Tag Archives: Cory Doctorow

Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town

Author: Cory Doctorow

SCtTSLT seems like an experimental piece by a young author. It is his third published book, and, to my mind, is very clearly an attempt to write a fantasy novel with no borrowed mythology, or perhaps the result of losing a bet. No orcs here, nor wizards. Instead, you get the tale a curious family. The patriarch is a mountain, and the mother is a washing machine (See what I mean?). The children, sons alls, are peculiar – one is normal (ish), one can see the future, one is dead, one is an island, and the last three constitute a set of living Russian dolls. The problem is that the dead one is pissed about being dead, and the normal one isn’t that good at being normal.

This could make for a good story. Indeed, if you cut out a third of the book, it would be a good story.

But then there’s that third.

Cory is obsessed with technology. No problem, I like it too, and this was how I came across Cory to begin with, via Boing Boing. But the other third of the book is a useless subplot about trying to bring democratic wireless internet to the downtown Toronto. Seriously – there are talks with telecoms, with shop keepers, with city officials. We get to see him lecture over and over to a variety of individuals about how great this would be for the town (Cory, there are some times you should tell instead of showing). The net result? We understand why he feels connected to this one guy, and we get a throw-away plot device near the climax. This in return for hours of your life.

While we’re at it, the story is told in parallel between three different timelines. Two are okay – flashbacks to the protagonist as a child and then current day. But there’s another one, to make two “current days” – now, and a few months ago. These are not well resolved, and in one irritating case something extremely important happens, and the narrative switches to now-now, several months later, with the protagonist deeply involved in setting up wireless hot-spots and utterly ignoring the Important Thing.

So, I’ve said “the protagonist” a lot. That’s because he doesn’t have a unique name. He responds to any name beginning with A, and his brothers are B – G. This actually was kind of cool for a while.

Anyway, I hope Cory learned a lot while writing this. I hope even more that the publisher learned about publishing something like this. That is – don’t.

BTW, as with most of Cory’s stuff, it is also released for free under Creative Commons.


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.