I should be smacked for keeping this book on my to-read pile for so long! This is a grand book that I have a real hard time believing comes from a fir...moreI should be smacked for keeping this book on my to-read pile for so long! This is a grand book that I have a real hard time believing comes from a first time author. It's got just the right blend of tongue-in-cheek humor, surreal settings and straight off-the-wall absurdity (a post-op transgendered woman who can tell your future by sniffing your armpit) that is like manna from heaven for my reading preferences.(less)
One of the things that I love most about science fiction is its ability to look at trends in contemporary society, extrapolate them to their most extr...moreOne of the things that I love most about science fiction is its ability to look at trends in contemporary society, extrapolate them to their most extreme ends, and then use those extremes to reveal a fantastic analysis of our world and the directions that we are heading down. Good science fiction is the type that makes you step back when you finish and take a closer look at our own lives. With Little Brother, Cory Doctorow has crafted just such a novel. The fact that this is a book whose intended audience is young adults makes it all the more powerful.
The story focuses on Marcus Yallow, a technically gifted teenager who, in between rounds of an alternate reality game he plays, finds new and interesting ways of harnessing technology to his needs. At the start of the book this is mostly by getting around the surveillance that his high school has in place for tracking students, ostensibly for their safety. All that changes once terrorists destroy the Bay Bridge and Marcus finds himself captive of the Department of Homeland Security. Tortured and interrogated for the small infraction of demanding a lawyer, Marcus is eventually released and sent home.
The home he returns to bares little resemblance to the one he had initially left. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is busy installing more and more RFID sensors, monitoring the internet, and surveilling everyone that falls outside their very thin definition of normal behavior. Outraged at his treatment at the hands of DHS, Marcus begins throwing monkey wrenches into the system in an attempt to point out to all the ludicrous nature of the surveillance state and its complete ineptness at tracking or catching any real terrorists.
The writing is clear and simple, particularly in the sections where Doctorow is explaining the technical ins and outs of a particular tool that Marcus is using. He offers up some of the most easily understandable descriptions of cryptography and Linux operating systems that I have come across, and does so in a way that makes what could be a dreadfully boring description very interesting and informative.
What really pushed this book over the cusp, for me, is that all of the applications that Marcus and the DHS use in their war against one another already exist. Anyone with some basic knowledge and tools could build a hidden camera locater. Anyone who wanted to could download and install the Linux build that Marcus employs throughout the book. Doctorow makes it even easier by including a Further Reading section at the end of the book where he points readers toward resources they could use to delve further into the worlds opened up in the book.
This is a book with everything. A fun and fast-paced story, realistic teenage characters, technology that piques the reader's interest, and a political message that desperately needs to be imparted to younger generations. The state of American democracy is in their hands and depends very strongly on the lessons that they receive. Unfortunately, I'm not sure whether schools are as dedicated as they should be toward creating free thinking pupils who value the intent of the Constitution over blind dedication to the flag and whoever the current occupant of the White House may be.
Finally, best of all for me, Doctorow is a proponent of Creative Commons copyright. This form of copyrighting has allowed him to make available the text of this book on his website so that anyone who wishes to may download it to read, alter or remix it. So, if you're leery of putting down the cold hard cash for the hardcover edition, you can download it from Doctorow's website to see if it's something you think you may want to read. You can find the link to the download here: http://craphound.com/littlebrother/
Do yourself a favor and read this book post haste.(less)
This book took me months to read and I'm not sure whether that's a mark of acclaim or disparagement. This was quite the imaginative story, one that of...moreThis book took me months to read and I'm not sure whether that's a mark of acclaim or disparagement. This was quite the imaginative story, one that offered a very keen look at a world overrun with nanomachines capable of rewriting reality at the cellular level and the risks and benefits associated with the singularity (ask a physicist).
However, what took me so long to read this book was that Rucker was so focused on the wonders of the technology and the possibilities for it that the story itself lags behind and the characters seem shallow and one-dimensional. I never cared about the young and autistic Chu, I never wanted to know the results of Thuy and Jay-jay's on again/off again love affair because they weren't people. They were constructs used to move the setting along so that Rucker could expound on the next technological wonder that he'd thought up.
