Abby's Reviews > Little Brother

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
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Mar 14, 2012

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bookshelves: ya-lit-2012
Read in March, 2012

Plot Summary:

Marcus, Darryl, Van, and Jolu are all close friends. They are out in the bad part of San Francisco one morning, skipping school to play a role playing game. They are just reaching their destination, when what they think is an earthquake, starts to shake the ground, and the emergency sirens start to go off. They are running to find shelter in the nearest BART (subway) entrance they can find. In the process, their friend Darryl gets stabbed in the commotion. When they try to get help from what they think are city rescue workers, they are abducted and taken to an undisclosed location. They are interrogated for acts of terrorism. They find out while being imprisoned, that terrorists have blown up the Bay Bridge in their town. These kids were in the wrong place at the wrong time, but also had something to hide. They are hackers. The kids are detained longer than they should have been because they refused to give up their passwords to phones, emails, and social medias. They are repeated refused their basic human rights as American citizens. When they are released, Marcus needs to retaliate. One of their friends, Darryl, was not released and no one knows what happened to him. The city is being bugged with cameras, surveillance, tracking systems. Everyday people are being stopped by police or Homeland Security on a regular basis if their routines changed. "Big Brother" paranoia is everywhere, and rightfully so. Marcus starts a secure internet system (XNet) through an XBox. He gets all of his friends to join, and through this private secure connection; these young high school students start a revolution. The fight for freedom has been reignited in San Francisco, and these young kids will not stand to have their rights taken from them.

Main Characters:

Marcus Yallow aka w15t0n aka m1k3y: Marcus is 17 years old and a bit of a computer nerd. He loves playing games, LARPing (Live Action Role Playing) and ARGing (Alternate Reality Gaming). When he is wrongfully detained by homeland security, tortured, denied his basic rights and then some. He does not take it lying down; he turns to the only things he knows, which are computers. He has strong loyalty to his friends and his girlfriend Ange.

Jolu: Jolu is around Marcus' age, and is just like Marcus only smarter. He has been working for an internet company for 3 years now, writing their programming. He is a great friend of Marcus' and helps him build his XNet program in a way that would not be caught.

Van: Van has known Marcus for many years. She is the same age as Marcus and Jolu, but goes to an all-girls school across town. She is loyal to Marcus, and even has a small crush on him. She stands tall on her opinions that Marcus should not be starting a rebellion that could end in other people getting hurt.

Darryl: Darryl's role is not as big in the story, but just as important. He was one of the original four that were taken down in the beginning of the story but never got let out. He was stabbed in the BART entrance when they were seeking shelter, and when he was well enough to leave, they just didn't let him go. He was in love with Van, which led to awkward situations.

Ange: Ange is Marcus' number one fan. They meet at a party through Jolu, and they are pretty much inseparable. Both characters are enough like each other that they are compatible, but different enough to cause some conflict, personality wise. In the end, Ange is willing to do whatever she needs to, to support Marcus.

Key Issues: Utopia/Dystopia, Terrorism, Technology, Revolution

Other Interesting Information:

My favorite quote from the book is:
"Get that? We used to have illegal math in this country." This quote was basically talking about how we use fancy math to create secure internet connections. And at one point the government (in this book) decided that the encryptions that involved this fancy math should not be available to the public and it should be illegal. It made me laugh. I chose to give this book 3 out of 5 stars. The reason that I chose that rating was that I did like the book, but at sometimes I felt like I was reading gibberish. I am a bit of a "Digital Immigrant" and so much of the technology in this book is foreign to me. I know that the target audience is ten years my junior, but essentially I would assume that some of the really technical information would be just as difficult for them to fathom. It is a really interesting take on the "Big Brother" concept. I will let you read the book to find out why it's titled "little brother." It was good, amusing, a bit funny, and even a bit educational. There was a good amount of historical information that I found quite accurate!
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Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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Heather This book was much more difficult than I thought it would be. I enjoyed the Afterword with an explanation of the author and what the realities are with the digital world. I love the idea of hacking to help...making it important to challenge the rules. It would be a good book to pair with 1984, especially with the title allusion.


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