Little Brother

Stanza e-book reader I just finished reading Cory Doctorow’s book Little Brother the second time, this time on my iPhone using the plugin Stanza, an incredibly useful tool that turns your iPhone into an e-book. That’s so convenient because I have my mobile phone with me anyways and get the chance to read a few pages during the four stop ride to work, where the hardcover would be too bulky.

I mention it here because the ultimate geek literature is written by geeks, and Cory Doctorow is as geeky as one can get: he is co-editor of the blog Boing Boing, worked for the Electronic Frontier Foundation and publishes his books under a Creative Commons license, hence the availability as an e-book. Like the work of former programmers such as Iain Banks or Ken MacLeod (whose science fiction novel Learning the World inspired me in naming this blog) his books share the cultural background and mindset of readers who grew up with computer games, LARP, the free party movement, not to mention the inevitable Star Wars.

Although Little Brother is an awesome and entertaining read, there are frequent interspersians as part of the plot about encryption, hacking the Xbox, gentrification, RFID, TOR, or setting up your own underground movement. Marcus Yallow is a 17 year old h4ckr in San Francisco who gets caught in the middle of a terrorist attack. As a reaction the paranoid government turns the place into a police state, not catching any terrorists, but harassing ordinary people and cutting their civil rights.

If that sounds familiar you wouldn’t be surprised to learn that all this is lead by a (fictional) Department of Homeland Security, the guys who do not hesitate to steal your privacy and intellectual property by disassembling your gadgets when entering the US — unfortunately this is not fiction anymore. Probably that’s the most disturbing thing about this book: not only are most of the hacks actually working, but also state troopers with machine guns against ravers are a reality in Bush Country (and not only there), among other things.

Which brings me to another reason why I posted about the book: download it for free in almost any format you can imagine, get the audio book, buy it, donate it to schools. But read it. And if you live in the United States, go vote!

YouTube videoWatch the video of the Utah raid on an iPhone

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