Cory Doctorow certainly doesn't need my help to promote his new novel Little Brother, but I'm thoroughly impressed with Doctorow's tale of a teen fighting the government following a 9/11-style attack on U.S. soil. Marcus is a reasonably happy, tech-savvy, high school senior out with his friends one fine San Francisco day when terrorists blow up the Bay Bridge. In the chaos following the attacks, Marcus and his friends are swept up by the Department of Homeland Security and interrogated as to their possible involvement in the attacks.
Marcus and two of his friends are released, but their injured friend Darryl appears to have vanished. Motivated by a desire to find out what happens to Darryl and resentment at what he sees as the government's attempt to scare citizens into surrendering constitutional protections, Marcus becomes the informal leader of a gang of young people dedicated to non-violent disruption of the government efforts. I'm in no position to discuss the accuracy or future feasibility of the methods Marcus uses, which involve hacked Xboxes and interfering with the government's ability to ID people using barcodes. Rather than admiring the technospeak, I'll instead express my pleasure at what a fully rounded and dignified character Doctorow has created in Marcus.
Marcus isn't some lite version of a character from the Matrix trilogy; Little Brother is set in the not-too-distant future and all of the book's teen characters are hauntingly real. Marcus is always mindful of the power that has fallen into his hands as "m1k3y," the creator of the online community that uses Xboxes to evade government surveillance. Every choice Marcus makes could affect hundreds of others, including his friends and family, and Doctorow never lets Marcus forget the moral dimensions of what Marcus and his allies are doing. Little Brother is officially a "young adult" novel which does include a sex scene and some civil disobedience, but the deep patriotism and independent spirit of the book far outweigh anything that alarmists could find offensive.