I just finished one of the best books I’ve read in the last 10 years. It’s called Little Brother by Cory Doctorow.
I would’ve enjoyed the book on its face, but it’s underlying themes really struck a chord with me.
Little Brother is a scarily realistic adventure about how homeland security technology could be abused to wrongfully imprison innocent Americans. A teenage hacker-turned-hero pits himself against the government to fight for his basic freedoms. This book is action-packed with tales of courage, technology, and demonstrations of digital disobedience as the technophile’s civil protest.
We’re living in a time where our personal freedoms are being slowly squeezed away in the name of protection. Each little thing slowly builds on the one before, creeping up on you. If you set aside the fact that the folk warning of the boiled frog is a myth, the anecdote still serves a purpose when examining our country in a post-9-11 world.
The boiling frog story states that a frog can be boiled alive if the water is heated slowly enough — it is said that if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will never jump out.
The book does a great job of introducing the reader to modern technology items such as RFID, cryptography and pattern analysis. The narrator of the story takes the time to explain what they are and how they are used with very easy to understand examples – and that’s key to appreciating how these technologies can be used for either good or bad.
I’ve had a time in my life when I was a hacker. Not nearly as experienced or in depth as I could have been, but I understand the culture – another reason this book appealed to me.
But even today, I’m still interested in cryptography and ARGs. I’ve been on a LARP.
You have several options for enjoying Little Brother. Besides the traditional print copy, you might enjoy the audio version (listen to an excerpt above), or even download a version to read for free.
I can’t say enough good things about the book. I was already recommending it before I was halfway through, and now that it’s done, I wish I had more to read.
Don’t take my word for it. Read a review or two. I don’t want to make this entry much longer full of their words, but I encourage you to see the impression it has made on others, sometimes even being called a modern day 1984.
Whether it will have the same staying power 60 years from now that 1984 does, I can’t say. What I can say is that it’s an important reflection of today and where we could be tomorrow.