcast (I think network) I bought it for him for Summer 08 reading.

    He loved the book and is now hooked on reading.

    I read the book and loved it as well.

    Thank you Cory!

    We are waiting for more!

    Warren Tripp
    Madison,WI...more info
  • George Orwell Is Smiling
    A worthy "little brother" to Orwell's Big Brother (as seen in his novel 1984 or, if you prefer, in your daily newspaper), Cory Doctorow's book is must reading for any teenager (and adult) who cares about the Constitution and individual freedoms. In fact, it'd make perfect summer reading leading to first-week-of-school discussions in either English OR social studies classes. It's that important.

    LITTLE BROTHER's premise is a terrorist attack on San Francisco that takes down the Bay Bridge and the underwater section of the BART. Marcus and his friends Vanessa, Jolu, and Darryl find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time and are swept up by a dragnet of DHS (Department of Homeland Security) officers. The rest, alas, is straight out of truth-is-stranger-than-Gitmo as they're hauled to Treasure Island in San Francisco bay and held illegally in the name of security.

    With his escape, Marcus vows revenge. He is a computer geek, you see, and a hacker who is friends with many other young hackers. In this novel, the technology that teens are often vilified for (because they spend too much time on it) becomes their redeeming grace as they use technology, anger, and concern for the Constitution to do battle with the Feds. And although Doctorow occasionally explains too much about this hack or that, you don't have to be a computer geek to enjoy the book. In fact, the plot will carry you along quite nicely, as you see Marcus and friends try to outwit an enemy that has its share of computer network infiltrators, too.

    Yes, you could argue that the writing is not stellar and has its share of cliches, but this book is not pretending to be something it isn't. It's fun reading with an engaging plot that seems fail safe for Grades 9 and up (alas, the mild sex scenes will keep it out of many middle school libraries). Just as good as the plot are the themes: what is legitimate in the name of national security? where do our civil rights begin and end in times of "national crisis"? who gets to define patriotism? do state's rights trump the Feds' if abuses take place? LITTLE BROTHER even treats us to a DHS-leading cameo by Kurt Rooney -- the President's special assistant with a name reminiscent of Karl Rove (with an echo of "Loony").

    For a YA book, this is serious stuff packaged in fun circuitry. There's something to be learned for everyone -- curious Luddites, students of the Constitution, hacker wannabes, privacy advocates-in-training, journalists and media watchdogs, and even fans of the XBox and Internet (there -- THAT pads the numbers quite a bit). Recommended not only to read, but to discuss. ...more info
  • wow, this book needs to be shoved into teenagers hands
    wow, a tutorial on modern digital life wrapped in a good story and an object lesson on the dangers of allowing the government to pull the bait and switch of protecting us from terrorism in the name of increasing their own power while stifling dissent. what's not to love? also, there are some really important technical ideas and concepts explained in this book in a really accessible way. An important book for kids finding their way in the world and adults trying to keep up. Plus, a revealing answer to the question of, if you have nothing to hide, why you should care about your privacy....more info
  • Cutting Edge "Thinking Person's" Fiction
    Think all the government surveilance is for your security and betterment?
    Think being detained without "Constitutional" rights doesn't affect you because you're not a terrorist or violence prone?
    Provocative reading, helps you grasp our new "State". (Of affairs and of mind) Chilling.....more info
  • A Glimpse at What Could Happen
    Cory Doctorow came through with a good book. It was a little slow at times, but usually picked up the pace again rather quickly. He did a good job turning the technical details into lay-terms so they were easy to understand and didn't hijack the storyline. His ideas were certainly plausible, which makes the whole story of Little Brother pretty frightening if you think about it. Good job Cory!...more info
  • recomended
    Excellent book for young or old. Well written, I could not put it down. On second reading now and its just as enjoyable. If you are a geek, this is for you; also if you enjoy your freedoms you should read this....more info
  • Echoing the many praises...
    I will just echo what so many others have said. This is an excellent book for the "older young adult" (mid teens perhaps?) who is looking for a good read. It's a coming of age story, set in the near future (perhaps even current day) with a message that is important. Blind obedience to government is not a good thing, among other lessons.

    As a parent, I would be more than comfortable to give it to my children when they are old enough (13 or 14 and up)....more info
  • Meh.
    Little Brother was blurbed by the likes of Neil Gaiman and Scott Westerfeld. It's appeared on multiple best books of 2008 lists, received a ton of great reviews and is a contender for The Hugo Award for best novel.

