Sunday, August 10, 2008

Book Review: Cory Doctorow's Little Brother

I actually finished this one awhile back, before I went to Europe, but other stuff made me forget to review it. There were lots of reasons for me to pick it up: many reviews, including several articles about how relevant and important this book is in today's world.

Plot: Marcus and his friends happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time with a terrorist group attacks San Francisco. But the terrorists don't end up as Marcus's's Homeland Security that's taking away all their rights, and Marcus organizes his friends to fight back, hacker-style (jeez, that sounds stupid when I say it like that).

Writer's Review: So what can we, as writers, learn from Little Brother?

1. Smart writing: Doctorow peppers his book with real facts about technology and hacking--even the husband, with all his l33t love, said it was pretty accurate. Doctorow, in short, not only doesn't dumb down the technology of his world, he explains it.

Not only that, but he doesn't hit you over the head with the message. Some reviews disagree with me. But, given that Doctorow is basically making a parallel between terrorism and anti-terrorism, I think the message, while certainly there, is still subtle enough to require thinking to see it.

2. Relevance: Some books are just perfect for right-here, right-now. This one is. In the face of an anti-terrorism America, after 9/11 and with all the hype surrounding it, this book is perfectly relevant to the world today. Does it go a bit over the top? Yes. Does it portray the "bad guys" in a completely flat, 2-dimensional way? Yes. But that makes it authentic. To most of us, terrorism is a faceless, 2-dimensional evil. Sure, Marcus's enemy is the USA Homeland Security...but the faceless-ness and 2-dimensionalism still exists for it, as well.

3. Distribution: Technically, this has nothing to do with the book itself. But...Cory Doctorow gives his book away for free. I find that fascinating, in part because it works. I read the free online version, liked it, and bought a copy for the husband as a gift. His logic is, if you like it, you'll buy it--and that an author's worst enemy isn't theft, but being unknown. I'd love to find an article out there about this topic from an agent/editor view point. Obviously, this is something the music and movie industry is going through as well, but it's so cool for me to see it in the book world, too.


Tabitha said...

I've *just* picked this up from my library, so I'll come back to read your review after I'm done. :)

PJ Hoover said...

You know if you have Scott Westerfeld and Neil Gaimen blurbing you on the front of your book, and if you have such an awesome cover (I love this cover), you can almost bank on the free thing. I'd be tempted to download, but I really want this one for my bookshelf also! It's just so cool looking.
Thanks for the great review!

keri mikulski :) said...

Great review. Wow, interesting that he gives his book away for free.. :) I'm going right now to check out the cover.

beth said...

Tabitha--You won't be disappointed. He *does* get a bit heavy-handed, but as long as you take it as fiction, it's cool.

PJ--I agree with you, too, about the blurbs!! With blurbs like

Keri--It's worth a look. I am fascinated by the give-away aspect of the book. It's something that I've thought worked for years with all that "illegal downloading" of music and movies--I actually bought MORE music and movies when I could try it out by dl first. And it's worked for the book...and made me give him some more free pub...and maybe more potential buyers...