Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother (available for free download here if you don’t want to buy it) is a "young adult" book on the topic of surveillance and personal freedom and privacy. The story is about Marcus, nicked M1k3y, who after a terrorist attack hits San Francisco gets detained by the DHS, denied his rights, and decides to take revenge. This involves quite a bit of hacking, security, cryptography and subterfuge.
The purpose of this book is both to tell a story and to teach the (young) reader something about personal freedoms, critical thinking and how to preserve your privacy in an increasingly connected and digitized world. This shows – there are some quite detailed discussions of this, somewhat simplified versions of Cory Doctorow’s speeches and writings on these subjects.
I sort of liked the book – it is important from the perspective of raising a generation of youngsters that know enough about the technology to maintain some sort of privacy, and encourage creative thinking – loosely defined as demanding logic and actions in proportion to consequences from the authorities. Cory’s book has gotten to the NYT bestseller list, and deservedly so. This is something to be happy about, for Cory spreads the word of his book electronically (as well as the book) and this nicely vindicates that strategy and points towards the future for aspiring authors. And, as someone struggling to get young people to read about and be interested in technology – not just what it does and how it looks but how it works – I see the value in the book.
But I do wish the literary qualities, such as the plot and the character development, were a bit more ambitions. On the other hand, Neal Stephenson does that, and Little Brother is an excellent introduction to Cryptonomicon, which set the reader up for the Baroque Trilogy and the idea that, well, history matters.
So, highly recommended. Wonder when we will see the first Norwegian translation? (I have translated for Cory before, but am a bit under the weather here. Anyone for a "dugnad"?). It is not like anyone needs to ask permission…
(On a side note, the paper copy I got from Amazon had half of page 197/8 torn out. Rather than sending it back to be replaced (which I know Amazon would do without argument), I printed out those pages from Cory’s web site and put them inside the book. Saves work and time. Same thing as when I switched from a static web page to a wiki for my course syllabi – now the customers, i.e., my students, fix broken links without bothering me…..)