Kindle-licious: Little Brother


Alright already, I’m late to the party, review-wise. Cory Doctorow’s fantabulous Little Brother has been praised to the skies by the likes of Neil Gaiman, Scott Westerfield, Jo Walton, John Scalzi, I could go on, but I’d run out of breath. And really, Little Brother leaves you breathless.

I’m not sure what else to say. Except that Cory Doctorow hit every note right. It was amazing—as a reader, writer, and geek, just absolutely amazing. Little Brother shows how the awe in science fiction and fantasy is not achieved merely by universe-spanning flights, nation-devouring wars, aliens on tripods, or dragons. It’s achieved by encountering that which is bigger than you.

The big terrorist attack at the beginning of Little Brother is bigger than you or Marcus. But as it turns out, the coerciveness, betrayal, and terrible power wielded by a corrupt government branch of a country you grew up to know as being free—that is even bigger. The odds are bad, the risks are high, and romanticism doesn’t fly—except when it gives you the strength to go on in the face of the dragon.

Combined with the personal, driving need to see the back of the dragon, is the heady state of being a teenager and growing up. It’s a little like mixing adrenaline and speed. But it’s not a careless combination; being a teenager is about being rebellious, and about being seen as rebellious even if you’re not. A lot of being a teenager is also about learning to pick your battles. All that comes to a head in Little Brother.

Marcus does so much growing up. As it all turns out, he’s a Hero with a capital H, for all the right reasons, and none of the wrong ones. The ending is pitch perfect. It’s a difficult ending to get right, but Doctorow nails it.

Little Brother is also a brilliant example in how to make the technological interesting and relevant, even when it’s being dropped in as information dump in the middle of adrenaline and speed. And no wonder, because everything in Little Brother is relevant to us now, to these times post-9/11. We’re some steps away from Marcus’ world, but it’s an easy slide downwards if we’re not careful.

Of the books I’ve read the last few weeks on my Kindle, none have been so driving as Little Brother.

And, you know, I gotta give cred to a book that touched off a new Linux distribution.