Sunday, March 24, 2013

Little Brother and Homeland, both by Cory Doctorow

Little Brother, Cory Doctorow.  New York: Doherty, Tom Associates, L.L.C., 2010.  ebook, 833 pps.

Homeland, Cory Doctorow.  New York: Doherty, Tom Associates, L.L.C., 2013.  ebook, 826 pps.

In Little Brother, Marcus Yarrow is a 17 year old hacker living in San Francisco.  Homeland Security has pretty much locked down the city into permanent surveillance.  But the surrender of privacy in exchange for "security" is not enough because some nnamed terrorist bombs the city anyways.  

Marcus is hauled off to a prison where he is detained for awhile, even though he is innocent of any part of the terrorist plot.  There is a big meanie there whose love for water-boarding complements her vitriole hatred of her prisoners.  He gets out and swears revenge.

Homeland picks up the store at a Burning Man Festival in Nevada. Marcus and his cool girlfriend are there with the other techno-hippies.  No surprise that Burning Man is infected with Homeland Security agents, including the big meanie from Little Brother.

While stumbling around in a dust storm, Marcus and girlfriend stumble into the yurt of some techno-legends and he actually ends up with a job offer.

Back in San Francisco, Marcus is on the job but bad stuff keeps happening to him.  He goes to an Occupy protest, during which the cops kettle the people in.  Doctorow describes kettling perfectly for those readers who don't know what that is.  Doctorow also describes the Peoples' Mic for those not in the know.  Stuff happens and Marcus is involved with the Darknet and lives are altered.

sapphoq reviews says:  Both Little Brother and Homeland were very satisfying reads, again rendering hacker culture in superb detail and in a colorful fashion which left me both proud and breathless.  Both books had the gritty feel of a very possible future where people continue to mistake the very essence of the word "security."  Doctorow uses dystopian fiction extremely well as a device to educate those who wish it about the drive for gathering information and what that particular drive can mean as we continue to lose our freedoms in a post 9/11 world.
                                      Although some critics have a problem with the characterization of older folks as mostly accepting and embracing surveillance and younger folks remaining skeptical, my personal experience is that most people that I've encountered are either ignorant of what our government is doing to us the citizens or know and don't particularly care.  This apathy to me seems to be widespread regardless of  the age of the people involved.  The recently [officially] begun practice of The Big Five [cable companies] performing deep packet inspections is an indicator of this apathy.  There was no grand outcry among the masses and indeed this matter hardly made the news.  I've noted with alarm that some journalists on the Internet are reporting that the use of V.P.N.s. render us safe-- it does not.  The Big Five are also capable of meddling with them.  I'd bet my last dollar that they probably are.
                                     Kudos to Cory Doctorow for Little Brother and for Homeland.  Highly recommended to anyone who wants to know a bit more about what drives some hackers and why people like me no longer trust our government.

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