    Marcus, a seventeen year-old hacker, is skipping school with three of his friends when Bay Bridge is blown up. In the chaos, he and his friends are mistaken for perpetrators and captured by the police. They are taken to an unknown location where they are interrogated for days. When they're finally released, Marcus is shocked to discover the methods police use to "prevent terrorism" (which often include taken away citizens' rights).

    He refuses to take this lying down-ultimately, deciding to take the problem into his own hands. He's a smart, technologically aware teen and soon he's found himself leading a following of people, devoted to exposing the government's misdemeanors.

    At first, I found the book engaging, informative (but still interesting) and hard to put down. However, subtle would not be the best word to describe the book. It's filled with paragraphs explaining technology (such as LARPing, gait-recognition software, etc.) and paragraphs that almost seem to lecture you. On one hand, I knew very little about the technology Marcus described and the way it was presented was easy to understand and in some cases, absolutely fascinating. But, on the other hand, those moments tended to take me out of the story. Sometimes I felt as if the book sacrificed a better-developed plotline and characters for the message.

    Still, the novel's an excellent way to spark a discussion-the exact discussion that needs to be had at a point where we all rely on technology so much (without fully understanding it) and how easy it would be for our rights to be taken away.

    Little Brother is also a coming-of-age novel. By the end of the novel, Marcus had made a lot of mistakes (and learned from them..most of the time), fallen in love and grown up. He's a smart, believable character just like the novel (in fact, the novel's premise is frighteningly realistic). Despite my problems with the book, I would still recommend reading it...more info
  • Cartoonish Straw-Man Liberalism
    It's George Bush's 3rd term, and nobody in the book thinks this is remarkable. Karl Rove is conspiring with the head of Homeland Security to facilitate al Qaeda attacks on the US, in order to pass another round of PATRIOT Acts. Fortunately, Karl Rove and his army of torture-murderers are dumber than a group of teenagers who specialize in skipping school to play alternate-reality games.

    If you think that the premise of this novel is plausible, there is something wrong with you, not just wrong with you as a person, but wrong with you in the head. Seek professional medical help; they're doing remarkable things for paranoid schizophrenia these days. Because no sane person believes that this is even vaguely possible, let alone unremarkable to claim, except the kind of cartoon straw-men liberals who only exist in the fantasies of Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage. Well, them, and apparently Cory Doctorow, and everybody else who recommend this ugly piece of 9/11 revisionism. I weep for my country....more info
  • Too bad it's YA
    While I enjoyed the book immensely and now understand the effusive praise from such people as Neil Gaiman, I found myself wishing it hadn't been written as YA.

    Many people seem to think YA means "featuring a young protagonist." But there are books aplenty - from "Dune" to "Catcher in the Rye" - with young protagonists that aren't, in any real sense, YA books.

    The problem with "Little Brother" is that these uber-hip, techno-savvy, sexually adventurous kids use "expletives" like "screw" and "friggin'." Sorry. No way would they use such dork-isms. Kip in "Have Spacesuit, Will Travel" was a less worldly kid of the '50s who might have gotten away with "gollies" - these guys simply do not, and it makes them considerably less real than they might otherwise have been.

    Another complaint: A surprising number of expository lumps. Our narrator frequently "turns to the camera" to explain this concept or that. The stuff is interesting, and certainly illuminating to a non-techie reader like me, but it violates a basic rule of good writing, IMO.

    Still, it's a good book. A fine story with a powerful message....more info
  • Not just for young adults
    I'm 45, and I couldn't put down my Kindle for three days while reading this one. It's readily available for Kindle for free, just not from Amazon, but they got their money when I had to buy a dead-tree version to give to my friends who I knew would love it. It's fast-paced, detailed, and with compelling sympathetic characters....more info
  • Little Brother rules!
    Little Brother
    I had so much fun reading this book and would recommend it to anyone. Cory Doctorow has written a very compelling and fast read that will appeal to anyone with a myspace page or Facebook account. Video gamers, bloggers, and parents will have a lot to ponder as they read this book. I bought a copy for big brother and plan on reading it again myself....more info
  • Imperfect but worthwhile look at hacker politics
    I grew up different than most everyone around me. Whether nature or nurture shaped me more, I can't say, but my grandfather was an electrical engineer, my father is a network engineer, and I am a security engineer. If you had a kid in school who always dressed just a little bit oddly, read books about math and science for fun, could do things with computers and electronics that the other kids would have never even imagined, and constantly got in trouble for being bored in class but managed to get good grades anyway... well, me and that kid would have been great friends for having so much in common.

