I can understand why this is an important book, and I honestly think I am giving it two extra stars just for that. I don't want to become complacent in losing my liberties any more than the next girl, and I think it's great to write a story that would (I guess???) appeal to high school kids and get them to think about what freedom really means and how easy it is to get swindled by the government. However, while I am completely willing to admit my own geekiness, this book is a different kind of geeky than me, and possibly because of that it was off the charts on my geek-o-meter. I recognize that it may be my aversion to the XBox (am I capitalizing the right letters even? Xbox? XBOX? X-Box? Oh, how little I care . . .) speaking. One of the promotional blurbs on the back cover is from Neil Gaiman, saying, “It made me want to be thirteen again right now
and reading it for the first time.” I agree. If I were a thirteen year old Neil Gaiman, I think I would have enjoyed this book.
I got the feeling that Marcus Yallow, the hero of Little Brother, lives in a different world than me (and not because of the post-apocalyptic nature. That was not very far-fetched). He lives in a world where all the kiddos love D & D and anyone who doesn't is a pawn of the Man, where it really is
interesting to talk about "crypto" and "armphids" and "ARGing" and "LARPing" and whatever the hell other stuff that I still don't understand or care about. I think my brother has a couple of friends who live in that world, and they are just as foreign creatures (and just as uncomfortable to be around) to me as this book. I think I would have been happier hearing Cory Doctorow say, "Ron Paul '08!", and never hearing about how sexy he thinks math is. It's not that I'm against math or computers, and The Matrix
still has me sold on the idea of the badass hacker, but to me both math and computers are more necessary evils, or means to an end, than anything else. I'm glad other people are interested in them, but I guess I'm not fascinated by hearing about it from YA fiction.
Doctorow was very conscious of sending positive and constructive messages in this story, and he gets 10 points from me for including the condoms in the sex scene. I might take away those points for his repeated use of the phrase “horn-dog”, but I’m willing to acknowledge that as personal taste. I see so many YA authors sabotage themselves by the use of the first-person narrative, though, and Doctorow is no exception. It just seemed so unlikely to me that a 17 year old boy in San Francisco would genuinely think that it was so unquestionably cool to play fantasy games on the computer and that the only villains would disagree with him. Maybe it’s the villain in me coming out.
Now to display my own geekiness. In terms of the story itself, this book is what I imagine the movie Casablanca
would be if were told from the point of view of Victor Lazslo before Rick Blaine comes into the picture (i.e. with no sexual tension or moral complexity). Even without Humphry Bogart, I felt like the girls, who were falling over themselves for Marcus, probably could have done better. I felt, once again, the tragedy of Ilsa’s choice in the end. If nothing else, this book made me like Casablanca