Read this: Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Last night, having finally found my Cybook again, I downloaded Cory Doctorow's latest novel, Little Brother. Like all his other works, it's available for free download under a creative commons license, and like all his other books, it's excellent.

Unlike his other books, Little Brother is scary. Not scary in a "something's creeping up behind you" sort of way, but scary in a "completely plausible, yet utterly terrifying" way. The book is set in the (very) near future, and is focused around some of the most surveiled people in society - no, not prison inmates, high-school children. Imagine George Orwell's 1984, only a lot more immediate. Though disturbing enough to begin with, describing as it does worrying yet (alas) completely plausible intrusions in the name of 'security', everything takes a turn for the worse when a terrorist attack sends security paranoia into overdrive.

This is not a light hearted, "fun" novel. Though I don't live in the US, what happens there in the name of the "war on terror" affects me and everyone else. Starting as it did from a plausible and worryingly immediate beginning, the plot developments followed the same pattern, making it hard to criticise any of them as particularly unlikely. The result - something as bad in its way as any tin-pot dicatorship in a third world country - drives home just where this absurd path leads.

It's not all doom and gloom, though. The actions of the protagonist in fighting back against the absurdities and stupidities of modern security theater are things that anyone with access to instructables and a hell of a lot of guts can do, and the use of social networking and the internet to organise a large group of people around a common goal is simultaneously realistic and encouraging.

I started reading this as an ebook last night, and by the time I was halfway through, had ordered 4 copies off Amazon - this is a book I want to show to as many people as I can. Though it's aimed at teens, it's excellent reading for anyone socially aware and with a bent for technology.

I only hope that we can do our best to make this novel age as badly as possible. I sincerely hope that my (thus-far hypothetical) children someday read this book and scoff at how ridiculous it is.


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