Thursday I started and finished Cory Doctorow‘s latest novel “Little Brother“. I had been meaning to read this since it came out, I had it downloaded from his site (he gives it away for free in digital form) shortly after it was released but had put off actually reading it. Ironically I had managed to score a print of the above artwork from Pablo Defendi a little over a week ago. So this helped up the ante of time before I was going ot read the novel.
If you had read Cory Doctorow in the past (my previous favorite being “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom“), you should know a little bit about him. He is big on personal rights, anti DRM, and huge on technology. This comes out massively in this novel. The idea is that the world has faced another terrorist attack and everyone is suspect, a group of teenagers start sticking it to the department of homeland security which has overstepped it’s bounds. While the ubuiquitous use of the technology in the novel is not yet a reality, from anything that he did in within in the novel, nothing was out of the realm of 2-5 years.
While I’m not going to give you a full review of the novel (cause I’m just a guy with a blog), what I am going to relate is what this has accomplished. First and foremost “Little Brother” is the first novel to to make it on the New York Times bestseller list that has also been released with a creative commons license. This means anyone can publish the book on their site and give it away, completely free and completley legal. The second thing is this novel has secured a sale to me. This week I plan on ordering 2-3 copies of “Little Brother” from Amazon.com; one to keep (and try to get signed), one to give as a gift, and one that I will use as my loaner novel. The third and final thing is that I have my mother-in-law agreed to read it (though the print version is going to be easier to navigate for her then a digital copy).
After reading the novel I had a discussion about the novel with my mother in law. Part of the problem that’s she has always had is that she never understood the legal system and governments powers that have been given in the last seven years and how they pertain to her. She’s been one of those people that state they have done nothing wrong, so the government would never peer into her life. I explained how this is wrong and how this book can show what soon would be possible. She thought using cash would keep her anonymous, I explained that with trend tracking stores like wal-mart can tell their customers apart by the items they purchase, even if they are using cash. People like my in-laws do all their shopping on one day a week, they go to the same stores in the same order in about the same times every week. Once at these stores they buy certain things every week. I explained how if the stores were plugged into a government agency that even using cash would not keep them anonymous. The stores could aggregate the data, get customer profiles, go over weeks of data and see certain flags that identify the person, and one video camera which goes through facial recognition software would put them forever into a database. She thought that this was fantasy until I started mentioning Wal-Mart’s trend analysis that they do, and how this is pretty accurate portrayal of who you are and what you are likely to buy. This allowed me to convince her to give this book a chance.
I would also recommend to watch Pablo Defendi’s site to purchase the above print when he finishes his full run.
Finally check out the ParanoidLinux Distribution inspired by the book.