Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother is an in-depth look at the modern-day police state and the power of technology people use every day without understanding the full scope of its potential. For me, a repetitive tech-killer for whom computers and Wi-fi were only a few shades short of magic, it was an eye-opening read that inspired me to consider doing a computer-type major in college. Ultimately I went with my first passion of English, but thanks to techie friends and the internet, I am less likely to accidentally kill a computer than I used to be. And I blame that progress at least in part on Little Brother.
Little Brother, a title playing against the Big Brother from George Orwell’s 1984, is about 17-year-old Marcus using tech savvy and hacking skills to go head-to-head with the Department of Homeland Security. In the aftermath of a terrorist attack against San Francisco, Marcus and his friends are in the wrong place at the wrong time (they had skipped school that day) and are picked up as suspects. They are locked away, tortured for information, and finally released with threats to maintain their silence hanging over them. The city they return to is a paranoia-driven surveillance state. The clear response to these state of affairs, as demonstrated by Marcus, is to create an underground tech army of like-minded under-25s (anyone older than 25 cannot be trusted).
This is another book where my impressions of it are several years old at this point, but I do know some of the hacks and tricks detailed in its pages are still very capable of occurring in the world today, and people are still just as oblivious to them. Doctorow, who released Little Brother in 2008, examines a lot of themes that are enduringly relevant today, and probably well into the future, such as the line between security and privacy, the effect of fear on a population, and even the importance of simply being well-informed.
This novel is a must-read for anyone with an interest in technology and a revolutionary attitude, and is bound to interest anyone with an eye to the future and a thrill for adventure. And as a fun fact, if you’re running low on holiday funds, you can actually download the novel for free from Cory Doctorow’s website here. Enjoy!