Module 5: Fantasy and Science Fiction/SLIS 5420
Doctorow, Cory. (2008). Little Brother. New York: Tom Doherty Associates.
Another impressive read from my summer list, Doctorow’s insightful yet entertaining book is social commentary at its finest. Marcus is a brilliant teenaged hacker who lives to outsmart the schools’ Orwellian security measures to play LRPs (Live Role Playing Games) with his other techno-savvy friends. On a day like any other, Marcus meets up with his friends to play a LRP when there is suddenly a terrorist attack on San Francisco. Marcus and his friends don’t know what’s happened, and there is confusion everywhere. Soon they are grabbed by unknown forces (they initially think they are terrorists) who turn out to be none other than Homeland Security. Marcus and his friends end up at “Gitmo by the Bay” – a holding place where they are interrogated and accused of terrorism. When Marcus is finally released, things have changed drastically. Marcus and his friends must somehow fight the new power of the oppresive and fanatical forces trying to take away their civil rights and intellectual freedom. Marcus soon emerges as a reluctant folk hero for the causes of freedom of information and freedom of speech. Filled with technical wizardry and thought- provoking rhetoric, this book asks young people how far they are willing to go to fight for their Constituional rights and the freedom we all take for granted in the United States. How far will you let your government encroach on your rights in order to be “safe”? What ARE your rights? How has the war on terrorism eroded those rights, and what can you do about it? Incisive, genuine, and worthy of being read and reread, Little Brother is now on my all-time favorite booklist.
“The encroachment on individual rights by national security is a primary theme of George Orwell’s 1984, and, as his title suggests, Doctorow pays homage to that classic with an impassioned, polemical consideration of the War on Terror that dovetails with themes of teenage angst, rebellion, and paranoia. After a major present-day terrorist attack, Marcus Yallow, a.k.a. “w1n5t0n” (as in Winston), is arrested and interrogated by the Department of Homeland Security. Marcus is released, and before he is rearrested and ultimately tortured, he applies his formidable technological savvy to thwarting further efforts to restrict personal liberty, drawing him into a suspenseful cat-and-mouse game with the government, a game that is complicated by issues of friendship, romance, trust, loyalty, and betrayal. The San Francisco Bay Area is an inspired choice of setting, with its history of technological innovation and free-thinking counterculture. While the interesting digressions into history, politics, social commentary, and technology occasionally halt the novel’s pacing, Little Brother should easily find favor with fans of M. T. Anderson’s Feed, Janet Tashjian’s The Gospel According to Larry, and Scott Westerfeld’s So Yesterday.”
Horn Book. (2008, July/August). Review of Little Brother. Retrieved from http://www.titlewave.com
This book could raise some eyebrows among parents… This fast paced science fiction thriller could be used for a successful booktalk about science fiction and how it can become relevant to new readers of sci fi, as well as for a discussion about social consciousness, the government, the war on terrorism, civil rights, freedom of thought and speech, and freedom of information. It would be great to use this book with a group of technically savvy teens who can try to figure out how to accomplish what Marcus and his friends do technically in the book. The book presents many opportunities for book talks or activities planned around the themes of the novel. A great tool for teaching the Declaration of Independence.
Booklist starred 4/1/08
Horn Book starred 7/1/08
Publishers Weekly starred 4/14/08
School Library Journal starred 5/1/08