Not's Reviews > Little Brother

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
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's review
Jun 12, 08

** spoiler alert ** SPOILER ALERT (in case the little checkbox I clicked below is not adequate warning that this review contains spoilers).

After all the hype, I expected more, so maybe I'm grading somewhat harshly. Still, a nicely put together primer on security and security theatre, although I suspect very few of the explanations Cory includes about how things work are needed on my friendslist (not entirely true: I did not, for instance, know how to make a hidden-camera detector out of a toilet paper roll and LEDs before reading this). Even unneeded, they're well written, and generally it's just cool to see a lot of this stuff. But I have two major complaints:

1) I feel the book does an incomplete job of justifying the freedom side of the "security versus freedom" debate. And yes, I know that's a false dichotomy, and I know the arguments, but I didn't feel Little Brother presented them well. The justification for the kids' actions never got above the level of "this is somewhat annoying and inconviniences me, so I'm going to inconvinience them (the DHS) right back". Which can work, but it felt shallow.

2) My other (bigger) complaint is with the resolution. After all this hacking and whatnot to try to show the DHS is a bunch of incompetent fools, what shuts them down but the main character just dumping his story to an investigative reporter and letting her do all of the work. All of the effort that was actually effective in making the DHS change (in the book) happened off-screen. This did a lot to reinforce the "kids throwing tantrums" vibe I got. So about 90% of the book was vandalism, and while I understood why, in the end that vandalism didn't even help. Sure, this is somewhat realalistic (in that we all do things that end up not helping our final goals) but forgive me if in an adventure novel I want the characters actions to matter more in the final resolution.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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E.C. Good points! However, I think that Marcus's actions matter very much in the resolution. Remember that he's the one who makes the decision to come forward about the DHS, and about his own actions on the Xnet. He's also the one who retrieves the cell phone with photographic evidence of his friend's capture. Yes, someone else did the work of putting that information out there, but if he hadn't taken responsibility and overcome his own fears, risking his own safety and freedom again in the process, the story never would have been shared.

message 2: by Not (new) - rated it 3 stars

Not Oh, I don't deny this (although I think the whole cellphone thing was the weakest part of the book). My point is more a matter of focus: everything he did with xnet and the hacking was useless. The reporter explicitly states she'd rather leave those things out of the article. Note that when he first goes to the reporter all he has is information as Marcus (his memories, note sent to him) and it's only after that gets published that he gets anything from being M1ck3y (the video of Karl Rove character insulting San Diego, cell phone picture of his friends before being arrested). In short, Marcus's actions mattered but M1ck3y's did not. And I felt this missed the target on a "tale of techo-geek rebellion", as well as making the story poorer (when 90% of the novel is irrelevent to the resolution).

message 3: by John (new)

John Stanfield I understand some of your disagreements with the book, especially with the resolution. I don't think Doctorow did a good job with the ending in that there wasn't a defining moment where Marcus finally overcame the Department of Homeland Security. I say that kind of in line with your review that having the reporter (Barbara Stratford) expose the DHS for him it's basically like he did all of his work in the book such as the XNet for nothing. Yes, the XNet raised awareness about what the DHS was doing, as did the rock concerts and whatnot, but I think Marcus was rather overshadowed in the end. With all of my complaining, I still thoroughly enjoyed the book and would give it at least 4 stars. It was still nice to see an opposing viewpoint, however.

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