Sunday, May 04, 2008

Little Brother

Just finished reading Cory Doctorow's "Little Brother." I might have more on it later, but right now I just want to echo this: bit from Neil Gaiman

But I'd recommend Little Brother over pretty much any book I've read this year, and I'd want to get it into the hands of as many smart 13 year olds, male and female, as I can.

Because I think it'll change lives. Because some kids, maybe just a few, won't be the same after they've read it. Maybe they'll change politically, maybe technologically. Maybe it'll just be the first book they loved or that spoke to their inner geek. Maybe they'll want to argue about it and disagree with it. Maybe they'll want to open their computer and see what's in there. I don't know. It made me want to be 13 again right now and reading it for the first time, and then go out and make the world better or stranger or odder. It's a wonderful, important book, in a way that renders its flaws pretty much meaningless.
Funny thing; I thought the only weakness was that "don't trust anybody over 25" tagline, which makes sense for a YA novel. What Doctorow's book does is vital for anybody who's heavily engaged in social networking, which is pretty much everyone under 30 or so: it shows why control over your information is important. The oppression that the kids in Doctorow's books face is not only plausible, but a lot of it strikes me as inevitable, and I think a lot of people don't really see what's on the way.

There is a massive and worrisome trend of gleefully jettisoning any concern about privacy or information control of any sort within the popular culture of the past few years, especially among the young; Doctorow's book reminds us of how incredibly disastrous this sort of thing can be.

(I'd link to the book, but I'll just wait until it shows up on his website; Cory releases all his books online under a creative commons license. )

Gaiman said that "I'd want to get it into the hands of as many smart 13-year-olds as I can." I agree and disagree. I agree that it should get into as many teenagers' hands as possible, but I'd go far farther: I'd say that people should agitate to have it put on reading lists. This book should be required reading; I know that's death for the popularity of books among teens, but there are parts of it that absolutely everybody should know about. The bit about "the paradox of the false positive" alone is such a powerful correctional to people's complacency about governmental (and private-sector) surveillance that I honestly don't think kids should be able to graduate junior high without having read it.

Plus, since it's Creative Commons, it's not like it'll be especially costly if you don't want it to be.

(Oh, and Iron Man was great too.)

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