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Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
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Little Brother (edition 2008)

by Cory Doctorow (Author)

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3,7563071,386 (4.08)2 / 234
aethercowboy's review
You can’t trust Cory Doctorow. He’s 40. What could he know? You just can’t trust him. Of course, you can’t trust me either. I’m over 25. I’m able to run for certain public offices. What could I know?

Nevertheless, whether you can trust Doctorow or me, believe me when I say that his book Little Brother is fantastic. It tells the story of a kid, Marcus, in a not-too-distant post-9-11 future who innovates to overcome the artificial limitations imposed on him by his school and his society. Only, after a bridge blows up, he and his friends are considered “persons of interest” by the DHS.

After this event, like any other event where somebody did something to us we didn’t expect, the people gladly let the government take away their civil liberties until all of the city is one big Airstrip One.

Our protagonist doesn’t like being treated like a criminal without having performed any crimes, so he intelligently (for the most part) fights back using the set of power tools granted to us by the founding fathers in the Bill of Rights.

At times, the story is funny and light hearted. Others, it’s angering and maddening. Still others, it’s almost tear-jerking. I find it a real shame that more books aimed at younger audiences like this don’t exist. I’d love for the youth of our country to be entertained while learning about their so-called unalienable rights, especially since they’re probably only getting one side from their public schools.

If you’re a high school-aged person or are a teacher or parent of such, pick up this book (it’s freely available in e-book format) and give a copy to every teen you know. While you might not agree with every topic covered in this book, it is an excellent primer on basic human freedoms, especially when they’re at odds with an oppressive government, making us take our shoes off at airports and get molested by federal agents “for our safety.”

Today’s children are tomorrows leaders, so let’s give them the whole story before we hand the wheel over to them. That is, if they can still trust us. ( )
  aethercowboy | Jun 21, 2012 |
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Showing 1-25 of 295 (next | show all)
Little Brother takes place in a not-too-distant future in San Fransisco. There are four friends who are skipping school when someone blows up the Bay Bridge--giving the Department of Homeland Security(DHS)all the authority it needs to spy on people, harrass, and detain people without any real cause or habeus corpus (ability to see a judge). And a group of teenagers fight back with the slogan, "Don't trust anyone over 25!".

There were a lot of great things in this book, but I feel the need to relate what keeps it from being a four or five star book. It takes place in the future, I think....? There is no date for the book given, and that's not REALLY a problem, but the problem was I didn't understand if all the technological stuff that Doctorow talked about was real, or not? I got confused. The only other thing holding it back was the way too deep explanations of all the technical stuff--not needed. I'm not going to read the book and all of a sudden become a technical genius, I just want a book that talks about the US gov messing things up. :)

I would DEFINITELY recommend for anyone who doesn't know all of the powers that DHS has--because those, although they seem scary and untrue, ARE the truth in our post 9-11 world. The government can tap our phones and detain us without giving us a right to see a judge, attorney, or make a phone call. It's scary. ( )
  csweder | Jul 8, 2014 |
Little Brother takes place in a not-too-distant future in San Fransisco. There are four friends who are skipping school when someone blows up the Bay Bridge--giving the Department of Homeland Security(DHS)all the authority it needs to spy on people, harrass, and detain people without any real cause or habeus corpus (ability to see a judge). And a group of teenagers fight back with the slogan, "Don't trust anyone over 25!".

