Guest post by Adam.
And so begins my final guest post of Summer of Sci-Fi. It’s been quite the good time for me. Taryn however seems to be buckling under the strain. How do I know this? Well, I used my keen intellect and massive powers of observation to glean it from tiny clues in her behavior. Plus, when I got home earlier this week she announced in a tiny sad voice, “I don’t want to read Sci-Fi.” Too much of a good thing? Perhaps.
Set in the very near future, Little Brother follows the exploits of Marcus, a 17-year-old high school techie. While playing an ARG (alternative reality game), Marcus and his best friends are caught in the midst of a terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the aftermath, they are detained by the Department of Homeland Security who then proceeds to jail and interrogate them. When Marcus and most of his friends are finally released, they find themselves in a changed city. DHS has set up shop in San Francisco and is randomly stopping, detaining, questioning, and generally harassing anyone who at all strikes them as a questionable individual. Marcus ultimately decides he must fight back and takes it to the man.
I found a lot to relate with in the character of Marcus. Apparently, my dad told me one too many times that you don’t have freedoms unless you exercise them. So while I don’t have anything criminal to hide, you can bet your ass that no one will be searching anything of mine without a warrant. Not since 1984 has a book gotten me this fired up about defending our freedoms.
Additionally, I think Doctorow may have written one of the best non-technical explanations for how crypto works that I’ve ever read. This is something I’ve struggled with for quite some time. My answers are generally less helpful:
“How does crypto work?”
“Well, you see, when you take two very large prime numbers and multiply them together and then…Math. Math is how crypto works. Don’t ask any more questions.”
Ok, so now for the bad part. One item in particular was horribly depressing. Doctorow took the opportunity in several spots in the book to educate the reader on historical countercultural movements. In the book, the Xnetters took the old “don’t trust anyone over 30” and changed it to “don’t trust anyone over 25.” The depressing part for me was realizing that not only does the latter comment apply to me, but the former as well. Getting old sucks…
So if you can handle feeling old and decrepit, I highly recommend this book. Fight the power. And go donate to EFF (https://www.eff.org/).
To see the complete list of my bonus books for the Challenge, click here.