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Little Brother
Cory Doctorow
HarperVoyager, 374 pages

Little Brother
Cory Doctorow
Cory Doctorow was born in Toronto, in 1971. He has sold fiction since the age of 17. His story, "Craphound," was published in Science Fiction Age. Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom was his first novel.

Cory Doctorow Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town
SF Site Review: Eastern Standard Tribe
SF Site Review: A Place So Foreign
SF Site Review: Down And Out In The Magic Kingdom

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Alma A. Hromic

Look, there are places in this book where it DOES feel like it's a "platform" for a set of ideas dear to the author. But since I went in expecting Cory Doctorow to be opinionated on certain things, that didn't really bother me all that much -- and honestly, Little Brother really is good enough to make the reader forgive a few speeches anyway.

Cory Doctorow hits two things perfectly in his justly acclaimed YA novel. One of them is that he makes me afraid -- he makes me VERY afraid -- and he sounds as though he knows what he is talking about which makes me realistically afraid for my own reality long after I set the book aside. This is not a fluffy bunny fairy story. It's a tale of real people with real problems which are just a little bit bigger than ours, and ours don't seem to need that much more of a push to get themselves elevated to that orange alert status at all. The other thing is just that -- the thing is real -- the voice in which the story is told, the voice of a cranky, precocious, hormonal, swaggering, vulnerable, struggling-to-understand adolescent is spot on. Even the changes in that voice as Marcus Yallow, our protagonist, is forced by circumstances to grow up rather too fast, if he wants to grow up at all, are nuanced and utterly believable. He's a kid, a kid that other kids will instantly identify with and adult readers will, at times, want to reach out and hug (much to his probable disgust). He isn't a superhero, although he plays one in the anonymous reaches of the Internet. He tries; he fails; he is shown to be frustrated and defeated and running scared. But his solutions are innovative, and he is stalwart and does not give up on either an idea or a friend. I may not have much in common with him and we may not even have a truly common language if someone like him and myself ever met face to face. But I'd really like to shake his hand and tell him that he is, like, awesome. Really.

It's a timely book, what with our own world looking as darkly ominous as it is. It definitely holds lessons for all of us. But even more than that, it's just a damned good read. I picked up the paperback edition and read it in a couple of hours, without putting it down.

You will, too. If you pick this up, clear your schedule for the next few hours. Because you'll be spending them in Marcus Yallow's world. It isn't pretty, it isn't fair, but you will cheer him on as he battles its obstacles and its dangers.

I'm not entirely sure if he "won." I'm not entirely sure that it's even possible to win in the game that Doctorow has pushed his young protagonist into playing. But Marcus Yallow held his own, in the end. And, in the end, that is no more than can be asked of any one of us.

A good read, and one containing ideas that definitely need to be disseminated more widely.


Copyright © 2009 Alma A. Hromic

Alma A. Hromic, addicted (in random order) to coffee, chocolate and books, has a constant and chronic problem of "too many books, not enough bookshelves." When not collecting more books and avidly reading them (with a cup of coffee at hand), she keeps busy writing her own. Her international success, The Secrets of Jin Shei, has been translated into ten languages worldwide, and its follow-up, Embers of Heaven, is coming out in 2006. She is also the author of the fantasy duology The Hidden Queen and Changer of Days.

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