I am aware of the issues told through most parts of the book even before I read it. I am familiar with topics of cyber-securities and privacy issues faced by the post-9/11 world and also the fact that Malaysian government are slowly trying to restrict internet freedom in this country that effectively made me positively paranoid as well.
Little Brother was also the last book for the “Fantasy and Science Fiction” Coursera course by Prof Eric Rabkin which I hadn’t read through but finally did. I had the free pdf version as well but unless its an ebook format, it is better to get the actual copy because really, it is a joy to read it. Oh, I said ‘joy’ with a book about teenage kids being forced into forced imprisonment, interrogation and torture and the whole internet paranoia and surveillance. But it is a good book to read if you need basics on some of the cyber issues faced today. It is true. Active surveillance and internet censorship and loss of privacy happen all around us. For most part of the book, it didn’t really tell me much what I didn’t know about most of the things in this book. But Cory Doctorow did write it well enough to make some parts of the book easy to read. Because really, this is a newbie guide on internet freedom.
It is also a tale about a gifted boy who was rebellious and smart, overly paranoid about everything who was at a wrong place at a wrong time. A terrorist cell attacked San Francisco and in the confusion and a stampede, Marcus and his friends was caught by Homeland Security. He was interrogated, starved and basically have the government abuses his right as a citizen under the pretense of anti-terrorism. Days later, broken and forced to sign a nondisclosure and left him out humiliated like a trash, his laptop bugged and basically psychologically raped, that he somehow began an anonymous group via a hacked Xbox now that the government allowed the DHS to transform San Francisco to become a police state.
The issues in Little Brother is real. We have past issue of ISP policing, government blocking websites, SOPA, PIPA, DRMs, Wikileaks, Anonymous, cryptocurrencies. It is easy to draw a lot of real life comparison from this book even if the book was published almost six years ago. Even where I am, Malaysian also have its issues with social media, internet censorship and issues with freedom of speech (apparently, there’s a western version and eastern version of it. Freedom in the western world isn’t our version of freedom. “Clash of culture”, if I want to quote from that child abuse case in Sweden). For some parts, it is fictional and the tech is seemingly too convenient but James Bond’s Skyfall is far more fictitious than an ounce from this book.
One of the things I like about Little Brother was its female character, from Van, Ange, Masha, to the mother and journalist and that evil Cate Blanchett-y character. Each of them was surprisingly memorable and exist beyond just to fill up the characterizations. Each of them exist in the book as a person more than a character who have their own life and decisions beyond Marcus’ world and it is hard to do that in a first POV novel with the story centered around a boy. Because it is more than just a story about a teenage revolution, its about a friendship, love, family and the world. I do think this book scored the Bechdel test well. In fact, I bonded with Ange and Marcus’ mother with our love of scorching hot Scoville scale hot in food and also Ange’s gothic loli getup. I would definitely hand them Sambal Letop as door gift.
Although, Marcus did have some sort of male attractiveness that made girls attracted to him but the quality didn’t really turn him into some kind of unlikable figure many male-centric and male written books tend to embellish. Marcus is still a recognizable awkward, damaged, somehow optimist young teenager with a grudge to the world who was instrumental in something that evolved beyond him. Sort of like teenage John Connor except less action figure and more awkwardly a teenager. It is an easy reading for me and seriously, it is a good book. Some might think it is overrated but if you see beyond the tech stuff (which you all should be aware about for a lot of reason especially being online and exposed) and appreciate the storytelling. It is a great story about a geek trying to change the world. A bit fantasy right there but hey, some of it is true and is happening.