Cyberpunk Review » Little Brother

November 24, 2008

Little Brother

Review By: Mr. Roboto

Author: Cory Doctorow

Year: 2008

Category: Cyberpunk Books

Available for download or read it online.

Little Brother

Among the latest in CP. In my last book review (The Shockwave Rider), I covered what is undoubtedly THEE prototype cyberpunk work. Now I give you a recent work from one of Boing Boing’s co-editors, Cory Doctorow, as he tells the story of a tech-savvy teen’s battle with Big Brother in a post 9/11 America. Though targeted to a younger audience, old farts out there should give it read as well.


Synopsis. The story is told through the eyes of Marcus Yallow, aka “w1n5t0n,” a San Francisco gamer who ditches school with his friends to participate in an alternate reality game. Things go bad as a terrorist attack mobilizes the DHS, who kidnap Marcus and company and threaten to “make them disappear” if they tell anyone about their captivity and torture. When an injured friend isn’t released, Marcus wages a personal war against the DHS, who have turned the Bay Area into a police state, by using the various technologies available such as Linux for the Xbox and trusted networking.


A Call To Action. A brief essay from Doctorow about his book shows that Little Brother isn’t just a novel written for entertainment; There’s a definite purpose for the book’s existence:

How do kids figure out which search-engine results to trust? What happens to their Facebook disclosures? How can they tell whether a camera, ID check, or rule is making them safer or less safe? In the absence of the right critical literacy tools, they’ll never know how to read a Wikipedia article so that they can tell if it’s credible. They’ll never know how to keep from ruining their adulthood with the videos they post as a teenager, and they’ll never know when the government is making them safer or less safe.

The difference between freedom and totalitarianism comes down to this: do our machines serve us, or control us? We live in the technological age that puts all other technological ages to shame. We are literally covered in technology, it rides in our pockets, pressed to our skin, in our ears, sometimes even implanted in our bodies. If these devices treat us as masters, then there is no limit to what we can achieve. But if they treat us as suspects, then we are doomed, for the jailers have us in a grip that is tighter than any authoritarian fantasy of the Inquisition.

The book was intended to get the youngsters to thinking about their security and privacy in a tech-saturated world of paranoia, and to have them and their parental/guardian/mentor units discuss the point of how to better secure liberty and freedom on this prison planet.

Little Brother-UK Cover

For those in the UK, Cory Doctorow will be @ Forbidden Planet London on November 29, 2008 to sign copies of the UK version of the book. Click the pic above for details.


Conclusion. If you or someone you know is old enough to use technology, or needs to know about the consequences of its usage, this book is a necessary read. With the holidays coming up, this book would be an excellent gift for the hacker, gamer, or net surfer in your tribe. It just might open your eyes to the eyes of Big Brother.


November 24, 2008

Illusive Mind said:

I’m half-way through this book right at the moment. It’s excelllent, I’d highly recommend it to all CP fans.

SFAM said:

Great review! I’m definitely gonna pick this one up.

Hattori said:

Wow, must buy, will order as soon as I can.

November 26, 2008

Immortal_Peregrin said:

I read the introduction to this book and was very impressed with his views on copyrights and the world in general. Definitely a respectable author with strong beliefs thats not afraid to voice them.

December 1, 2008

m_bishop said:

I read the book in one day. It’s a quick and entertaining read. As a 30yr old, I could definitely tell this wasn’t really written for me. I was concerned with how the book seemed to jump from warning kids about the possible dangers of surveillance, to encouraging them to subvert it.

I think, if I were 16, emulating the actions of the characters in this book probably would have gotten me into a great deal of trouble. Though, when I was 16, I behaved much like the main character in the novel and still turned out okay. So, maybe the ‘parent gene’ is starting to kick in.

I think it also might be a good read for parents who don’t know what an ARG is, and have no idea that their old Gen-1 Xbox can be connected to the ‘net to surf pr0n. I can imagine lots of kids getting away with that as I’m writing this.

All in all a good book, though I would be careful to explain the real world ramifications of the actions taken by the characters before recommending it to my 15yr old nephew.

December 8, 2008

tls284 said:

bishop, you’re too young to be talking like that. i don’t care if a kid is on the way =P

the book sounds great

October 6, 2009

RipTide said:

Little Brother was excellent. Highly recommend it. I wish there were more out there like this.

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