Just finished Little Brother by Cory Doctrow.
First a quick description of the book - Marcus is a 17 year old gamer. Like most 17 year olds he has an anti-authoritarian streak and thinks he knows everything.
One day Marcus and a bunch of friends skip out of school to participate in some live action gaming and in a spectacular display of bad timing they are caught in the middle of a huge al-Qaeda attack that kills thousands of San Franciscans.
Homeland Security rushes thousands of troops to the scene within minutes of the attack (literally thousands and minutes) and arrest Marcus and his friends because they happen to be on the street and one of the friends was stabbed while they are attempting to take shelter.
After their arrest Marcus and his friends are taken to a detention center where Marcus is interrogated for days with some associated physical abuse. He is forced to give up email passwords etc. so that the feds can see what he knew about this attack.
Finally satisfied that Marcus and his friends didn’t actually know anything the DHS releases all of them except the one who was stabbed. He is kept for some reason. Once he is released Marcus is told that he will be monitored and that if he ever tells anyone what happened he will be re-arrested and made to disappear.
Realizing that he is being monitored Marcus and his friends set up an alternated internet and begin raising havoc. Finally in a dramatic conclusion Marcus is rearrested, waterboarded, rescued by the California Highway Patrol and his friend Darrell is released even though he is severely damaged psychologically and has to be hospitalized. The government declines to prosecute anyone who was involved in all the DHS going ons.
There are a few side stories and a love interest but that’s basically the gist. Basically it’s a bildungsroman and normally I like those types of story, so why didn’t I like this book?
There are a few reasons:
One, I am just not a fan of Doctrow’s writing style. I have read him a few times on Boing Boing and I think I have read some other stories by him and he just doesn’t do much for me. Honestly I have started this book a few times before and put it aside. The only reason I picked it up again was the NSA story being in the news.
Two, I just had a hard time accepting his premise. In the story it was, as I said, literally minutes before DHS had deployed what sounded like thousands of troops in San Francisco. The 4 friends are arrested while trying to flag down help for their stabbed friend. I’m not quite sure why random teenagers were swept off the street and assumed to be terrorists but obviously it was supposed to parallel the plight of Arab Americans after 9/11. Once arrested they zero in on Marcus because he was “on the street” and his phone has a passcode. Even if DHS is the most incompetent agency that has ever existed I to believe that the have a better investigative strategy than what amounts to “eeney, meeney, miney, mo”. And, if they are so incompetent how exactly did they manage to magically deploy these troops so fast? (Hint, there is a whiff of trutherism that pops up from time to time.)
Three, as I read along, it became more and more obvious that Cory Doctrow despises me. Well not necessarily me but people like me. If you are conservative or from middle America in Doctrow’s world you aren’t worth the piss it would take to put out a fire on your face. His disgust is palpable. Among our many other faults Doctrow makes sure to point out how fat, stupid, and racist we are. Especially racist. It is mentioned numerous times that only “brown” people are arrested. Well except for his hero who happens to be white. I guess he went that rout to appeal to racist retards like me. Other hints that we are the lowest form of scum, the President’s chief adviser “Kurt Rooney” ranting about how America doesn’t care what happens to the “fags and atheists” in San Francisco. (his words not mine) and a few digs a specific midwest states.
The actual mechanics of the writing is ok.
All in all I would say avoid this book unless you need a reminder that you are fat, dumb, racist and homophobic. If you have forgotten all that then read away.