Required Reading

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Books I have authored.

Many times I receive books for FREE to give them an honest review. I do not get paid to give a good or bad review. Spotlights are promotional and should be regarded as advertising for the book spotlighted. Regardless of where or how I got a book, my review will be as honest as I can make it.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Little Brother is a play on George Orwell’s Big Brother in “1984”. This may be the most frightening book I have read in decades. It is a near future United States where a paranoid security apparatus under the control of a political party “king maker” runs amuck. A valid terrorist act provides the opening for the universal implementation of draconian security measures by the “legitimate” government. The story is portrayed through the eyes and experience of a young hacker.

I have seldom been made more uncomfortable by a book. Most of the fiction I read has serious probability issues. Considering the recent history of our nation, there was a sense of probability in this book that provoked near despair. One issue I see with the book is that those who most need to read it and ponder it’s message are those least likely to read it. Technuts such as my self have a propensity to be fascinated by gear head protagonists. Technologists are often more open minded about social issues as well. There are in every society people who fear so greatly that they will gladly suffer abridgements of their constitutional rights to feel more secure. Doctrow clearly illustrates the fallacy in this belief through the experiences and mind changes of Marcus’s father when faced with enforcement actions he supported when they were applied to others. I found the book entirely too believable and the strength of character of the teenagers enormously admirable. Growing up in a time period where slogans ranged from “Better dead than red”, to “hell no we won’t go”, provides a perspective that finds Doctorow’s books premise a reasonable extension of an increasingly paranoid society.

The recent ironic brouhaha regarding Amazon’s exercise of DRM (Digital Rights Management) by deleting George Orwell books from Kindles is illustrative of a voluntary relinquishing of rights by consumers. Realistically most Kindle consumers didn’t realize that Amazon could access their Kindle and delete things they had purchased under the erroneously impression they actually owned it. In addition had they understood that action was possible, they certainly hadn’t anticipated a major company so flagrantly invading personal space.

It seems that there is a cyclic pandemic of lack of responsibility that invades our national psychic. We go through periods where large groups of people are not willing to accept responsibility for their own actions and not willing to accept the responsibility that maintenance of our way of life is a participatory process. Doctrow’s book clearly points out that when a majority of voters lack the responsibility to participate in the democratic process, the resulting elected officials reflect the views of a minority that may be grossly unpalatable to the lackadaisical majority.

Technology has made us feel more secure. The bank security camera that captures the image of the thief is a good thing. We transmit our financial data securely across the web daily. The Internet and social sites such as Facebook have played a part in the current Iranian governmental crisis. Doctorow uses his understanding of technology to show how this pervasive technology can be perverted to hold us hostage. He also shows how the pervasive aspect of communication technology today can encourage freedom.

Security is the linchpin of the book. Security of your data, your home, your lives and the fact that draconian security measures generally only offer a false sense of security is made clear. The abridgement of your rights may make me feel more secure, any infringement on my rights is an aberration of justice.

If you are going to read one thought provoking book this year, make it this book. It is easy to read, the characters are clearly people you know and see, and it will hopefully impact you sufficiently enough to accept your personal responsibility to defend the rules of law under which we live. This book truly illustrates the need for every citizen to accept the responsibility of maintaining their freedoms through support of the democratic process.

Cory Doctorow obviously believes in the ideas he promotes in the book. His belief is illustrated by his having the novel available on his web site as a free download. So if you don’t run out and buy this book, go download it and read it on your computer/ipod/iphone/pda.

BTW the book isn’t just thought provoking, it is also a darn good story.

I strongly recommend it.

Body of work of Cory Doctorow


Web site:


Anonymous said...

Hi Bill, don't know if you already saw this happening in the UK or not.

Unknown said...

I have to say, wow. Wow to you for composing only the best of both worlds, my style of creativity and imagination with your exquisite composition skills :)
It is really been a delightful experience to observe your work for a minute. Whether you're here just promoting your stuff or not, I still feel as thought you should most definitely mass produce this and really give the world a chance in really indulging their minds with the taste of your writings!
Brother Toner

ibpurpledragon said...

Scary stuff going on in the UK. So often reality is so much more frightening than fiction. Thanks for the comment.