Little Brother

Author: Cory Doctorow
Published: 2008
Language: English
Wordcount: 119,590 / 333 pg
Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: 68.8
LoC Category: PZ
Downloads: 13,008
Added to site: 2008.05.05
mnybks.net#: 20764
Origin: craphound.com
More Info: craphound.com
License: by-nc-sa
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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.

Show Excerpt

He was so angry I thought he was going to pop. You know I said I'd only seen him lose his cool rarely? That night, he lost it more than he ever had.

"You wouldn't believe it. This cop, he was like eighteen years old and he kept saying, 'But sir, why were you in Berkeley yesterday if your client is in Mountain View?' I kept explaining to him that I teach at Berkeley and then he'd say, 'I thought you were a consultant,' and we'd start over again. It was like some kind of sitcom where the cops have been taken over by the stupidity ray.

"What's worse was he kept insisting that I'd been in Berkeley today as well, and I kept saying no, I hadn't been, and he said I had been. Then he showed me my FasTrak billing and it said I'd driven the San Mateo bridge three times that day!

"That's not all," he said, and drew in a breath that let me know he was really steamed. "They had information about where I'd been, places that didn't have a toll plaza. They'd been polling my pass just on the street, at random. And it was wrong! Holy crap, I mean, they're spying on us all and they're not even competent!"

Reviews

Add a review for this title.
Average Rating of 4.2 from 14 reviews: *****
2013.03.25
Mythologist
*****

My ENGLISH TEACHER had us read this book as part of the curriculum.
Combined with the fact that I enjoy all this hacking crap and the oh-so-apparently shown "Big brother sucks at what he does" idea, I heartily enjoy this book.

2011.08.31
bhold
***..

Fear, paranoia and abuse of authority by the feds follow a terrorist attack.

Good, not great. Interesting concept, but more realism - plot and characters - would have made this a better book.

2011.08.25
Karl Schultz
*****

This is an amazing book. It kept me interested and engaged. Just plain, freaking thrilling. Do yourself a favor and read it. Giving it 5 stars!

2010.01.27
vedus
*****

This is, simply, the book that brought me back to reading. Introduced to it through boingboing I figured I had little to lose and downloaded a copy.

It's by no means ground breaking but it is touching and frustrating and endearing and inspiring and enraging all at the same time. It's a book I've read three times over now and I'm glad I've put the time in for each read through.

After my first read I went out and bought a print copy, not for myself, for my wife. I knew she would enjoy it. It's quick, light, and engaging prose that keeps you driving through to the end. It may target to a YA audience but that doesn't hinder it in anyway. I pressed on through the pages quickly each time through.

Since reading this for the first time I've renewed my love of books. Not only am I buying books again but I'm happy to plunge in to CC licensed books for the thrill of finding gems just like this.

2009.04.10
NickPheas
****.

Certainly a book worth reading, though it does sometimes get a bit preachy, especially when it's getting onto the virtues of particular technologies. It's a safe bet that everyone making it even half way through the book knows everything they want to know about the glories of public key-private key partnerships for secure message passing - either everything or nothing.

2008.08.12
Ken
***..

There are many issues entwined here, both in the novel and in how to review it. What does the average teenager know about technology? That varies widely. One average they may be more computer literate than older generations, but that's the average. There are plenty of game playing, ring tone downloading, text message addicted teens and young adult who are at the same time largely ignorant of how most technology works. Even consumer level customization can elude them if there's no easily available YouTube how-to video.
The knowledge of history and social issues is also uneven.
One thing is different, if you have spare time and get interested in some topic you can pursue it easily on the internet. We are no longer limited by having to find the "right" library (or even get access to it if you aren't affiliated with a University or live in a community that can afford to keep "old" books on the shelves of the public libraries).
Then there's another issue, characters. These kids are interesting but like many real live kids these days they could be "fleshed out" a bit more. And someday I'll stumble across a nerdy girl character who's front and center but at least Cory's are players.
Technology can be both fascinating and boring at the same time. All-nighter team programming is the perfect example--except for "break time" and the occasional comment the activity would never make it into a movie.
Our television dominated culture does have attention deficit which is why some many movies have car chases and things blowing up and why readership continues to drop.
As for touching the issues, this treatment helps make clear some of the issues that should be part of this election cycle--the difficulty of providing meaningful security, the risk of false positives, the misery to the public of getting it wrong. I think Cory had done a good job and making it a Creative Commons venture may help get some folks back in the readership game.

