Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Tor Books (29 April 2008)
Category(ies): Science Fiction/YA
When Doctorow read the first chapter of this to the audience at Picocon earlier this year (2008), we were captivated by the story of teenager Marcus Yarrow and his disagreements with the school authorities. But we had to wait for the whole book.
Here it is. And it's more serious than we expected.
This is an angry book: Doctorow is an activist, and this is an activist book which is warning about the current trend to authoritarianism in the name of security. Once Marcus has actually skipped out of school in the first chapter, he and some friends are out in San Francisco tracking down clues for a competitive online treasure hunt. But while they're out, a major terrorist bombing takes place, the Department of Homeland Security is suddenly everywhere, and Marcus and co. are in deep trouble. The rest of the book details his use of leading edge techie stuff (privacy protection, The Onion Router, etc.) to try to foil and bring down the petty Hitlers of the DHS, while also battling with the mystery of relationships. Doctorow's trademark is the explanation of online technologies and their purposes -- it can occasionally seem as if he comes up with distributed WiFi, for example, and then attempts to hang a story on it to show why it's a good idea -- and here is is anonymous routing, privacy, trustworthy computing, and the like.
This is a warning that sixty years after Big Brother first appeared, we're getting too accustomed to it all.