    Among this geek subculture, we tend to hold certain beliefs in common. Geeks usually have a strong libertarian streak of one sort or another, possibly due to the fact that we just want society to let us be different and explore the world our own way. And, like some other subcultures, we critically examine (in the best sense of that phrase) what people tell us and how things work. We never left behind that childhood phase of asking "why?" over and over and over. We wear T-shirts with obscure technical jokes and argue about what the word "hacker" really means.

    We can trace back our "subcultural roots" for centuries. Stephen Hawking and Richard Feynman and Alan Turing and Nikolai Tesla and Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage and Benjamin Franklin... all the way (at least) to Leonardo da Vinci. And my generation keeps the flame alive in its own unique way, particularly with the genesis of Net culture. Cory Doctorow, author of Little Brother, has established himself as one of the thought leaders of this subculture, or at least someone who conforms to our little brand of non-conformity and has enough of a soapbox to champion many of the causes dear to our hearts. Find an intersection between social justice and copyleft and mathematics, and he will be chronicling and championing it.

    Little Brother represents Doctorow's homage to 1984 and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, boiled down to a novel aimed squarely at teenagers. I can't really call this "science fiction"; it's more of a libertarian thriller that gets listed in the YA section at the bookstore. He runs through a (fictional) terrorist attack on San Francisco and the ensuing response by the Department of Homeland Security. Make no mistake, Little Brother says as much about politics as it does about technology. I suspect Doctorow would argue that the two have grown into each other at this point, and he'd do so convincingly. Conservatives reading this book may wince at some of the characterizations found in it, as the book openly espouses a particular sort of progressive politics centered around San Francisco.

    The novel doesn't quite reach the heights of the novels and writers mentioned above, and that's a shame. Doctorow could have treated some of the antagonists in the novel with a bit more nuance, or at least presented the other side of the argument with a little more understanding, less polemically. In places, the exposition gets a little thick, partly due to his desire to explain the real-life technical details and partly so that he can make out the bad guys as really bad. He takes a few shots at minority religions, including this reviewer's, and glosses over the racial implications and complexities of the Global War on Terror and DHS. These details detract from the novel, moving it from a tale of the struggle for freedom backed up by technology to a propaganda piece for a particular brand of techno-libertarian progressive white politics.

    They don't do so, however, to the degree that the novel loses all value. Doctorow has a lot to say about these things, and so not only should those of us who belong to the geek / hacker subculture read this book, and maybe buy a copy for a smart 15-year-old, but maybe for an intelligent but staid person who just doesn't quite understand why kids these days can't just listen and respectfully accept what authority figures tell them....more info
  • mostly slow and preachy
    This novel of a teenage boy in his battle against Homeland Security has its good moments where I was engaged. But in between those moments, the preaching was repetitious and boring, and the pace a bit slow. I heard the audio-book, and the reader was very good. The beginning was great, following a rebellious high-schooler who felt that the school administration was interfering with his privacy. And then, behold, terrorists strike his home city of San Francisco, and his fight against prying authority turns against a more invasive and evil Homeland Security. Long stretches of teaching us about high tech gizmos and the same diatribes against a loss of freedom were too much for me. I was hoping that this book might probe the fine line between freedom and security. Instead, the "security people" are all bad and the teen rebels are all good. I could live with this unrealistic black-and-white portrayal if the story were better. Overall, I was disappointed with this novel....more info
  • And Another Book Read Reviews
    Marcus is your typical 17 year old techno geek. He can hack into almost anything and has built multiple computers by himself. When him and his friends skip the final hours of school they become part of the biggest terrorist attack the States has ever seen. No, they didn't do anything, they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Department of Homeland Security, or the DHS, has apprehended both Marcus and his friends and taken them to a secret prison and continues to interogate and semi-torture them for days on end. When Marcus is finally released he is released alone. Hoping for the best he returns to find his parents in a mad state because they thought he was dead and can't even bring himself to tell them of his experience with the DHS. Then when Marcus realizes that Darryl, his best friend who was injured before the DHS took him, hasn't returned and the city has turned into one big security check point he vows to get even and get everyone's freedom back. This starts a whole chain of events which Marcus becomes the leader of. From creating a spy proof internet hubb to jamming the tracking system. Will Marcus and his followers be able to bring the DHS down and return freedom to the people of San Francisco, or will he be shipped out by the DHS never to be heard from again?

