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Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

01/12/2009. Contributed by Tomas L. Martin

Buy Little Brother in the USA - or Buy Little Brother in the UK

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pub: TOR/Forge. 373 page small hardback. Price: $17.95 (US), $19.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-1985-2.

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This summer I made the decision to read all five books nominated for this year's Hugo Award. Among them was Cory Doctorow's 'Little Brother', a wonderful young adult novel twisting the themes of Aldous Huxley and George Orwell for the blogging generation.

If there are royalty amongst the world's internet bloggers, Cory Doctorow is probably amongst them. One of the principle contributors to 'Boing Boing', one of the most highly visited and acclaimed blogs on the Internet, Doctorow contributes posts most days about Science Fiction, technology and general cool stuff.

As a result of his many years of trawling through the many delights the Internet has to offer and to report on, Doctorow is perhaps the perfect candidate to write a book that really captures the zeitgeist of the modern young Internet user.

Marcus is a teenage hacker, a mischievous seventeen year-old who delights in cracking the ever-growing restrictions placed on him by a school board suspicious of children. When his friends break out of school to play an alternative reality game on the day of a massive terrorist attack though, they attract the attention of more serious authorities.

Marcus and his friends are wrongly imprisoned without trial and with dubious attention to his well-being by the Department of Homeland Security. When they are finally released, they find a San Francisco turned into a police state by paranoid policemen and politicians. Snooped on and restricted in every part of their lives, Marcus decides to fight back.

What follows is a delightful romp through a large majority of the most popular memes to have passed through the blogosphere in the last few years. Xboxes and RFIDs are hacked, flashmobs are convened in public places and secret opposition parties organised behind the backs of the watching police.

This is a wonderfully exuberant novel. One hand warns us of the dangers combining totalitarianism with technology can present in a modern retelling of '1984'. The other hand entices us in with neat tricks and cool technology, as well as extolling the virtues of a free, independent, wild-spirited youth. The technology is bad in the wrong hands, 'Little Brother' tells us, but if we get there first, then we are the ones holding all the powerful cards.

Cory Doctorow flits from spot-on social interactions of his literally too-cool-for-school teens, through explanations of how DNS servers and internet encryption protocol works, somehow managing to parcel it all up in a compelling and exciting story.

'Little Brother' is an inspiring and fascinating read as an adult and well worthy of its nomination for the Hugo Award. (In fact, it was my favourite on this year's list.) But as a young adult novel, this is an even more important book. It is educating and empowering book for a young mind to read. It entertains them with a cracking story whilst extolling both enthusiasm for the power of the Internet and the need for careful attention to ensure its magic and our rights aren't taken away.

This is probably my favourite book of last year and I can't recommend it highly enough. Cory Doctorow is one of the most cutting-edge writers of near-future Science Fiction out there and his easy to read style makes every page a blast. Pick up a copy and see what you're missing out on.

Tomas L. Martin

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