As a book about the exciting possibilities of nanotechnology, Rucker has succeeded admirably. As a story though, it leaves a lot to be desired.(less)
Decent zombie novel. I'm not sure that I'm a fan of smart zombies, I prefer the mindless shuffling undead hordes to creatures that can plan. Zombies s...moreDecent zombie novel. I'm not sure that I'm a fan of smart zombies, I prefer the mindless shuffling undead hordes to creatures that can plan. Zombies should exist as an overwhelming mass of hunger and they lose a bit of their scariness when thought is added into the mix. Still, Wellington has a good story that offers up several fun methods of zombie eradication and a few thrills in between. (less)
A huge improvement upon the first book in the series, Monster Island. This second book is set during the initial zombie outbreak and deals with humani...moreA huge improvement upon the first book in the series, Monster Island. This second book is set during the initial zombie outbreak and deals with humanity's first attempts to combat the ravenous hordes- which far more my type of zombie tale. The reason for the rising of the dead wasn't as large a part of this book as it was before, which allowed me to just relax and enjoy the blood. Bonus points for the zombie vs. bear scene, I quite enjoyed it. (less)
A decent conclusion to the series. It says something about the pace of the story that I've torn through all three books in under a week. Wellington de...moreA decent conclusion to the series. It says something about the pace of the story that I've torn through all three books in under a week. Wellington definitely knows how to write a story that will grab you and not let you go, no matter the minor complaints that I may have about the style of zombie he uses. This one features so many liches, magic and other things necromantic that I felt like I was reading a Warcraft book rather than a zombie book.(less)
Stupid crack-like horror pulp that I can't tear myself away from. So many books that I should be reading, that I've made commitments to read, and I'm...moreStupid crack-like horror pulp that I can't tear myself away from. So many books that I should be reading, that I've made commitments to read, and I'm stuck reading another vampire book. Sometimes my love of pulp fiction is too strong.(less)
Yes. I, too, dreamed that I could stop reading fluff horror like this. I'm a binger at heart, though, and know that the best way to stop is to dive in...moreYes. I, too, dreamed that I could stop reading fluff horror like this. I'm a binger at heart, though, and know that the best way to stop is to dive in headfirst and not come up for air until I've had my fill of zombies, vampires, werewolves and other things that go bump in the night. I will say this for Wellington: he writes damned addicting books.(less)
Ugh. This book was just not good. At all. It says something that multiple times while reading this I forgot that I was reading it- as though my mind s...moreUgh. This book was just not good. At all. It says something that multiple times while reading this I forgot that I was reading it- as though my mind sought to shelter me from the memory of just how bad it truly was by burying all trace of it. I'm sure that some day I'll attend a circus and see an especially hairy carnie that will bring back every poorly structured sentence, every ill-conceived trope that Wellington dragged into this story and I will be reduced to a quivering wreck while I board the Gravitron.
I could deal with his talent (or lack thereof) in his zombie and vampire books primarily because I read (and love) most anything with those beasts inside. Not so with werewolves. They're boring. This book is boring. Even worse, it's not even a boring book that's worth reading. (less)
Cory Doctorow is a nerd's nerd. As one of the founders of BoingBoing, he has been at the forefront of web culture, meme dispersion, and fair copyright...moreCory Doctorow is a nerd's nerd. As one of the founders of BoingBoing, he has been at the forefront of web culture, meme dispersion, and fair copyright advocacy. In his off-time he also writes some pretty decent science fiction.
His style is a familiar one- adopting netwide themes into stories to help explain these advances to those who spend less time fully immersed in the digital world. I imagine trying to explain the phenomena of gold farming to someone who has never played World of Warcraft would be difficult, but Doctorow manages to explain it in an engaging manner with his story "Anda's Game" (yes, that's a deliberate play on Ender's Game).
It's rare that we ever think of the server farms that allow sites like Goodreads, Google, or Facebook to function, but a reader swiftly realizes the importance of the System Administrators who oversee these well-oiled machines when a global catastrophe spares only the SysAdmins who were called from their beds in the middle of the night to take care of their servers in his "When SysAdmins Ruled the Earth."
