Some corner of your life that’s yours
August 26, 2008 3 Comments
Teenagers don’t talk and act like they do in Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, but who cares? Veronica Mars-teens make more interesting characters. And everything here apart from that is either real or plausible. The technology is real. Little Brother is the best beginner’s introduction you’ll find to privacy and surveillance. And if you wonder why privacy should matter to you, it explains that too. The politics are thriller-plausible, reality exaggerated for story purposes. So maybe the Department of Homeland Security wouldn’t turn San Francisco into a police state because of a second 9/11, but there’s still an important message here about the friction between being free and feeling safe, about the merely symbolic value of many anti-terror measures, and about the two faces of information technology: One takes our freedoms away, the other gives them back. The main character’s aliases hint at Doctorow’s twin inspirations: W1n5t0n, from Orwell’s 1984, and M1k3y, from Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Little Brother is very similar to The Moon.., with the same mood and the same educational purpose. Doctorow’s message of hope, that a bunch of teenagers can use technology to defend their civil rights from authoritarian grownups, is actually depressing when you think about it. Doctorow implies that in tomorrow’s world you’ll need to be a tech geek to have any privacy. That’s not the argument he wants to make, but it’s not far from the truth: Our governments are sleeping surveillance giants. Everybody be very, very quiet now.