Monthly Archives: August 2008

World Made By Hand


Author: James Howard Kunstler

A near-future genre-bending story of a fairly optimistic post-apocalyptic world. Oil has run dry, war has distracted the government, electricity and transportation are severely disrupted. All the worse, a virulent flu has devastated the population, particularly culling the very young.

Suburbia is dead, and the world returns to local community structures where power is divided between those who can get things done, and those who can have things done to others. In this world Robert Earle must contend with a mysterious new cult and the lawless interruption of the well-being of his town.

It’s a well written story, with solidly intriguing characters and a fairly tight plot. The “genre-bending” element jumps in abruptly two-thirds of the way through, though- this will disrupt the less dedicated readers. Keep it up, though – there’s plenty to enjoy.

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Little Brother

Author: Cory Doctorow

While this is technically a Young Adult novel, I think I can confidently recommend it to an older audience as well. Not too old, mind.

This is the tale of the aftermath of a terrorist attack in San Francisco, of how the Department of Homeland Security came in and did more damage to the people of the city than the terrorists ever did. The protagonist, “I”, (actually, his name is Marcus and/or M1k3y, but of course it is written in first person, as required by the 2005 SciFi POV Disarmament Treaty with the UK…) Anyway, Marcus and pals respond by undermining the DHS and “jamming” their procedures. And by covertly recording DHS excesses (hence the term Little Brother). And by, er, occasionally by kind of being terrorists, just not the kind that actually cause death. Directly.

The book at times virtually becomes a manual for hacking and subversive activities. I would have killed with my bare hands and/or teeth to get this book when I was 14. The afterword points to more primary sources, too.

Let me pull no punches: This is propaganda. The opposing viewpoint – that security can and should be achieved by sacrificing personal freedoms – is made only poorly and by despicable or pitiable individuals. But it is propaganda that I agree with, mostly, and who loves a sermon better than the choir?

Little Brother does not patronize its target audience. Indeed, some parents may be uncomfortable with the alcohol, drugs, and sex mentioned in the text. And, you know, the overthrowing the government thing. But, aside from the last one, these are presented in a calm, straightforward, non-sensationalized way. That is, alcohol shows up, but it’s never the point.

Why do I keep putting this book down? I don’t know. I liked it (except when the protagonist temporarily becomes a tool), but it makes me a little uncomfortable. Maybe I’m getting old.

Now get off my lawn.

P.S. Like much of Doctorow’s work, LB can be found for free via Creative Commons licensing.