LIttle Brother by Cory Doctorow

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LIttle Brother by Cory Doctorow ISBN: 978-0765323118, Tor Teen; 1 edition (April 13, 2010)

Plot Summary:

Marcus Yallow does not get along well with authority figures; his school principle believes that Marcus is a hacker, and he is, but Principle Benson does not have enough evidence to prove it. Marcus regularly bypasses the security/spy software on his school issued laptop to log into Harajuku Fun Madness, an alternate reality game (ARG) that requires players to find clues in the real world. Marcus and his friends Van, Jolu, and Darryl, decide to skip school in order to pursue a clue in downtown San Francisco. Unfortunately, at the same time a massive terrorist attack occurs that rips apart the Bay Bridge and then the BART tunnels just as people are trying to flee below ground to escape the first attack. In the madness that ensues, Marcus’s best friend Darryl is injured. The friends are rounded up by the Department of Homeland Security and are detained without due process on suspicion of being terrorists. They are questioned aggressively and are abused by those who run the detention center. Neither will the DHS answer any questions about what has happened to Darryl. The remaining three are released after six days and warned that if they tell anyone what has occurred the DHS will find them and no one will ever see them again. They reunite with their family and tell them that they had been stuck in a refugee camp. Darryl is presumed to be dead. Over the next few months, San Francisco becomes a police state as the DHS starts to track ordinary citizen’s every move by requiring travelers to use RFID I.D. cards. Marcus decides to make a stand against the government using his skills as a hacker and in doing so, becomes a leader of a revolution.

Critical Evaluation: 

Little Brother is the quintessential dystopian novel in all ways except that it features technology and scenarios that could be used today to bring about the chain of events that happens in Little Brother. Doctorow is clearly passionate about civil rights in general, the right to privacy as interpreted from the fourth amendment, and technology. His passion shows in his writing, which clearly shows his political agenda and a worry about the erosion of our rights through technology. He uses the book to steer young readers to where they can find more information about technology issues, hacking and even the counterculture of the sixties. Although this type of didactic writing might overshadow a lesser story, the fast pace of this novel allows Doctorow to both teach and entertain and teens may just find that have received a lesson in government, technology, and history all wrapped up in a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Information about the author:

Cory Doctorow (craphound.com) is a science fiction novelist, blogger and technology activist. He is the co-editor of the popular weblog Boing Boing (boingboing.net), and a contributor to The Guardian, the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, Wired, and many other newspapers, magazines and websites. He was formerly Director of European Affairs for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (eff.org), a non-profit civil liberties group that defends freedom in technology law, policy, standards and treaties. He holds an honorary doctorate in computer science from the Open University (UK), where he is a Visiting Professor; in 2007, he served as the Fulbright Chair at the Annenberg Center for Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California.

His novels have been translated into dozens of languages and are published by Tor Books, Titan Books (UK) and HarperCollins (UK) and simultaneously released on the Internet under Creative Commons licenses that encourage their re-use and sharing, a move that increases his sales by enlisting his readers to help promote his work. He has won the Locus and Sunburst Awards, and been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula and British Science Fiction Awards. His latest young adult novel is HOMELAND, the bestselling sequel to 2008’s LITTLE BROTHER. His latest novel for adults is RAPTURE OF THE NERDS, written with Charles Stross and published in 2012. His New York Times Bestseller LITTLE BROTHER was published in 2008. His latest short story collection is WITH A LITTLE HELP, available in paperback, ebook, audiobook and limited edition hardcover. In 2011, Tachyon Books published a collection of his essays, called CONTEXT: FURTHER SELECTED ESSAYS ON PRODUCTIVITY, CREATIVITY, PARENTING, AND POLITICS IN THE 21ST CENTURY (with an introduction by Tim O’Reilly) and IDW published a collection of comic books inspired by his short fiction called CORY DOCTOROW’S FUTURISTIC TALES OF THE HERE AND NOW. THE GREAT BIG BEAUTIFUL TOMORROW, a PM Press Outspoken Authors chapbook, was also published in 2011.

Reader’s Annotation:

When terrorists attack the San Francisco Bay Bridge and BART tunnels, the Department of Homeland Security have all the justifications that they need to start depriving citizens of the civil rights. Marcus Yallow, a seventeen year old hacker, decides that freedom and the right to privacy is worth fighting for.

Genre:

Science fiction

Curriculum Ties:

Civil Rights, counterculture of the sixties

Booktalking Ideas:

Imagine that you have been thrown in a detention center and deprived of your civil rights for no other reason than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Reading Level/Interest Age:

Grades 8 and up

Challenge Issues:

Language, violence, illegal activities.

I would make sure that all material was purchased in accordance with my library’s collection development policy and make sure to keep a file containing positive reviews for books that I thought might be challenged. In the event of a challenge, I would actively listen to the parent’s concern and ask if they had read the book. I would then explain why the book had been added to the collection and provide with the reviews and a copy of the collection development policy. I would affirm that they are within their rights to limit what their children read, but that other parents also have the right to determine what their children can read. If all else failed, I would provide the parent with a reconsideration form.

Reasons for inclusion:

This book was required reading for LIBR 265

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