“Freedom is something you have to take for yourself.” // Review of “Little Brother” by Cory Doctorow

Title: Little Brother
Author: Cory Doctorow
Audio book narrator:
Kirby Heyborne
Date Read: 18/08/2016 – 22/08/2016
Rating: ★★★


This is another book that’s tricky to rate, due to some parts being really awesome, and some parts being really… not. However, it is a truly relevant book for today’s society, to the point where there were certain scenes where I was nearly blocking my ears and whispering “Too real, too real!”

In the near-future, Marcus Yallow aka W1n5t0n online, and his friends are caught in the wrong place at the wrong time in the aftermath of a terrorist attack on San Francisco, and are imprisoned by the Department of Homeland Security and treated inhumanely for a week. When they are released, they discover that San Francisco has been turned into a police state, where the population  are forced to give up their privacy in exchange for “security”. But Marcus and his friends are tech-savvy enough to go underground in cyber-space, and pretty soon, a movement is beginning.

I really liked Marcus as a lead character. He is unapologetically geeky. He’s into computers and crytopgraphy and old books and passionate about fighting for his rights. There were some interesting side characters, though so much of the plot unfolds through Marcus’ interactions with people online that it was a little hard to get to know everyone else. I did feel that the development of the female characters left a bit to be desired. The book is written in first person and Marcus would describe every girl or woman he met in terms of attractiveness, and only afterwards perhaps discuss other aspects of them. Overall, though, characterisation worked for the story that Doctorow was clearly trying to tell.

The thing that put me off the book was how info-dumpy it was at times. My partner and I have an arrangement where I drive to the shops then read or listen to a book while he goes in and gets the groceries. I listened to a ten or fifteen-minute diatribe about LARPing (Live Action Role Playing) during one of these shopping trips. There were similar ones about crytography, security systems, gaming, San Francisco geography and other things that I can’t remember right now because I started zoning out. These took me completely out of the story and screwed with the pacing; they killed all momentum the story was building.

As I said above, there were aspects of this book that rang really true in today’s society where we are all supposedly in danger of terrorist attacks. The panic, the additional “security” measures, the blind acceptance of government control by so many members of the public… while the exact technologies described in the book might be a little way off (or they might not; I get the impression they all exist in some form or another already), the methods of using them was incredibly realistic.

While it certainly wasn’t a five-star read for me due to the reasons above, I definitely recommend this book for everyone. It is a good eye-opener in a lot of ways.

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3 thoughts on ““Freedom is something you have to take for yourself.” // Review of “Little Brother” by Cory Doctorow

  1. orangerful says:

    Agreed. I read this book when it first came out and felt the same way. I am a little relieved that you can listen to it in 2016 and it doesn’t feel totally dated. It’s a great one to get into the hands of geeky teens.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Emily Witt says:

      There were parts of it that read exactly like comment threads I see on Facebook – it was a little unnerving! I didn’t actually realise it was eight years old until after I had listened to it, but that explained the lack of Facebook and Twitter, which was something I had wondered about.


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