And that's only two of the six stories that Doctorow offers up in this collection. I had heard most of these before because I subscribe to Doctorow's podcast, where he often reads his works-in-progress, but it was enjoyable to see them in print form for once, and I definitely did not mind reading them again. My only complaint is also a familiar one. Doctorow tends to get so wrapped up in his worlds and ideas that his characters feel like so much filler. The man has a nose for technical innovations (I'm still obsessed with seeing his concept of shared music libraries from Eastern Standard Tribes become a reality) but his characters just don't really leave much of an impact. At times it feels as if a person suffering from Aspberger's were trying to write a passionate love story- disconnected, stilted and a little confusing.(less)
Napoleonic wars with dragons. Really, do you need much more of an explanation? These are dragons written how I always wished they were, in a world tha...moreNapoleonic wars with dragons. Really, do you need much more of an explanation? These are dragons written how I always wished they were, in a world that I care about. Alternate histories are dicey things- either the author hews too closely to the original events for the story to take on its own life or the history just serves as a lure to get unsuspecting nerds to take the plunge. Novik pulls off the ultimate balancing act, however, weighing Nelson's naval maneuvers with aerial raids from French dragons and sketching out a realistic military while not neglecting the movers and shakers of high society. Best of all, though, are the battle sequences which have the wyverns tucking and rolling, juking and diving in a chaotic maelstrom that never leaves the reader uninterested or feeling scammed.
I'd thought that I was done with fantasy as a genre, but Novik proves that there is still some excitement to be wrung from these familiar standards- enough that I was compelled to purchase the rest of the series immediately upon finishing.(less)
Bob knows I love a good popcorn read and they don't get much more corny Charlaine Harris' Sookie books. Reading about Sookie's misadventures with the...moreBob knows I love a good popcorn read and they don't get much more corny Charlaine Harris' Sookie books. Reading about Sookie's misadventures with the vampires that live out in the open is always a good way to spend an afternoon in the sun. So finding out that the newest addition to the Sookie series came out on Tuesday had me more excited than I am comfortable admitting.
Four hours later the book is finished and I'm relaxing in the heady afterglow of a fun tale well spun. Yet, was this a Southern Vampire Mystery? Not so much. This was all nearly all-fairy, all the time. Of course there were the usual shenanigans with shifters coming out into the open, following the lead of the vampires that started it all. This would have been far more interesting if Harris had made it more of a focus of the story rather than getting embroiled in the royal intrigues of the fairy princes.
Still, it's a good stop-gap for those anxious to dip into Sookie's little world of Bon Temps for a little while. Here's hoping that with book ten Harris leaves the fae alone and focuses on what made this world so interesting- watching the vampires and werewolves, these ancient creatures that have haunted nightmares for centuries, try to integrate into contemporary society. It's always good for a smile.(less)
Know how to beat a crippling addiction to zombie books? Find the most poorly written series available and read until your eyes bleed. I think that thi...moreKnow how to beat a crippling addiction to zombie books? Find the most poorly written series available and read until your eyes bleed. I think that this book has finally shaken the last vestiges of my zombie love from me. The scenes with actual zombies are mildly entertaining, but the endless (ENDLESS!) pages of characters shacking up with one another, thinking about shacking up with one another, or agonizing about having shacked up with someone had me wanting to pull my eyes out and flush them away so that I could not read another word.
The female duo from the first book are significantly weakened and watered down here as Jeni falls head over heels for her one-time nemesis Juan and Katie remembers that "oh yeah!" before she was married to the wife of her dreams (who had then became the zombie of her nightmares), she had liked men too! What a coincidence that there is a kind and gentle giant ruling with a velvet glove over these survivors. How perfectly convenient. It bugged me. I understand Frater's often repeated points about how society expects people to fall on one side or the other of the gender binary and how it just isn't fair to force people to limit themselves to others' definitions of secuality, but I still hated it. Katie was a strong, self sufficient, lesbian trying to cope with some crippling PTSD after being chased by her zombified wife in the first book, but here she just grated on my nerves. And the rape. Please do not get me started on the rape scene. Ever. If you are at the bottom of the zombie literature barrel and absolutely must have one more, I would still recommend passing over these books. (less)