Little Brother (Doctorow novel)
|Subject||terrorism, cryptography, computer hackers, Department of Homeland Security, libertarianism, privacy (privacy in education), police state, dystopian young adult fiction|
|Genre||Fiction / Cyberpunk|
|Published||April 29, 2008 (Tor Teen)|
|LC Class||PZ7.D66237 Lit 2008|
Little Brother is a novel by Cory Doctorow, published by Tor Books. It was released on April 29, 2008. The novel is about four teenagers in San Francisco who, in the aftermath of a terrorist attack on the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge and BART system, defend themselves against the Department of Homeland Security's attacks on the Bill of Rights. The novel is available for free on the author's website under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA), keeping it accessible and remixable to all.
The book debuted at No. 9 on The New York Times Best Seller list, children's chapter book section, in May 2008. As of July 2, it had spent a total of six weeks on the list, rising to the No. 8 spot. Little Brother won the 2009 White Pine Award, the 2009 Prometheus Award. and the 2009 John W. Campbell Memorial Award. It also was a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Novel. Little Brother received the Sunburst Award in the young adult category.
The New York Times says, "'Little Brother' isn't shy about its intent to disseminate subversive ideas to a young audience." The novel comes with two afterword essays by cryptographer and computer security specialist Bruce Schneier, and hacker Andrew "bunnie" Huang, and has a bibliography of techno-countercultural writings, from Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" to Schneier’s "Applied Cryptography".
- Marcus Yallow – Main protagonist, a 17-year-old high school student who enjoys understanding technology and building his own custom devices. He is the leader of his foursome of friends.
- Darryl Glover – Marcus' best friend who attends the same high school as Marcus and is Marcus' second-in-command and the "details man" of the group. He has had a crush on Van for years.
- Vanessa Pak (Van) – 17-year-old North Korean girl who attends a nearby all-girls Catholic school, she is the "ideas" person of the group. She has had a thing for Marcus for a long time, but doesn't admit it until the end of the book. Her parents managed to escape from North Korea.
- Jose Luis Torrez (Jolu) – A brilliant high school student at a nearby Catholic school, he is the technical member of the group. Even though everyone in the group is technically competent, he is the most technology-oriented, doing his own programming, and working for a local ISP. He is somewhat vain and seems to work at being cool.
- Drew Yallow – Marcus' father who has a stormy relationship with Marcus through most of the book. He was so scared by the thought of Marcus having died during the bombing, because Marcus was missing for three days, that he supports the tactics DHS employs. This leads to many arguments with Marcus despite his former mindset that was similar to Marcus'.
- Lillian Yallow – Marcus' mother, British expatriate, who helps newly immigrated Britons integrate into American life. She and Marcus have a strong bond and seem to think alike. She is a strong woman and helps mediate Marcus' fights with his father.
- Charles Walker – Also a student at the same high school as Marcus and Darryl, he is the antithesis of Marcus. He is a bully, a brown noser and a snitch. He and Marcus have a long-standing feud and detest each other.
- Carrie Johnstone (Severe Haircut Lady) – Main antagonist and in charge of the DHS that is monitoring San Francisco. She is a cold sadistic woman to whom the ends always justify the means and enjoys abusing her power. She is also based on Theresa May according to the author.
- Angela Carvelli (Ange) – She attends the same high school as Van and develops into Marcus' love interest, when she first meets him at a party. She is an active member of the Xnet and is very strong-willed, independent, and sexual. She's known to use pepper spray as a condiment.
- Ms. Galvez – A social studies teacher at Cesar Chavez High School, she is seen as a dedicated teacher and an independent thinker. She seems to be the only teacher that Marcus respects at his school. She tends to agree with Marcus on topics of security and Marcus helps her with contacting her brother, who's an overseas soldier, via internet.
- Barbara Stratford – Investigative reporter for the Bay Guardian, who helps Marcus expose what the DHS has been doing.
- Masha – A DHS operative who attempts to help Marcus escape the city. Marcus meets her briefly in the beginning of the novel when she threatens to expose him for skipping school while ARGing. He also meets up with Masha in the end in the midst of their escape, he finds a photo of his friend Darryl and his position on running away is changed. Therefore he escapes from Masha after beating her up and smashing her fingers in a truck.
- Zeb – A former detainee of DHS's "Gitmo-by-the-Bay", he manages to escape and attempts to disappear after contacting Marcus about Darryl and the current status of the prison.
Marcus Yallow is a 17-year-old hacker/techno whiz from San Francisco. One day at his high school named after Cesar Chavez, Marcus is accused of hacking into the school by vice principal Frederick Benson. Marcus and Benson do not get along and Marcus believes that Benson is perpetually trying to get rid of him. Marcus is let go due to a lack of evidence and he returns to class.
