Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cory Doctorow's "Little Brother" (novel, revolution, free): Anti-terror cops run amok

Cover image of the 2008 novel titled Little Brother by Cory DoctorowThere are at least 3 parts to this novel: main story, propaganda, & an overview of the currently available computer privacy technology.

Main story is common enough, but very well told: A teenager in San Francisco is among the many innocents brutally abused by US anti-terror police. He leads a revolution that promises to fix things by the end of the story.

I guess I could identify with the story because of parallels with what I've read of Indira Gandhi's notorious "Emergency" in India during 1975-1977.

Caution: Main story sometimes runs along tracks that will befuddle readers in many countries. E.g., I found nothing to connect with in the sequence that runs several pages & describes teenagers vampire games at some sort of school camp; it was just bloat, though a variation is used later during a political protest.

Propaganda is interwoven throughout the story, & occasionally goes on totally irrelevant tracks. I recall at least one occasion where the author launches into a criticism of British government's citizen tracking systems in an utterly irrelevant context.

Computer privacy technology overview is generally good, but then I'm a programmer & the stuff was generally familiar. Readers from other backgrounds might see these as info dumps.

Caution: Author doesn't always include the all important caveats with privacy technology he advocates (e.g., using TOR to connect to a site that requires a password & communicates the password unencrypted is usually worse than not using it; or that Windows version of TOR might sometimes make you think you are anonymous when you are not). Also there is very good reason much of this tech is not in widespread use - using a lot of it requires the outlook of a computer nerd, & sometimes even that is not enough. But they all have their uses - in specific contexts.

Fact sheet.

First published: 2008.
Rating: A.
Download full text in multiple formats from author's site.
Nominated for Hugo Award 2009 in novel category.
Nominated for Nebula Award 2009 in novel category.
Related: Stories of Cory Doctorow; revolution in fiction