There were a lot of great things in this book, but I feel the need to relate what keeps it from being a four or five star book. It takes place in the future, I think....? There is no date for the book given, and that's not REALLY a problem, but the problem was I didn't understand if all the technological stuff that Doctorow talked about was real, or not? I got confused. The only other thing holding it back was the way too deep explanations of all the technical stuff--not needed. I'm not going to read the book and all of a sudden become a technical genius, I just want a book that talks about the US gov messing things up. :)

I would DEFINITELY recommend for anyone who doesn't know all of the powers that DHS has--because those, although they seem scary and untrue, ARE the truth in our post 9-11 world. The government can tap our phones and detain us without giving us a right to see a judge, attorney, or make a phone call. It's scary. ( )
  csweder | Jul 8, 2014 |
4.5 ( )
  thenerdypuffer | Jul 1, 2014 |
4.5 ( )
  thenerdypuffer | Jul 1, 2014 |
Really enjoyed this. And if I had read this when I was a teen I would've loved it even more. ( )
  capiam1234 | Jun 28, 2014 |
I liked the book, even if there's a nagging sense of deja vu for a lot of it, then again, I was super into cyberpunk for a while, which is what this novel pretty much is to a T. Despite being set in a VERY close future, it retains a lot of that sensibility; the politics may have changed, but it's still the same game of fighting The System. While a lot of people are quick to point out Mary Sue in stories, I tend to be quicker to notice her cousin Gary--mainly because the genres I've liked best have traditionally been rather male-dominated. And the kid in this book requires a little suspension of disbelief on occasion (computers have been a major part of my household since I was three, and I've got my fair share of hackers that I know personally, and at times the kid's a little too good) but that's why it's fiction. It does its job in an efficient and engaging way, so the verdict is it's a good book. Not perfect, and maybe almost too upfront in places, but then you need that once in a while, especially when your focus has been narrowed for a while. ( )
  cendri | May 30, 2014 |
Enjoyed this book very much. And was delighted to read, in the Afterword, that one of the author's favorite books growing up was also one of mine - Alan Mendelsohn, The Boy from Mars by Daniel Pinkwater! ( )
  librarymary09 | May 24, 2014 |
Enjoyed this book very much. And was delighted to read, in the Afterword, that one of the author's favorite books growing up was also one of mine - Alan Mendelsohn, The Boy from Mars by Daniel Pinkwater! ( )
  librarymary09 | May 24, 2014 |
Doctorow's "Little Brother" is a dystopian novel where technology takes front stage. The book does an amazing job explaining how technology can be used to create a Big Brother state, and also how flaws in the same technology can be exploited to bring about a revolution. Books like this, where the author wants to use existing technology to create a sci-fi drama, can easily fall into the realm of over-explaining technology. Stephenson's "Cryptonomicon" comes to mind for me in that category. "Little Brother", however, does an amazing job of walking that line without crossing it. At times I thought the main character was acting with a maturity and independence far beyond his 17 years of age, and he almost becomes a savior figure towards the end of the book, though he wisely rejects that role, but I appreciate that these qualities are necessary for the main character to bring the ideas in this book to the YA crowd. Overall, I highly recommend "Little Brother". ( )
  sbloom42 | May 21, 2014 |
At one time, I suggested this book to my twelve year old. She is a prolific reader and reads quite above level. She wasn't interested, but I was. I'm glad she wasn't interested as I believe that many of the themes are too mature for her.
Little Brother is a smart, entertaining, socially conscious, diverse piece of literature. I enjoyed every moment of it. I rooted for the MC every bit of the way and I sympathized with him and I admired his strength.
The characters felt real, from the snarky know it all teachers, to the hipster investigative reporter, to the friends of the MC. I have to say that this book, with its tightly woven plot, also taught me a lot about basic tech we frequently take for granted, and it opened my eyes to the constitutional rights we also often take for granted. This is still something I'd like my kids to read, but perhaps when they are older.
I give this tale a four instead of five stars because sometimes the tech explanations did get a little heavy. I'm proud to say that I'm savvy (minimally, but enough to get it) bit I think a lot of people wouldn't, unless they're in the 17 yo or thereabouts crowd.
Awesome tale. I definitely intend to read/listen to the next book in this series. ( )
  khaalidah | Mar 14, 2014 |
An excruciating failure of a book, but its heart is in the right place. ( )
  thatotter | Feb 6, 2014 |
I read this book in two sittings--and would have read it in one if I didn't need to get up and go somewhere the next morning. There isn't a dull moment, and there is hardly a moment that doesn't make me boiling mad at what our country is being turned into by unchecked government power. Little Brother starts with a terrorist attack in San Francisco, in which a group of teenagers is caught up. Swept up by the Department of Homeland Security as suspicious characters, they are whisked away to the middle of San Francisco Bay and treated like terrorists, forced to hand over their cellphone passwords and stripped of their dignity and their rights as American citizens. After Marcus Yallow is released, he watches in horror as San Francisco is rapidly turned into a police state. Citizens movements are tracked through their Fast Passes, their transit cards, and by surveillance cameras everywhere. Marcus has a weapon, however--he is a hacker. And soon he has a band of followers who are successfully throwing monkey wrench after monkey wrench into the DHS's assault on the privacy and freedom of San Franciscans. Can a teenager succeed in his quixotic quest to make people put away their fear of terrorists and realize that the greatest danger to our freedom comes from within? Can he make anyone understand and appreciate the meaning of the Bill of Rights or of the words of the Declaration of Independence? You'll just have to read the book to find out.