Later that day, Marcus and his best friend Darryl escape school to play a massive mixed reality role game that partially involves a scavenger hunt around town. They meet up with fellow group members and game players Vanessa and Jolu. While searching for a part for the game, a series of explosions go off in the city. This sets off sirens and alarms which sends everybody running for the shelters. The group initially tries to go to the shelter but then they decide to leave. While leaving, Darryl is stabbed in the crowd. They finally escape the crowd and flag down a vehicle because Darryl needs immediate medical attention. Three men get out of the vehicle and put bags over each group members' head and then shove them into the vehicle.
Marcus and his friends arrive at an unknown location and are put into a trailer where they are separated and are amongst many other people. They find out that they are being held by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to be interrogated for suspicions of being connected to the terrorist attack. After a series of interrogations that take place over a period of six days, Marcus, Jolu, and Vanessa are finally released. Darryl's whereabouts are unknown. The DHS tells Marcus that they will be monitoring his actions and moves because he is still a suspect. Marcus is "infuriated at how his civil rights [are] ignored."
Marcus revolts by setting up technological attacks on the DHS in order "to [thwart] further efforts to restrict personal liberty". Marcus also sets up a network primarily composed of teenage members using a game console so they can communicate freely while fighting "the surveillance state." This causes a war between the rebelling youth and the Department of Homeland Security.
When a former prisoner who was held by the DHS tells Marcus that Darryl is still alive, Marcus tells a reporter and his family about his actions taken against the DHS. The report from the reporter is then published and the DHS takes Marcus into custody again. During a waterboarding interrogation, highway patrol troopers raid the DHS compound because of an order from the governor and arrest the DHS agents. Darryl is subsequently freed and Marcus returns to his life the way it was before the terrorist attacks.
Little Brother has major themes that, according to some, are too serious for a young adult novel. In an interview, the Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy asked Doctorow about his "potentially heavy themes, including paranoia, loyalty, sex, torture, [and] fear" and when his editing staff asked to censor the themes, he replied, "Oh, no."
According to journalist April Spisak's article on "What Makes a Good Young Adult Dystopian Novel?" Spisak claims, "Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother probably represents the purest example on the list—modern technology meets classic dystopic elements—even while the book itself is part instructional guide, part love story, and part rant at the increasingly dictatorial powers-that-be that consider safety at any cost a reasonable exchange. Small personal victories for the protagonist and his friends are present, but the power of Big Brother is hardly tempered by their work, and the folks who tangled with the government are all permanently scarred by the encounter."
The book has also been characterized as "[expressing] astonishment, fear, uncertainty, shame, and guilt" and addressing "issues of political authority, social order, individual freedom and electronic security."
Cindy Dobrez in her review for Booklist said that "Doctorow’s novel blurs the lines between current and potential technologies, and readers will delight in the details of how Marcus attempts to stage a techno-revolution. Obvious parallels to Orwellian warnings and post-9/11 policies, such as the Patriot Act, will provide opportunity for classroom discussion and raise questions about our enthusiasm for technology, who monitors our school library collections, and how we contribute to our own lack of privacy." Kirkus Reviews described it as an "unapologetically didactic tribute to 1984", and called it a "Terrifying glimpse of the future—or the present." Publishers Weekly said that it was "filled with sharp dialogue and detailed descriptions of how to counteract gait-recognition cameras, RFID's (radio frequency ID tags), wireless Internet tracers and other surveillance devices, this work makes its admittedly didactic point within a tautly crafted fictional framework." Institute of Public Affairs says that "Doctorow, like many freedom-fighting writers before him likes his women smart and strong. Male or female, freedom-loving writers tend to like writing strong female characters, often protagonists."
In 2014, a high school principal in Pensacola, Florida, Michael Roberts, pulled Little Brother from his school's summer reading list because the book is "about questioning authority" and portrays questioning authority "as a positive thing." Roberts also described Cory Doctorow, a Canadian author living in England, as "an outsider to the George W. Bush administration."
In response, Doctorow had his publisher send a free copy of the book directly to every 9th and 10th grade student at the school.
In early 2012, it was announced that the novel Little Brother written by Cory Doctorow will be made into a play directed by Josh Costello called Little Brother. The play was augmented with animated video projections, an original score by Chris Houston and original choreography by Daunielle Rasmussen.
Charlie Jane Anders of io9 praised the Little Brother play: "I was lucky enough to catch a preview performance of the Custom Made Theatre Co.'s new stage adaptation of Cory Doctorow's award-winning novel Little Brother the other day—and it was a total marvel. Somehow, writer/director Josh Costello managed to condense the novel down to a two-hour play, without losing any of the impact. If anything, the staged version hits a bit harder than the book, because of the intense, but not overstated, performances."
