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In Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, the author takes us on an intense ride of what could happen if the United States were to become a security state where privacy no longer exists. This book takes place in the present to very near future. Seventeen-year-old Marcus is the ultimate techno geek. If you want to find out how to get around the school’s internet security system, Marcus is your guy. If you want to slip out of school without triggering the school’s technology-based tracking system, talk to Marcus. Life is good for Marcus until his home city of San Francisco is the victim of a terrorist attack. That is when his world is turned upside down.
Marcus and three of his friends are arrested by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) right after the attack. Because they were near the center of the attack and had a wide variety of tech gear on them at the time, it was thought that they had played a role in the attack. After what seems like an eternity, Marcus and his friends are released from custody. They are told that the cannot tell anyone about what happened to them if they don’t want to be arrested again. Once they are free, they find out that they are really anything but free. In the short time that they were incarcerated, their city has changed completely. Security cameras are everywhere. People are tracked wherever they go. All online and cell phone activity is actively monitored. People are stopped and questioned at checkpoints constantly. Everyone is essentially treated as a terrorist threat.
Marcus has made a hobby of getting around his school’s security system in the name of privacy and freedom of expression and information. Now, he turns his hobby into his mission. Marcus wants to take his city back, and the only way to do so will be defeat DHS and show its corruption. This novel tracks Marcus’s underground movement to fight for the civil liberties of the people of his city against government abuses.
This novel is perfect for people who like dystopian literature that is filled with action. While most dystopian literature feels rather distant, Doctorow portrays a story that feels possible in today’s world if thing were to go completely awry. You certainly don’t have to be a technology buff to enjoy this novel. Marcus explains all of his technology use as he tells readers his story, and Doctorow even includes a bibliography and afterward at the end of the book explaining how nearly all of the technology Marcus uses is real and how it works. This goes even further toward making the novel as realistic as possible. Little Brother has quickly become one of my favorite books. I found myself staying up late into the night because I had to know what happened next.
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