Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Book #6: United States of America/California

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow.

This book has a Creative Commons licence. Go on, read it now: http://craphound.com/littlebrother/download/ I have no idea how Doctorow’s publishers let him do this, but he thinks that people will support the book monetarily if they like it. It’s worked with me so far – I’ve bought two copies and given them to people as presents. And I have a copy on my phone so I can read it wherever I like.

I love this book because it’s so very plausible. A terrorist attack on San Francisco sends everyone into panic mode, with security beefed up and hundreds of people put under suspicion. Marcus and his friends happen to be playing truant that day, and they’re rounded up and questioned Guantanamo-style. An ongoing theme through the book is your own country turning on you – at first Marcus thinks he’s been kidnapped by the enemy, but it turns out to be his own people.

Marcus decides to fight back against the ever-more-encroaching surveillance. Doctorow points out that you can surveille (yes that’s a word, he uses it) people to the nth degree, but it’s always possible to miss things and it’s easy to get false negatives. One of my favourite bits in the book is where upstanding members of the public are pounced upon because they’re suspected of being terrorists – it shows how difficult it is to be certain of anything with surveillance to this extent.

“Little Brother” is a reference to “Nineteen Eighty Four” by George Orwell, where Big Brother was always watching the totalitarian society. Yes, that’s where the reality shows came from. Nineteen Eighty Four is a mirror of 1948 Post-War Britain, and Orwell’s vision of what might happen if society continued along the same lines. Little Brother mirrors our own society, and is scary in how close it comes to reality.

I find it incredible the amount of security we have to go through now. The fact that I have to have my fingerprints taken if I go to America is just crazy (not that I’ll object to it when I get there, nice airport security people. But still).

There’s also an element of hidden identity – Marcus starts an online revolution under a pseudonym, and has to hide from the authorities as well as deal with the movement as it spins out of control. He's like a cyber-hero :-P

I like books that make you think. This one does.

What other books do you like that are set in California?


  1. Great review Cyanz! I think you should be posting when you blog on YA blogroll over in the YA forum at AW. It will give more people an opportunity to 1. see you have a blog and 2. get more people to check it out and 3. get more followers.

    I have a side bar note on my blog about what you are doing because I think it's pretty cool (even if you don't achieve all 80 countries). I mean, obviously, as you say, you will blog about other things as well, but YA blogroll is a good place to start and get your blog seen/known by more people.

  2. thanks, i have now YA blogrolled! Aww it's great to see my bit on the side of your blog :D thank you so much!

    I'm still trying to get the hang of this blog-reaching people thing - forums I can do. Blogging... well. (-:

  3. I've got to add Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block to the California list - amazing depiction of life in LA :)


what do you think?