Doctorow compares the current security insanity with an autoimmune disease: "Right now, America is going into anaphylactic shock over its own freedoms, and we need to inoculate ourselves against this."

If you have any interest in technology, you will be riveted. Of course, things change quickly, and the recent horrifying revelations of the NSA's illegal spying and their ability to perhaps compromise encryption techniques thought to be secure, makes this book a little dated. Although Doctorow exaggerates a bit to induce in the reader the necessary state of paranoia to understand and embrace the book's message, these recent revelations show that he was definitely on the right track. Every American should read this book and follow in the footsteps of Marcus Yallow. Our freedom is at stake. ( )
  datrappert | Feb 1, 2014 |
A triumphant story about kids facing down totalitarian impulses of the state. Full of geekery and a pretty scary dystopian "what if" based on post-9/11 law.
  bfister | Dec 23, 2013 |
I've been meaning to read Little Brother for a long time, so when it came up for the SF/F course on Coursera, it seemed like it was finally time. Maybe it got built up a bit too much over time, because I found it fairly disappointing. There's something very immature about it -- in some ways, that's part of its charm, because it's enthusiastic and straightforward and the characters/plot are earnest.

But. While I enjoy Cory Doctorow's non-fiction writing (he writes very clearly about copyright, piracy, etc), I haven't enjoyed his fiction nearly as much. He seems to write still partly in a non-fiction mode: we get lectured about the world he's setting up, rather than seeing it in action. It's like a thought experiment, a way of playing out his concerns. There's a place for that, of course, but it's a lot easier to swallow when it's wrapped up in prose like that of Ursula Le Guin. This probably is a fairly direct comparison to books like Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Herland: it's a story born of convictions more than of the urge to tell a story, I think.

For a reader who is used to Cory Doctorow's work and already interested in this kind of thing, the narrator's explanations are unnecessary, and even for those who are not, it's a bit heavy-handed. Doctorow's writing is clear, and he gets his points across... but for me, that was a trade off against flow and interest.

