Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Doctorow's Little Brother

If you haven't read Cory Doctorow's novel, Little Brother, you should. It's fast-paced, entertaining --- as in, gauged for those with mild to serious attention deficit disorder --- and it tries to address at least one serious topic: the right to privacy in the United States. As far as a good read over against a good watch, it reminds me of an episode --- perhaps several episodes --- of the television series 24 with Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland). It has that verve, that sense of impending disaster, and that sense of this is right and that is wrong.

On the other hand, it doesn't seem to have much gray matter (double entendre intended), including the necessity to negotiate or compromise very much of anything or to see issues along continuums. Of course, to do so would slow things down and make them more cumbersome to read. You would really have to think then, to sort things out as you read along. As it stands, you have to do that after you complete the book, which is okay, but....

The book seems... immature, like both its protagonist, Marcus Yallow, a seventeen-year-old who wants to be a man, but he is never more than halfway there, and its antagonist, the Division of Homeland Security, which Doctorow has acting like a two-year-old most of the time. The setting is the California Bay Area --- mostly San Francisco and the East Bay. The time period is contemporary and into the immediate future, in the aftermath of 9/11 and after President George W. Bush and his cohorts, especially Dick Cheney, have established fear as an element of public policy through Congress's enactment of the Patriot Act. Marcus is a nerd of the first class order, living out his dream as the hero in gaming communities and in all things digital, especially in the aftermath of a terrorist attack, the kind that pisses himself in a crisis and chooses a girlfriend for sex rather than good judgment and brains. A lot like some teenagers, but not all.

Did I enjoy the read? I did. Will I read more Doctorow? Probably. What would I hope for in something new? A little more depth, a little more exploration, a little more analysis of the complexities of issues rather than some icky black and white nonsense. On the other hand, that might slow things and make for a less intense experience. Oh well. Like Umberto Echo says, the only truth lies in learning to free ourselves from insane passion for the truth.

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