Little Brother

The flu returned for another two days. So I had time to read something, and I did Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother (a hard copy via Amazon).

Quick review: I liked the overall scenery a lot, but I’m biased. San Francisco and all the relevant organizations from local newspaper publishers to EFF and the Swedish Pirate Party are familiar enough to me to be able to get in to the mood of his characters. I also liked the basic idea of figuring out what Patriot Act combined with a crazy government could mean in the extreme.

What I did not like was how unrealistic the story was, after all. One-dimensional security guys patrolling in the streets of SF and picking everyone from their homes who connect to some encrypted Xbox network. Teenagers running the whole show. Give me a break. It was all too present-day stuff, like a year or two from now. Also, while I’m definitely not an expert in writing good prose I’ve read much better flowing stuff than this. For some reason this book felt like not completely polished, a bit like a long blog post (occasional edit typos, sudden story-stopping wikipedia-level briefings on tech terms). I can pretty much side with those who have noted Doctorow is just reusing his blogs and personal preaching.

It’s always good to read topical books like this. However, maybe because of all these issues in the “implementation”, the main point of the book, that we should watch the watchers, did not sink in that effectively. Actually I’d say Doctorow’s first novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom was more enjoyable to read and will probably be his best novel ever. And in my opinion, his best work with a message is Content. It’s not a novel but a collection of columns and opt-eds.