Scary thoughts on one all-too-possible near future

Little Brother, Doctorow, Cory

It may be time to get more serious about using PGP and learning about Tor. Little Brother takes us into a near-future version of San Francisco where Jack Bauer has clearly become the U.S. Attorney General. Marcus is a seventeen year-old high school student who likes to play video games, role play, and has it all figured out (he’s 17 after all). In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus gets swept up by Homeland Security after a terrorist attack, held for questioning for days, and released with the threat that he’ll be watched carefully to make sure that he behaves.

The world that Marcus returns to has ratcheted up both fear and surveillance to something on the wrong side of police state. He chooses to fight back mostly out of adolescent stubbornness coupled with enough technical expertise to be dangerous to both the nascent police state and to himself and his friends. Doctorow is becoming a better and better storyteller with each of his books and Little Brother motors along. I pretty much dropped everything I should have been doing to plow through it over the course of two days.

The book has its flaws. The bad guys tend to be caricatures. The “lessons” about various hacks and technologies sometimes slow things down, although not as much as you might think. Doctorow may have his agenda but he remembers that his first priority is to entertain. Along the way, he also manages to get you to think about his larger message.