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The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Young Adult Fiction Reviews

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
Harper Collins Publishers
Michael Luzanycia

They see what you’re typing, they know where you buy your coffee if you’re skipping school and they know who you call. Cory Doctorow sets this amazing read in San Francisco following the heroic yet geeky Marcus. Sure he may not care much for school or getting good grades; he’s more interested in playing his half computer, half real life games with his gang. But he’s about to change when he regrettably skips school. The next 9/11 occurs but that’s not the focus of the book, this is merely the spark that lights the paranoid flames of America. The true enemy to watch out for now is the Department of Homeland Security.

Caught driving a different route to work? You are a suspected terrorist. Buying anything out of the ordinary? Not anymore you’re accounts are now frozen on suspected terrorism. Watch your back now, that’s if the high tech cameras that identify you by the way you walk aren’t. Adults are thrilled with the crackdown on terrorism; the children who know the truth however are not. Marcus knows this all too well when he spends a grizzling week of mental and physical torture with the DHS. Why he doesn’t tell anyone or his parents when he’s released, I scream to myself. Because he can’t, because you could end up like his friend Darryl whose dead, so the DHS say.

Cory successfully has written a pre 1984 situation, which makes us see the need to take action first before free will is taken out of our hands. Marcus takes the ethically challenging and maturing path facing the ultimate question; do I need to become the terrorist they think I am in order to save America? For fellow computer geeks out there like me I truly recommend this book, for the non MMORPGer’s out there you might find yourself completely swamped in learning the language of leeting (numbers replaced by letters for example H3LL0). The book maintains a good balance of a realistic story line, although some of the plausible things you can do at home seem a little farfetched; such as making a toilet roll into a spy camera detector, that’s something I never saw made on Blue Peter.

Typing this review scares me a little after reading this techno terrorist novel, and that’s the great thing about this book. It makes the reader really think about the possibility of a technology controlling government. The only other drawback is the romantic interest Marcus takes, whilst he is seventeen like her, it still seems like soft core porn in places, and seeing these characters as quite immature made me slightly uneasy. Luckily however these are only small moments and do not hinder the overall effectiveness of the book.

So what type of person will you be? Will you turn a blind eye and go to school as normal where they brainwash you? Or will you join the fight and start jamming people’s phones alongside Marcus and the other Xnetters. The stakes have never been higher and Marcus is the only one who can give them hope. Will he overcome his own fears and lead the next generation into an all out internet war against the government? But more importantly, will he win?

© michael luzanycia March 2009
sun_shooter_shadow at

Michael is studying Creative Writing at the University of Portsmouth

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