    This was definitely an interesting and thought provoking book. I really wanted to love it because it totally tunes in to the reader's inner geek, but it just didn't absorb me like I thought it would. It was easy to walk away from and I didn't find myself eager to sit down and read it. The potential for a great story was definitely there, but at times it was majorly confusing. Especially when Marcus went on to explain all of these technological processes that I couldn't even begin to imagine. During these parts of the book I felt myself skimming through them because I couldn't even begin to wrap my head around what was going on. Other than that though I loved the quirckiness of the characters. I felt like they were all original and I hadn't met them before in some previous book. I think my favorite part of the whole book was the author's ability to make me feel such deep dislike for the DHS. At the end I felt myself getting so worked up and angry about the way the DHS was treating people. There were many times that I felt like throwing the book down and storming off, but then everything would be okay. The ending was definitely the best part of the book and definitely redeemed it in many ways. Overall I liked this book and would recommend it for both guys and girls, but think that guys would probably get more out of it....more info
  • Important... and Great
    Most Americans don't realize that there are laws on the books right now (April 2009) that allow the president to declare any person, citizen or non-citizen, an "enemy combatant" and detain them without trail. Enemy combatants are not covered by the Geneva Convention, according to the last administration. That's an outrage and our current administration doesn't do things that way, but what will the next one think, or the one after that?
    Wake up, people! Until the national security act of 2006 is repealed, we're in danger. Sure Obama's in office now, but the opposition is passionately ideological, hate-filled, and highly propagandized (fox news is not a joke). I fear that we're in the same position that Germany was in between the wars, and our Nazis are just waiting to take our country to hell. If our reaction is anything like it has been for the last 8 years, we'll all be good Americans and go along with the atrocities until the world puts a stop to it.

    That's why this book is so important, kids. - Thank you, Corey -

    My previous 3 paragraphs are probably the exact wrong approach to fixing this problem. Corey's book is exactly the right approach.

    Plus congrats, Corey, on the writing, characters, plotting, pacing, etc. Oh and all the awesome hacking and LARPing details. Excellent excellent work. I cared about those characters and I loved the father's trajectory; it was an eye opener to have the Mother explain him so well. I think people like the father are wrong, but I also used to think they were stupid and evil.

    THANKS AGAIN, MAN. This being-Cassandra thing was tired.

    Hey Readers: It's a really really exciting read. I got choked up and choked with rage a couple of times. It was very playful, It had fascinating diversions. ...more info
  • Gives a new perspective on hacking and hackers
    As a hysterical librarian for freedom I looked forward to reading a book about a teenagers resistance to the Fascist and draconian actions of the Department of Homeland Security. I mainly read this book because I try to read all the Hugo nominated novels. Also I had heard Cory Doctorow speak at a science fiction con and his expertise on copyright and other information issues was more informative than anything I had heard at a library convention.

    The novel is classified as a Young Adult novel but I would recommend it for anyone from a mature child who can understand the concepts to any adult who is interested in keep his or her freedom. Check out and you will see that the Obama administration has gone further than the Bush administration in allowing some spying.

    All this and more is tied together in this book. I would call it a manual of resistance. The novel actually uses the plot to explain how security technologies work and why despite all the security measures, we should not feel safer. Also it explains the mathematics of hunting down terrorists. You may find that the most interesting, in as much, the system is almost guaranteed by its bad design to fail in actually finding a real terrorist. It is more likely to snag the ordinary citizen than the Al Qada operative.

    I had always thought of hackers as criminals. I had associated them with the criminals who are after your credit card information. In actuality the criminals are using tactics invented by hackers to break into and also to test security systems. The hackers are more akin to the tinkerers who invented much of the technology we enjoy today. I remember years ago when a student at a US university broke a supposedly uncrackable security system in less then 10 years ago. These are the type of people depicted in this novel.

    The novel is not a series of explanations but is a well told tale with interesting characters. The protagonists are all friends who attend high school in San Francisco. There is a lot of humor, some of which had me laughing out loud. You will be introduced to such things as LARPs (Live Action Role Playing) which are essentially live action Dungeons and Dragons games, flash mobs, though the term is not used in the novel, Arfids, RFD chips which are now in many things and are presently used mostly for inventory control.

    There are also parts that will move you to tears. The main character's absolute dedication to freedom, Constitutional freedom, not anarchy is very moving.

    Make sure you read the epilogues to the book. They encourage further reading. ...more info