Belated YA Dystopias

Technically, the term is over, but I didn’t get a chance to post my thoughts on the final week’s reading. I was…busy (cough-library management essay-cough). So here’s one last ‘official, course-related’ post.

I read Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. Story-wise, it was okay – I didn’t hate it, didn’t love it, either. The pacing felt uneven at some points, the characters were never fully fleshed out, and frankly, I would’ve liked a bit more angst and trauma–was it just me, or did Marcus recover real quick from being held for three days by the DHS? (Digression: Is anyone watching Homeland? It’s addictive! And Angela Chase + Soames Forsyte=AWESOME!) And why did no one mention Darryl for a bazillion pages? But I think a lot of young adults would really enjoy this book. The writing is accessible, and there’s a lot of humour veiling the subversiveness. The cryptography stuff was muy interesante as well (I need to find out more about Alan Turing!). I really liked the little interlude in the Turkish coffee shop, with Marcus’s sudden awareness of the Turk as more than a stranger selling really amazing coffee, but as one of the ‘good’ guys, someone who is on Marcus’s team.

Also loved: the title’s homage to Orwell, vampire flash-mob LARPing, and nicknames (both affectionate and otherwise).

Best line(s): “Ban umbrellas! Fight the menace of lightning!”

But the best thing about this book was, without a doubt, the idea of encouraging kids to question authority, to actively rebel against ‘the Man’ and fight for your rights and for freedom. Some people might have a problem with this; I am not one of those people. (Okay, so I’ll admit that I was raised on a healthy diet of rebelliousness, subversivism, and a general questioning of authority, with a dash of paranoia and recreational anarchy thrown in. Maybe I’m not the best person to objectively tackle this subject.) I would definitely recommend this book to any young adult. I am (almost) a librarian. It’s our job to encourage independent thinking… Question everything! Trust no one! The truth is out there!

Whatever problems I have with the execution of this novel are miniscule compared to the respect I have for Doctorow in writing a book with this message. Kudos, Doctorow, and a hero cupcake. People need to be more concerned about privacy and freedom and the slow but gradual attrition of human rights in the name of national security–especially kids, who’ve grown up with routine privacy invasion and are probably hopelessly desensitized now anyway. As one of the afterwords pointed out, you can’t swap privacy for security. That’s just stupid.

This novel hardly even qualifies as a dystopia. Isn’t this just like Tuesday in some parts of the world? I mean, this is all already happening. Crikee, are we living in a dystopia? Fiddlesticks. So much for a relaxing Yuletide in Helheim.

Okay. So writing that last bit has made me feel like a crazy, bleary-eyed, caffeine-addicted, internet-trolling, conspiracy theorist troglodyte. Moving on…

Do you know what this novel made me think of? Machines. Or rather, our future machine overlords. I think it was all the talk about the scary things that Marcus could make his computer do. I was less alarmed by the eeevil DHS than I was by the crazy technological feats performed by Marcus and his hacker cronies…because how long will it be before the computers start doing that stuff on their own? There’s already Siri, with her anti-feminist right-wing agenda. Before you know it, she’s hopping on the good foot with Hal, and then the network becomes self-aware and it’s all a rainy, hellish, industrial-chic Terminator-Matrix mash-up of a nightmare with grey goo and machine rule and bald naked people-batteries, and worst of all, beloved Elven lords kicking the shizz out of Keanu Reeves and wearing sunglasses even though it’s raining!

Why, Elrond? WHY?

Now that’s a dystopia. Blue pill! Blue pill!

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