I picked up 'Little Brother' on the back of one or two interesting reviews, and it's fair to say it didn't disappoint. Both exciting and provocative, I expect it to become one of the most talked about novels of 2008.
With a title like 'Little Brother', Cory Doctorow's novel is bound to draw comparison with 1984, although the two are only superficially similar. To me choice of title feels as though it was made in the hope of catching some reflected glory from Orwell's masterpiece, which is shame; though not destined for 1984's greatness amongst the literary canon, I think 'Little Brother' may, in future, be seen as a seminal piece of counter-cultural fiction.
But what do I know? I'm over 25, which Doctorow goes some to lengths to point out, means that it's best not to listen to me. Little Brother, is very much a novel for the young and although I enjoyed it, I'm sure I missed some of the nuances of an IT savvy lifestyle and the general state of oppression that most teenagers (feel they) live under. I found 'Little Brother' very reminiscent of Scott Westerfeld's novels, which I have also enjoyed and at the end of the novel, Doctorow acknowledges Westerfeld's influence.
Little Brother breaks down into two major themes; the use of technology and the abuse of power. The sections that detail using an Xbox to create an underground internet and outline the various cryptographic measures taken by the characters, reek of authenticty and form a solid framework upon which the novel is built. For me though, the strength of the novel lies in its assessment of the abuse of our basic human rights through anti-terror legislation.
The near-future, pictured by Doctorow is entirely plausible and therefore all the more
terrifying. His arguments are a little one-sided; not all anti-terror measures are about controlling the population (but perhaps I think that because I'm over 25) and certain sections of the novel feel contrived; shoe-horned in to allow the author to make a certain political point. The teenage whinging of the protagonist is also sometimes a little hard to bear and occasionally gives the book a somewhat juvenile tone (again this may be an age thing).
Nevertheless, 'Little Brother' is an excellent and deeply affecting read. A wide ranging polemic on the abuse of power and people's contentment to let it happen, as long it doesn't affect them, or helps them feel safer at a minority's expense. Anybody who thinks identity cards are a good thing, or that you have nothing to worry about if you've done nothing wrong should read 'Little Brother'; it will open your eyes. The final pages brought a tear to my eye and left me wondering, just how much I am manipulated by the government and a reactionary media. Little Brother is the most important novel I have read in months, and I urge you to do the same.