I don't really see why people found this so fascinating and absorbing, I'm afraid. ( )
  shanaqui | Dec 15, 2013 |
Definately entertaining - if not a little hysterical. Post 9/11 security measures were draconian on paper and haphazardly applied in practice - which led to gross injustices in some hands and benign neglect in others. Not to say that we should never be concerned about Big Brother (or in this case Little Brother) - but this novel - of what happens after a 2nd 9/11 in San Francisco seems a tad overblown and reactionary. I'm not sure that I understand why, but I'm fascinated that the author is very interested in the protections that the Constitution gives US citizens not being infringed or trampled. Protections and freedom that were purchased and held at the cost of American lives - but yet he is Canadian - a country that did not have to fight for its rights - and renounced his Canadian citizenship and became a UK citizen - a country that doesn't even *have* a Constitution. Ironic at best - but that aside - it was a good read, clearly a YA novel - but much more real world and plausible than others that could be named. ( )
  stuart10er | Nov 5, 2013 |
I've been meaning to read this for some time now, but when I saw on the cover that it had been blurbed by both Neil Gaiman and Scott Westerfeld, well, I decided I simply could not wait any longer. When San Francisco is attacked by terrorists, Marcus and his friends find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, and immediately detained by the Department of Homeland Security, where they are interrogated and tortured. This terrible and unjust treatment motivates Marcus to try to beat the system, creating a separate and untraceable internet using a fictional XBox network. There's a lot of discussion of how much privacy and freedom one can sacrifice in the name of security, and a lot of questions are raised about how many of these intrusive security measures actually make us any safer. I can see some folks dismissing the whole tale as far too paranoid, but I think it's still an important book to read, if only as a starting point to a conversation about the larger issues of liberty and security and terrorism. I do not have any answers, but I appreciate any book that makes me want to learn more about the world around me. ( )
  melydia | Nov 5, 2013 |
Phenomenal representation of the danger of technology while simultaneously promoting the influence of the people. As the title promotes, the novel is another tale revolving around the theme's presented by "1984". Never underestimate the power of the people. ( )
  bposinger | Nov 4, 2013 |
The main character Marcus is your average high school boy: skipping class to play games, fighting with parents, and making time to make out with his girlfriend. Looking closer, there is so much more to him; he is a leader. He is completely paranoid, which leads him to create the Xnet, which is a way for other disenfranchised people to mobilize and unite to disrupt the surveillance that government instituted because of terrorist attacks. Marcus allows readers and followers to question the world in which we live. ( )
  Backus2 | Oct 23, 2013 |
Long time I wasn't so hooked on a book. A good story for young-adults easy to enjoy at any age. The action happens in San Francisco and the geography (and spirit) of the city is very well described.

It has also an educative part, with some technical explanations that are a pleasure to read, combining easy language with accuracy.

I think my generation (80s) was drawn to computers by movies like Wargames or Tron... I want to think the 2000 generation will be brought into technology by this book. ( )
  ivan.frade | Oct 21, 2013 |
Really really enjoyed. I think this is his best book. ( )
  alsocass | Oct 12, 2013 |
Not too long ago, I ended up with a copy of Little Brother by Cory Doctorow when I bought a set of books in the Humble Ebook Bundle 2. (Btw: Humble bundle is awesome, and does good work. Check them out). I picked it out of my Kindle Book List on a dreary Saturday where I was looking to just relax and escape.
This book doesn’t help one relax or escape, but I was completely unable to put the book down. Sure, I may be a few years late to the party, but I think this book should be required reading for high school students.
I’m a teacher. I work with kids who barely remember the “pre 9/11″ world. They grew up with our nation embroiled in wars, where security threats are an almost daily reality according to the news. They have a school issued laptop that can be remotely accessed, that logs every site they visit, and an email that can be randomly searched by teachers and administrators. This book seems apropos of Wikileaks and Snowden, as if it was predicting the major problems to come. It seems more of a jumping off place for real conversation in the classroom and beyond- does security come at the cost of freedom? Should commoners issue a new Declaration of Independence, and overthrow the current statue quo in Washington?
While it initially brought to mind 1984, it was quite obvious its own book, and much more relevant and relatable. Marcus is your average high school kid, skipping class to play games, fighting with his parents, making out with his girlfriend. But he’s also an accidental leader, his paranoia leading him to create the Xnet, a way for other disenfranchised people to mobilize and unite to disrupt the surveillance state the government instituted in the wake of a terrorist attack. It is something I could see many of my students doing, if given the right motivation….
Doctorow is a skilled author, who takes a reader through a story and leaves them questioning how the government operates…. And what we can do in response. ( )
  Radella | Oct 12, 2013 |
This is one of those books that is so good, and hits so perfectly in your brain, you instantly want everyone on the planet to read it. The characters are fairly well fleshed out, the gender ideology is contemporary enough as to not seem fantasy-ish, but also progressive enough to not marginalize the female characters. The only complaint I have is that, in the end, the character is reabsorbed into "regular" society, but this is a fairly typical convention of YA dystopian texts, and so Doctorow can't be faulted too much for it. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. ( )
  JWarren42 | Oct 10, 2013 |
I was really looking forward to reading this book. I love young adult literature and this looked like a great novel from the reviews I read. However, I was completely disappointed.

