Thursday, August 12, 2010

Little Brother Book Review

Little Brother*This review is for the unabridged audiobook version. 
Pretentious much, Cory Doctorow?  I man the book oozes pretention.  The protagonist is the coolest, most justified, smart and always right person ever.  The bad guys are one dimensional and are all uniform carbon copies of each other.  They are uncool, unjustified in any action, and always wrong and stupid.  Wait the bad guys are all racist, homophobic, and republican.  Wait, the bad guys aren't republican, Republicans are the bad guys.  There is a difference there and Doctorow preaches it to you.

I actually liked the book at the beginning.  It was interesting if a little unplausible.  The premise is that a bomb blows up the Bay Bridge and Bart tunnel.  Four friends, cutting class to play an ARG (alternate reality game) are caught in the thick of it and get hauled in by Homeland Security as suspects.  After their secret detention and humiliation, all the kids cooperate and are released except one that had been stabbed in the chaos after the explosion.  The protagonist vows revenge for his humiliation.

I think it is funny that the author critcizes the government about being dumb and retarded, but has the gestapo of DHS mobilized within 5 minutes of a terrorrist act.  They also have a secret prison completely set up and a reason to suspect four 17 year old kids.  All of the DHS goons are mindless, cruel, and abussive, oh and republican.    This is when I was still enjoying the book, by the way. 

The protagonist then sets up a network of rebelious teenagers to stop the overbearing DHS.  They turn their Xboxes into a secure network that runs paranoid linux, play free video games and discuss ways of disrupting security checkpoints and RFID detecting technology.  This part of the book was really educational and was still good. 

The protagonist is now abandoned by his friends or actually dumps them for a cooler edgier group that includes his new girl friend.  She is every bit as cool/smart/edgy as the protagonist and eggs him on.  They meet at a key party and (wait, not that kind of key party) a security key party, and she finds out the truth post haste.  The book is now going down hill.  The character creates a web of trust with random people and it never plays into the story except as a vehicle to bring the girl in. 

Now the story starts praising hippies and a music rally is played in a residentual neighborhood at night and is broken up by the cops with tear gas.  The police are stifling the freedom of assembly or some such.  This is where we learn that you can't trust anyone over 25 and we learn it ad nauseum.  DHS becomes more aggressive and more random and the protagonist gets scared.

Finally he tells his parents what happens and they go to a reporter friend that breaks the story wide open.  The protagonist gets waterboarded and bush 43 lets the DHS off the hook.  State troopers protect California from the evil that is the DHS from here on out.  The kid thinks that his network saved the day.  He gets a high paying job because of it. 

Heavy handed doesn't even begin to describe this book.  I work in the same building as DHS.  They are not evil and come in all different shapes, sizes, and political affiliations.  To say that government employees are all brainless zombies with the same political line is dumb.  I really took offense to one of the DHS labdogs being Southern.  For a book that doesn't like stereotyping, it sure does a lot of it. 

This was a YA novel, but I am not sure how old of a kid I would let read this.  I think it would be the age when the get the book without bothering to let me know about it.  There is an intimate scene and illusions to more.  There isn't really any graphic violence other than the description of waterboarding.  The book does promote bullying, oddly.  One character is socially awkward and plays a little rough and gets his clothes put into a urinal and peed on.  He is then foced to walk across camp naked while others line up to laugh at him.  If someone you know wants to read this, tell them about 1984 instead.  Much better, so much better.

*Warning:  This book attempts to make LARPing into a passtime that cool people participate in. 

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