Jan. 10th, 2009

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Whatever you're doing right now, stop. Go read Little Brother instead.

Little Brother is the best book I've read all year. This would have more meaning if it wasn't the start of the year, so let me rephrase that. Little Brother might be the most awesome book that I could possibly read this year.

There's an excellent summary of the book here, so I'm not going to hash over the book. Instead, I'm going to give you bullet points as to WHY you should read it.

  • The author references our culture. Flashmobs, Linux distros, game systems being cheap but the games expensive, livejournal, Flickr, everything. And he gets it right! You've seen what happened when the media tried talking about Anonymous versus Scientology. This guy actually manages to create a believable 17-year-old narrator.
  • It's about Homeland Security and what happens when safety trumps freedom. The title's a homage to 'Big Brother' but unlike 1984, this book is set in our times. Modern times. It's much easier to get sucked into this book because the protagonist is our age and deals with our tech, instead of being an adult with a forbidden love affair.
  • On that note, the book deals with the generation gap and how adults are more likely to buy into the scare tactics of the media. But it doesn't present all adults as rigorously inflexible. There are good guys amongst the grown-ups, and bad guys amongst the kids, and the way that he manages to make moral ambiguity and self-righteousness a major theme of the novel is amazing.
  • Awesome female chars. There's not just the standard love interest and the best friend chick, but also female chars with authority, female chars who are bad guys, and female chars who rock the geek world. They're depicted as being as much a part of the world as the male protag is, and the author's Net-savvy enough to even have the protag be wary of one girl that IMs him because the protag knows how many guys like pretending to be girls online.
  • Race issues! It's a bit of a throw away in that it's not a major theme of the book, but that's part of what makes the sudden discussion of them so fantastic to me. There's a quick convo between the protag and a friend of his about how the friend will suffer more if they're caught, and the protag acknowledges that yes, brown people have the scales balanced against them. It's a tiny little thing, not a major part of the book, but oh, how fantastic it is to se it acknowledged as a part of real life instead of glossed over or forgotten about.
  • Neil Gaiman, Scott Westerfeld, Brian K Vaughn, and I love it. I fully intend on buying copies IRL and making my friends read them. Since most of you are lucky enough to not live near me, I'm instead devoting the entirety of this post to trying to convince you to read it.


You know what else is awesome? The author himself and his thoughts on ebooks and sharing books/music online. His explanation for why he gives his books away for free online is quoted below, because it's just said so well that any attempt on my part to sum it up would pale in comparison to his original words.

I recently saw Neil Gaiman give a talk at which someone asked him how he felt about piracy of his books. He said, "Hands up in the audience if you discovered your favorite writer for free -- because someone loaned you a copy, or because someone gave it to you? Now, hands up if you found your favorite writer by walking into a store and plunking down cash." Overwhelmingly, the audience said that they'd discovered their favorite writers for free, on a loan or as a gift. When it comes to my favorite writers, there's no boundaries: I'll buy every book they publish, just to own it (sometimes I buy two or three, to give away to friends who must read those books). I pay to see them live. I buy t-shirts with their book-covers on them. I'm a customer for life.

Neil went on to say that... )


Love him, read the book, and spread word of the book around as much as you can. This guy is one of us. He talks about our technology, he writes about our world, and he's good at it. He's a geek to the core, and one who doesn't back down from tackling politics head-on. I'd fangirl about it more, but I'm going to see if he's written anything else.

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