First, Marcus was just an unlikable character. He was pompous and rude. It's obvious he was a smart guy but why did he feel the need to flaunt it CONSTANTLY. Also, from the cover and from the start of the book it looked like a story about three friends who suffered together and then worked together to do something positive because of their shared experience. However, as soon as Van and Julu disagreed with Marcus he dropped them completely. I mean just because they didn't agree with him he couldn't even talk to them? I kept hoping they would come back but Marcus became so involved in Ange and Xnet that his friendships with Van, Julu, and even Daryl were dropped for most of the book. That really bothered me. He only went to them when he needed them and had nobody else to turn too. That seems like a bit of a user to me.

Also, I've never read a book that was so black and white. There was not a bit of grey in the whole story. You either despised the government and plot against them (good) or sympathize with the government and do everything in your power to thwart freedom (bad). I definitely lean toward the left politically but I don't think our government and the people who support conservative candidates are evil and dumb. Before people start ranting I KNOW that our country has tortured people, made security check points in airports more extensive, etc... and I might not agree with these decisions, but I also feel that our country has done good things too. Most Americans are considered moderate politically and I just don't feel like this novel speaks to anyone other than extreme liberals that really enjoy ranting about how horrible our country is.

To finish, this storyline intrigued me. That is why I bought the book. I thought it was going to be something like V for Vendetta where each character has flaws and no side is perfect. Every character makes mistakes but in the end the decision for freedom is put into the hands of the people. Nothing in V was black or white and their were so many layers of why events were happening. It was so powerful. However, Little Brother was not that. It was a political rant from a guy that is blind from hate that he spews it throughout the whole book and makes the storyline suffer for it. ( )
  megmo07 | Sep 27, 2013 |
First let me say that Little Brother is the first novel/book that I have read from cover to cover as an ebook. I read it on my ipad and I must say that I found it a rather pleasant experience. Despite this pleasantness I don't see ebooks replacing my beloved print editions anytime soon. Now on to the book. Little Brother is considered a young adult novel but don't let that designation fool you, as it is an excellent read for all ages. Doctorow tells us a tale set in the aftermath of a terrorist attack on San Francisco. Every gadget and bit of technology appearing in the story to either spy on or aid the protagonist seems as though it currently exists and if it not then it will any day now. Doctorow also isn't afraid to tackle controversial topics such as personal freedom in the age of terrorism which is great as it is bound to get people thinking and talking. Despite being written a couple of years ago the novel remains particularly relevant in today's world of backscatter x-ray devices and "enhanced" pat downs. This Orwellian tale (with some clear references to 1984) will leave you thinking about yourself, the nation, and the extent you will go to feel safe. If you get a chance, pick it up and give it a read. ( )
  dtn620 | Sep 22, 2013 |
I had been meaning to read this for years but kept putting it off. After I heard Doctorow speak at a library conference it flew to the top of my to-read list. I have definitely never read a book like this. The plot is good and the action keeps on coming, but Doctorow takes so much time to pause and explain things about technology, security, and privacy and yet he keeps it interesting enough that you don't skim those sections just to get back to the action (or at least I didn't). I had a group of teenage girls read this book and am excited to hear what they thought about it. So far I'm hearing nothing but positive feedback! I'd like to get my hands on the sequel now and see what happens next. ( )
  4sarad | Sep 14, 2013 |
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