2008.08.02
Jaxi
*****

Wow, what an awesome story! "Moon Is a Harsh Mistress" meets "Ender's Game." I loved it.

2008.07.24
Jim
*....

This book is very poorly written. The characterisation is poor and the plot is a bit of a muddle. There is no real sense of danger or purpose, and the whole thing seems a bit too geeky for me. Plus, a lot of the "computer and internet factoids", for want of a better phrase, are wrong. Also wrong is Doctorow's assumption that most people who download ebooks on the net for free don't read them because it's too much of a pain and so end up buying the book. Obviously he hasn't ever seen anybody with a PDA, an IPAQ, an ebook reader.

The story seems too derivative and a bit of a take on William Gibson. It didn't work for me at all. I found the book stone cold boring and it was a drudgery to get through. I would have stopped about 50 pages in, if not for wanting to review it.

His other assumption that teenagers will "get" this book is also wrong. No teen I know cares about the issues being raised in Little Brother. Most teens in the UK are hanging about on street corners drinking cider, taking drugs, having sex and getting into trouble. They are not all playing online geeky role playing games. And the ones who are probably wouldn't bother reading this book anyway.
I think he has his audience all wrong.

Yet again, another bad creative commons book. I've yet to read anything put out by creative commons that was any good or even half way decent.

2008.07.19
Chip
***..

"Little Brother" is well-written sci-fi of a caliber one usually doesn't find for free. Sci-fi as a genre tends to be derivative, and "LB" is no exception (influences of William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, et al. are evident). But Doctorow keeps his story flowing, his plot believable and his characters more or less realistic. "LB" is a great read and if you like sci-fi, I think you'll like this.

"LB" is, as the other reviews indicate, a strongly political work, criticizing recent moves toward government intrusion in areas most people would consider private. That is great. And I was impressed that Doctorow managed to both accurately criticize American policy and yet avoid tarring an entire country as backward troglodytes (something that happens all too often).

But as I was reading this book, I kept thinking of Herman Melville. Melville wrote, of course, what is almost surely the best American novel, and perhaps even the best novel in English: "Moby Dick." Before writing "MB," Melville wrote a number of good novels, including "Typee" and "Omoo" (which are worth reading still, btw).

But Melville also wrote "White Jacket," which was his attempt at social commentary. "White Jacket" is a novel arguing against flogging as a naval punishment. It is also amazingly dull (to me, anyway).

I don't think any sci-fi novel will be challenging "Moby Dick" for its place at the top of the novel rankings. But just as trying to argue for social change made Melville write a novel inferior to his other work. And I think the same goes here.

I am of course far from the first to argue in this vein at the general level. But I felt that Doctorow's choice to try and engage present-day issues diminished my enjoyment of the novel. For example, much of the technology he talks about either already exists (RFID, Onion routing, etc.) or could easily. And most of the security issues Doctorow treats are far from new.

Thus, as I was reading the novel, I kept wondering: Why is he treating this like it's some sort of bleeding edge stuff? Does anybody even semi-savvy not know about these issues?

Now I know that Doctorow may be trying to spread knowledge, and that is great, but when a work of art is used as a vehicle for political statement, usually it suffers as a work of art. And I think that is the case here.

But it's still a good read and highly recommended for sci-fi fans.

2008.07.14
grimo1re
*****

Awesome book, couldn't put it down. Important book too.

2008.06.23
chucki
*****

I really really enjoyed this book. It's an easy read and hard to put down - and of course it sends out an important message about paying attention to our freedom of privacy, in a modern-day context.

Everyone should read this!

2008.06.09
parky
*****

Great book of a very possible big brother future like the classic 1984. Learned a lot about how easy it is for the government or anyone who access to data to snoop on you without you realizing it. With security cameras going up across the country to watch streets, catch speeders and other traffic violators, I have known that before long you will have a hard time to do anything that is not considered the socially correct. This shows the back door ways of tracing you through seeing where you are going by using traffic and mass transit passes. It is a future we are facing and will have to define our rights as to what can and cannot be used. Story line is fantastic sci fi and entertaining. This book is great from just being a good read to one that really makes you think!!

2008.06.03
Iain
*****

The most important book since 1984. No matter what country you live in you MUST read this book, excellently written, masterfully accurate depiction of modern day technology and abuse of power.

2008.05.24
Hax1ous
*****

This was one of the best books I have ever read. Seriously didn't put it down til I got 2 the end


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