Marilee J. Layman (mjlayman) wrote,
Marilee J. Layman
mjlayman

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Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

The other pieces I've read by Cory have been full of good tech ideas but a little short on story and plot. This one has story and plot.

It's a YA about what happens to San Francisco after terrorists blow up the Bay Bridge. DHS descends and secretly incarcerates all the people they find on the street (and probably more) on Treasure Island*. Our 17-year-old protagonist, Marcus, tells the story in first person and when he manages to get out, he starts fighting back. An Xbox network, cloning RFIDs, giving counsel in a blog. His life becomes more and more dangerous and he draws a new girlfriend into it.

The story is pretty good, but my two big problems with it are the language (it's a lot like I write here and I know I don't write well anymore) and the constant infodumps on the technology. I'm 53, I know all this tech, shouldn't teens?

He says there are suicide fences on the Golden Gate Bridge and there aren't. A year ago tomorrow, the 17-year-old son of a friend jumped off. They're going back tomorrow for a brief memorial. In fact, many San Franciscans are against suicide prevention because it will make the bridge look less pretty and cost a lot. They also say that those people will kill themselves anyway, so why not the bridge? The last is definitely not true, this WashPost article includes references to the study. The book is set in the near future, and I suppose they could have them up by then, but it seems unlikely.

He also says that computers are good because they do exactly what you tell them to do. From a tester's standpoint, that is not always a good thing. I've seen a lot of programmers tell them to do things that weren't intended.

This is the best of Cory's work I've read, but it feels like an adult telling a teen story; it should feel more like a teen telling the story. Almost everybody else who's read it has loved it, so you should probably go by their enthusiasm.

*We were at Treasure Island for six weeks in 1961 because my smallpox vaccination wouldn't take. They tried over and over and finally sent us to Guam anyway. We had planned to be there six days and it was definitely an adventure in improvisation.
Tags: books
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