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Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow

January 29, 2014

Little BrotherIn San Francisco, the Bay bridge is bombed by terrorists. Marcus Yallow, a senior who hacks security tech to skip school, gets caught with his friends by the Department of Homeland Security. They are detained as enemy combatants. Once released, Marcus learns that the city has become a police state: everyone is suspected of terrorism. He starts his own movement against the DHS through technology.

Doctorow’s lead was interesting: he starts with Marcus at his school and then progresses to Marcus skipping with his friends and going to the bridge. Then the bombing happens, and he gets caught by the DHS. I liked the lead, because it gave me time to get used to Marcus and Doctorow’s writing style, in an engaging way.

The theme that I found in Little Brother was about the government and our society: in the name of keeping us safe, the government can take away all of our rights. Also when we act scared and add security to make us safe, like cameras in classrooms and data-mining, the country just gets weaker and even more scared, especially when the safety measures don’t work.

I  thought that the theme of Little Brother is even more relevant now, with the NSA phone tapping and data collection. Doctorow wrote in 2008 about a dystopian world, but now, in 2014, his story of San Francisco is scarily close to the real world—only the NSA surveillance wasn’t as apparent to us, and Marcus Yallow is like a younger Edward Snowden.

I rated this book a ten. From the very beginning it was funny, but it also conveyed world issues in a realistic sense. I loved the use of encryptions and technology by Marcus, as well as facts: say one in a million people has a certain disease, and you have a 99% accurate test. In a city of one million, the test will falsely identify 9,999 people as infected with the disease, while correctly identifying one person. This is called a false positive: the 99% accurate test functions with a 99.99% inaccuracy rate.

A funny blend of history, tech, math, and politics, Little Brother is an essential novel for any young adult reader.

Parker

Tor Teen, 416 pages.


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