This is the mantra that greeted me as I started reading Cory Doctorow’s commentary in the book, Little Brother. No, there is no subtlety in his perspective and for me that didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the story. The quote, “Funny, for all surveillance, Osama bin Laden is still free—and we’re not. Guess who’s winning the “war on terror?” is just one of many expressing some obvious truths. I enjoyed this thinly veiled commentary on the political landscape of security and how it invades many aspects of our lives in the name of keeping America safe. So much so that the main character, Marcus, after being falsely accused of being involved in a terrorist attack on San Francisco, decides that he is not going to lay down and take it. Our young computer geek decides that he’s going to fight fire with fire. As Doctorow puts it, “Never underestimate the determination of a kid who is time-rich and cash-poor.”
The concept of the little guy fighting against the establishment, especially one that plays dirty, is exciting and has the reader cheering Marcus and his friends on as they mount their attack. Throughout the book the reader is provided with a list of books and ideas that can be explored further on their own time ranging from the effects of microwaving grapes, exploring humanity with, On the Road by Jack Kerouac, and then to Schneier’s paper dealing with Applied Cryptography. These are just interesting stops along the way as you journey through this thrilling landscape.
Another recent title in a similar vein is Epic by Conor Kostick. This book tells the story of a government created with good intentions and only one rule; no violence, without exception under penalty of being banished. Sounds like a good idea, however, as in all good stories, corruption has slowly crept into the realm of those who make decisions and affect the lives of everyone. The way they wield this control is through a game called Epic. Everyone must spend (waste) much of their waking time eeking out a meager living by collecting wealth within the virtual world of the game, Epic in order to help them subsist in the real world.
So through the main character, Erik, the discovery is made that the very skills society considers advantageous in the game can actually be limiting in their game play. Erik also discovers that despite his new-found strengths, he can not do it alone. So with the help of his friends and those in his colony, they attempt to make things right and that by reaching for the end it might just be the beginning.
Oh, and I know you’re going to look it up so here it is, but be warned, don’t try this at home!