by Cory Doctorow
Big Themes: Terrorism, Cyber Security, Freedom, Privacy, Government, Torture, Friendship, Love
***Grad School Text***
Summary: Marcus is a 17 year-old tech genius who gets caught in the wrong place at the wrong time during a catastrophic terrorist attack on San Francisco. Because of all the tech gear Marcus carries with him, the Department of Homeland Security suspects he had something to do with the attack. After days of interrogation and torture, Marcus swears to get revenge on the DHS…
What I Liked:
The book made you think. I haven’t read a book that made me think about big issues like this in awhile. It made me question what level of surveillance is okay for the government or another institution to do. It made me want to learn more about cyber security, programming, and cryptography. It made me wonder what liberties or conveniences I would give up if my safety were threatened. These are real issues that face us today as the internet is such an integral part of our daily life, but at the same time makes us so vulnerable. I think this is an important (but fun) book for people to read in today’s world.
The Voice: Marcus had a great personality. I really enjoyed him as a narrator. He was funny and quirky. He explained complex technology in an easy-going, conversational way, and yet revealed his doubts, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities with total honesty. I was always on the same page as him in terms of where he was going, what was important, and how he was feeling. Narration is definitely a strength of the book.
What I Didn’t Like:
Heavy Tech Language Impacted Pacing: The book was a tad heavy on technology and explanations of how the technology works. Granted the explanations are usually kept under a page and told in Marcus’ quirky way. They held my interest. But if you know my reading preferences by now, you know I like my books fast paced. I have little patience for slow plots and heavy description. So while the descriptions of how different forms of cyber security worked were well-done, I did notice how they affected the pacing. (I still finished the book in three days, so please don’t think it’s a slow read.)
Live Action Role Play: This hobby (dressing up in costume and pretending to be vampires or wizards or dudes with swords) popped up a few times in the book. It’s nerdy. Mainstream readers might be turned off by this activity that is on the fringe of Geek World. I just took it for what it was. I would hope most readers would still be open to all the big questions and issues this book brings up and not shy away because of nerdy subplots.
My Rating: Based on the book’s description, I wasn’t too excited to read it, but I’m really glad I did. I loved the big ideas this book made me think about and I loved the voice of the narrator. I’m giving it 4 big stars out of five.
Recommended For Readers 14 and up
Due to sexual content and mature themes
Sidenote: The frequent coffee drinking in the book made me CRAVE COFFEE while I was reading. And lots of yummy descriptions of food too. If you like that sort of thing ^_^