Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Gamer and hacker (in a purely playful way), 17-year-old Marcus and his tech-savvy friends head out to find a clue for their game Harajuku Fun Madness. Then there's a terrorist attack. Marcus and the others are immediately picked up by the Department of Homeland Security -- solely guilty of being computer whiz-kids who are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Even when they're released, they are not free, nor is anyone else. The government has used the attack to infringe on scared and compliant citizens' rights in every way possible. And they're still after Marcus.

An escape novel with technology as both the prison and the key to freedom, Little Brother will seduce even the staunchest technophobe with its amazing descriptions of high-tech, MacGyver-like jury-riggings. As Marcus and his friends try to put a wrench in the works, there is a serious discussion about security and freedom, government oversight and government take-over.

This is a serious book about the corruption of power. The conversation has a liberal -- or maybe libertarian -- bent; some conservatives might be bothered by the implication that the government misused its power after 9/11.

Lured in by the cover, I was sold on this book by Kris Vreeland of Vroman's. With my students, there have been mixed reviews, but some have loved it.

Bibliotherapeutic value: A thoughtful challenge to the idea that, to be safe, we must give up our personal liberty. The title is a riff on the controversial 1984, another dystopian novel about loss of individual freedom.

Doctorow, Cory. Little Brother. New York: Tor Teen, 2008.

ISBN: 0765319853. $17.95.

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