According to TheatreStorm, "Costello has wisely tightened Doctorow’s book to three main characters. On a nearly empty stage, Costello utilizes video and sound effects superbly, creating multiple San Francisco locations, mass demonstrations, press conferences, online experiences and coaching his actors to create multiple characterizations as necessary. This is the best kind of political theatre. Thought provoking, suspenseful, emotionally real, uncomfortably close to the hard truth."
The novel has also been the subject of a possible movie. The production company AngryFilms has optioned Little Brother "with the aim of translating it to the big screen."
Although this was never officially confirmed by Ubisoft representatives, their video game Watch Dogs 2 has many striking resemblances to Little Brother and may have been inspired by it. The protagonist of both video game and the book is named Marcus (in game, his surname has been alerted to Holloway), he is the young hacker and a leader of the hacker cell of 4 friends that operates in San Francisco. He originally comes from Oakland, and in the beginning of both the game and the book he is wrongly accused of a crime he never committed. It is possible that parts of the game scenario have been created as a tribute to the book.
Each chapter of the e-book edition of Little Brother is dedicated to a different bookstore: Bakka-Phoenix (a Toronto sci-fi/fantasy bookstore where Doctorow used to be employed), Amazon.com, Borderlands Books, Barnes & Noble, Secret Headquarters, Powell's City of Books, Books of Wonder, Borders, Compass Books/Books Inc., Anderson's Bookshops, University Book Store at the University of Washington, Forbidden Planet, Books-A-Million, Mysterious Galaxy, Chapters/Indigo Books, Booksmith, Waterstone's, Sophia Books, MIT Press Bookshop, The Tattered Cover, Pages Books, and Hudson Booksellers.
In reference to Little Brother, Cory Doctorow has stated that "the enemy is obscurity, not piracy." His book Little Brother is available on his website for free, which is provided in a variety of formats.
On June 20, 2012, Doctorow posted the cover art of the sequel to Little Brother, titled Homeland and had also posted that a manuscript was turned into Tor Books. An excerpt was posted for viewing on the publisher's website on July 19, 2012, featuring the opening part of the story taking place at the Burning Man festival. Homeland was released, in hardback, on February 5, 2013.
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- Kit, Borys (23 March 2010). "Making George Orwell proud: Angryfilms options Doctorow's tale of social activism 'Little Brother'". Hollywood Reporter. Student Edition. pp. 5–6. Retrieved 9 March 2011.
- What Makes a Good YA Dystopian Novel? - The Horn Book
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- Chipman, Ian (15 May 2009). "Core Collection: dystopian fiction for youth". Booklist. 18. 105: 50. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
- Dobrez, Cindy (1 April 2008). "Little Brother". Booklist. 15. 104: 48. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
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- Space ships and sound money | Institute of Public Affairs Australia
- Secola, Jamie. "Principal: 'Little Brother' questions authority". The Pensacola News Journal. Pensacola News Journal. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
- Doctorow, Cory. "Why I'm sending 200 copies of Little Brother to a high-school in Pensacola, FL". boingboing/Cory Doctorow. boingboing. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
- Marin Independent says Little Brother is “required watching!”, The Custom Made Theatre Co.
- Cory Doctorow's Little Brother becomes a must-see stage play
- Custommade premiers exciting political drama, ‘Little Brother’ | TheatreStorm
- Kit, Borys. "Angryfilms options 'Little Brother' novel". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 27 June 2015.
- "Little Brother optioned by Paramount". Cory Doctorow's craphound.com. Retrieved 2016-03-21.
- "How much inspiration did Ubisoft take from the book Little Brother". Ubisoft Forums. Retrieved 2018-08-25.
- Bethune, Brian (5 May 2008). "Scourge of the corporate pirates: the artist's enemy is obscurity, not piracy, says novelist and Web activist Cory Doctorow". Maclean's. 17. 121: 57. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
- "Download Little Brother For Free | Cory Doctorow's". Craphound.com. Retrieved 2018-09-23.
- Little Brother >> Blog Archive » Cover for Homeland, the sequel to Little Brother
- Homeland (Excerpt) by Cory Doctorow | Tor.com
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Little Brother illustrations.|
- Official Book Page on Cory Doctorow's website
- A Little Brother related article by Cory Doctorow: Security Literacy: teaching kids to think critically about security
- eMusic Q&A: Cory Doctorow about Little Brother
- Audio review and discussion of Little Brother at The Science Fiction Book Review Podcast
- Little Brother cover art gallery at Upcoming4.me
- Analysis of Little Brother on Lit React
- Little Brother free download provided by Cory Doctorow
- Little Brother at Project Gutenberg