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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Someone's Watching You Sleep OR Homeland by Cory Doctorow

Book Review: Homeland by Cory Doctorow

Book Type: YA lit/teen fiction, technothriller

Stereotype Alert: Nada.

Cover Art: We shall conquer all of the things!!!!

Bed/Bride/Bludgeon: Um, Jolu/Masha/Carrie Johnstone

Character Score: 6 out of 10 Mr. Micawbers

What's the Story?: M1k3y is back!  But this time he's a college dropout who gets to go to Burning Man!  And also leak a bunch of awful government documents!  And be the webmaster for some guy's political campaign!  And go to protests!

X-Factor: Technology, baby!

Stereotype Alert: Not so much guys.  Unless there's some stereotypes with the technology stuff that I don't recognize since I don't know jack.

Cover Art: Quadcopters, protesters, cellphones and mannequin faces! It's kind of like the cover for Little Brother was the white iphone and Homeland is the black iphone.  No complaints here.

Bed/Bride/Bludgeon: Guys, Jolu is just so cool!  I can't get over it.  And Masha?  I have a total girl crush on that serious piece of work.  We would be together 4ever.  And Carrie Johnstone needs no explanation.  That bitch be crazy.

Character Score: While I like all of the characters in Homeland just fine, the character development is not what makes this book.  The action and super awesome hacking skills are what make this book!  

What's the Story?: In Little Brother we met Marcus Yallow, aka M1k3y, a tech-savvy teen who was randomly arrested and held prisoner in a secret facility by the Department of Homeland Security after a terrorist attack in San Francisco.  Stunned and furious, Marcus leads a tech revolution against the new security state after his release.  Fast forward two years and we join the brains behind the Xnet at the Burning Man festival in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada.

Things have not been going well for Marcus.  He dropped out of college because his student loans were through the roof, he can’t find a job and he’s living at home with his parents who have both lost their jobs.  But Marcus has made it to Burning Man.  He’s somehow managed to save enough money and borrow enough camping gear to make it to this year’s festival.  And it is AWESOME!  He and his girlfriend Ange are having a blast dancing at all hours of the night and examining the art that thousands of other people have put on display.  Out of nowhere, Marcus runs into Masha, a one woman tech army who works for DHS.  Masha meets Marcus and hands him a 4 gig USB stick.  A USB stick with tons of government documents so creepy and wrong that even loyal DHS employees couldn’t keep it to themselves.  Masha asks Marcus to keep the stick safe and if he hears that Masha goes down, he’s supposed to leak everything to the public. 

All of that is quickly put out of Marcus’s head after one of the huge art cars at the festival explodes.  Marcus manages to break his nose during all of the chaos and sees Carrie Johnstone for the first time in two years.  Who is Carrie Johnstone? Remember the certifiably crazy woman who waterboarded Marcus while he was being detained by DHS in Little Brother?  That’s Carrie Johnstone.  Burning Man comes to an end the next day and Marcus makes it back to San Francisco- with a lot of burning questions.  Marcus gets a lead on a job while at the festival and once he returns home, he finds an email from the campaign manager of Joe Noss, a man who is running for the California state senate.  And after months and months of handing out resumes, Marcus has a job.  As the webmaster for Joe Noss’s political campaign, no less. 

Meanwhile, Marcus and his friends manage to create a darknet site in order to keep tabs on the 800,000+ government files that were on Masha’s USB stick.  And of course, word gets out.  Marcus is still trying to fight the good fight to keep the government from hacking the privacy of the American public.  But as we learned in Little Brother, that fight is never easy.  I was really interested to see that there are afterwords in the back of this book: one by Jacob Appelbaum of WikiLeaks and another by Aaron Swartz of Reddit.  There is also a bibliography section that has lots of tips and resources if you are at all interested in learning about modding your own open source programs.  This book was a crazy technological thrill ride and I loved every minute of it.   Readers who liked the intense, hacker filled pages of Little Brother you will love Homeland

X-Factor: Technology!!!! My admiration for these books is comparable to my admiration for fine art: I couldn't even fathom where to begin in order to create such works of art/technology therefor I consider them all AWESOME.  While I recognize the tech terms in this book, I would never know how to go about using such things.  But the scary fact is that there is technology out there that can spy on its users without telling anyone.  Anyone can find information on you at any time.  The world can be a scary, scary place, folks.

Don't ask me why I enjoy these books about technology when I'm usually the first one to run away from a computer problem.  Guess it's just a good story.  And one with an important message so read it, people!


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