“With at Little Help” by Cory Doctorow (CreateSpace, 2011)

With a Little Help
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By now many people will be familiar with the bestselling co-editor of Boing Boing, Cory Doctorow, after the young adult novel Little Brother, and his great adult book, Makers.  Doctorow clearly has a knack for not just being to be able to string a bunch of words together creatively and skillfully, but each and every story is an important “What if?” to tell.  Sometimes Doctorow offers dates, sometimes not; but readers can usually guess his stories are set in either the near future or within the next hundred years, involving a possible future that will capture, delight, and sometimes terrify.  Doctorow seems to grasp at our idle thoughts of this century and the next, transforming them into a believable possibility that really makes us wonder.

With a Little Help collects thirteen of his short stories that have seen publication in anthologies or magazines or other media over the past few years revealing Doctorow’s ability to tell a great, captivating science fiction story not just in long form, but also in short with developed characters you can connect with and a story that will haunt you and stay with you long after you have finished it.  Whether it’s the Internet, government, politics, or religion, Doctorow seems to have a unique take on it all, presenting a world that we’re encroaching upon right now, or will be in the ensuing decades.

The book is also an experiment in itself, only available as a print on demand in printed form, or available free as an ebook, though donations are politely requested through his website.  One might think in this day and age of piracy and scouring the Internet for illegal free items, this concept would result in failure, and yet this great collection continues to make money, which Doctorow isn’t ashamed to hide with monthly financial reports.  Perhaps, then, this is the message he is trying to share in his compelling stories: there is still hope . . .

Originally written on June 7, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

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Little Brother    For the Win   Makers

“Little Brother” by Cory Doctorow (TOR, 2008)

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With the end of the Bush presidency, some may be forgetting those times, with the war on terror, the propaganda of fear; while others may still be living and experiencing the horrors perpetrated by the Department of Homeland Security.  In Little Brother, Cory Doctorow gives his response, in his own, unique, techie way.

Marcus is a seventeen year old boy who seems ordinary in many ways.  He’s a nerd who plays MMOs with his friends, and is a computer geek who can hack his way in just about anything.  He’s essentially the exact sort of person the Department of Homeland Security and the government wants to be watching and trying to catch committing any illegal activity.  Then the whole world changes, as a devastating terrorist attack is committed in San Francisco, the Bay Bridge blown to pieces, sending thousands to their deaths.  Marcus finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, trying his best to get away from the horror and devastation; but the Department of Homeland Security thinks otherwise, capturing him and his friends and taking them to Treasure Island close by; a place that comes to be known as “Gitmo by the Bay.”  After three days of interrogation and being horribly treated, Marcus is freed, after being forced to sign a contract and the promise that he is never to utter a word of his incarceration and experience to anyone. Marcus finds himself in a different world where the DHS is in control and watching everyone.  It’s a world of fear and suspicion.  It’s not a place of freedom and free speech anymore.  Marcus plans on trying to change that and bring back the country he knows and loves.

Doctorow does what he does best in Little Brother, providing a riveting story with lots of computer tech and Internet shortcutting, making the reader wonder how much of this is possible, and how much the government is really watching.

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Originally published in the Sacramento Book Review.

Originally written on July 24 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.

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For the Win Makers