Marcus, a.k.a "w1n5t0n," is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school's intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems.Read more...
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Marcus, a.k.a "w1n5t0n," is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school's intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems.
But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they're mercilessly interrogated for days.
When the DHS finally releases them, Marcus discovers that his city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: to take down the DHS himself."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 55.
- Review Date: 2008-04-14
- Reviewer: Staff
SF author Doctorow (Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom), coeditor of the influential blog BoingBoing, tells a believable and frightening tale of a near-future San Francisco, victimized first by terrorists and then by an out-of-control Department of Homeland Security determined to turn the city into a virtual police state. Innocent of any wrongdoing beyond cutting school, high school student and techno-geek Marcus is arrested, illegally interrogated and humiliated by overzealous DHS personnel who also “disappear” his best friend, Darryl, along with hundreds of other U.S. citizens. Moved in part by a desire for revenge and in part by a passionate belief in the Bill of Rights, Marcus vows to drive the DHS out of his beloved city. Using the Internet and other technologies, he plays a dangerous game of cat and mouse, disrupting the government’s attempts to create virtually universal electronic surveillance while recruiting other young people to his guerilla movement. Filled with sharp dialogue and detailed descriptions of how to counteract gait-recognition cameras, arphids (radio frequency ID tags), wireless Internet tracers and other surveillance devices, this work makes its admittedly didactic point within a tautly crafted fictional framework. Ages 13-up. (May)
Challenging a new world order
Your kid knows Marcus Yallow. Heck, your kid might be Marcus Yallow! Who is he? He's the 21st-century equivalent of a 1950s teenage shade tree mechanic, but instead of measuring speed in terms of miles per hour, he measures it in terabytes per second. He's the geek in the crowd, in a world where the term geek is one of respect. He's a typical teenager, without a care in the world, but Marcus' world comes to a shattering halt when his hometown of San Francisco is hit with the next 9/11.
Cory Doctorow's much talked-about new novel for teens, Little Brother, opens with an act of terrorism on a frightening scale: the Bay Bridge is destroyed, with a devastating loss of life. The real impact though, is afterward, when a government overreaction turns life in the City by the Bay into a nightmarish 1984-type society where every movement is tracked, every word recorded, every thought considered suspicious. Marcus is caught up in the paranoia, and an innocent game ends up getting him and three friends arrested and imprisoned without trial, brutally interrogated, then released with a warning: tell no one.
Although four friends are swept into this maelstrom, only three emergeMarcus' friend Darryl has "disappeared." Marcus is forced into making a choice: either submit quietly like his parents to this new world order, or fight back.
He and his techno-savvy friends decide on the latter course and commence a dangerous game of chicken with the Department of Homeland Security. Along with his newfound girlfriend Ange, Marcus must find a way to disrupt DHS trampling of civil liberties, to overcome a docile press' repetition of government propaganda and somehow to let the world know the truth: that thousands of innocent people are being held as political prisoners on an island in San Francisco Bay.
With its harrowing look at government abuse of power, Little Brother is clearly a political novel with a message for its young readers. It's also as savvy a political thriller as any written for adults (think Ludlum or Clancy). There's some drug and alcohol use and teenage sex, which makes the book an appropriate choice mostly for older teens. They'll find it a thrilling read that makes them think about what it really means to be free.
James Neal Webb is a '60s radical cleverly disguised as a middle-aged librarian.