Saturday, January 3, 2009

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." -Benjamin Franklin

Marcus Yallow can get past any security system. His school uses gait recognition cameras and snooping laptops, but none of that can keep Marcus and his best friend Darryl from sneaking out to find the next clue in their online multiplayer scavenger hunt. They meet up with the other two members of their team to work out the clue, and the unthinkable happens. The ground under Marcus's feet shakes with the force of the explosion as the nearby San Francisco Bay Bridge is demolished. In the midst of the smoke and screaming crowds, Darryl is injured. Frightened and alone, the three other teenagers attempt to save his life, but his injury is beyond their ability to treat. In desperation, Marcus attempts to flag down a passing car, unaware that this act will change his life forever. The occupants of the car take Marcus and his friends hostage, and he is certain that these are the same terrorists who caused the explosion.

It's worse than Marcus thinks. He has been taken into custody by the Department of Homeland Security. He and his friends are separated and locked up in a secret government facility. Marcus is questioned daily, and when his answers are unsatisfactory, he is deprived of basic necessities, like food and toilet privileges.  Finally, Marcus is released along with two of his friends. Darryl, however, is gone.

Now, Marcus faces a world on lock down. His entire city has submitted to the restrictions of the Department of Homeland Security. Nothing is private, and everyone is a suspect. Marcus can't take it lying down, but what can a 17 year old under government surveillance do to put the government right again?

Little Brother deals with the most difficult questions of our time. Should we be willing to give up our civil liberties in exchange for national security? Will giving up those liberties make us less vulnerable to terrorist attack? Is it worth living in safety if you must always be able to explain your every action to police? Marcus's decision is thought provoking, and it's something that everyone should consider in our day and age.

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