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Book Review: Homeland by Cory Doctorow

“Marcus,” he said. “Have you noticed how messed up everything is today? How we put a ‘good’ president in the White House and he kept right on torturing and bombing and running secret prisons?  How every time we turn around someone’s trying to take away the Internet from us, make it into someone kind of giant stupid shopping mall where the rent-a-cops can kick you out of if they don’t like your clothes?  Have you noticed how much money the one percent have? How we’re putting more people in jail every day, and more people are unemployed every day and more people are losing their houses every day?”

“I’ve noticed,” I said. “But haven’t things always been screwed up? I mean, doesn’t everyone assume that their generation has the most special most awful problems?”
“Yeah,” Ange said. “But not every generation has had the net.”

“Bingo,” Jolu said. “I’m not saying it wasn’t terrible in the Great Depression or whatever. But we’ve got the power to organize like we’ve never had before. And the creeps and the spooks have the power to spy on us more than ever before, to control us and censor us and find us and snatch us.”
“Who’s going to win?” I said. “I mean, I used to think that we’d win, because we understand computers and they don’t.”

“Oh, they understand computers. And they’re doing everything they can to invent new ways to mess you up with them. But if we leave the field, it’ll just be them. People who want everything, want to be in charge of everyone.”
“So we’re going to win?”

Jolu laughed. “There’s no winning or losing, Marcus. There’s only doing.”

In this stand-alone sequel to Little Brother, Marcus lands his dream job as a webmaster for a crusading politician, when a former girlfriend hands him access to her security then disappears in the clutches of their archnemesis.  Now Marcus must decide what to do- because leaking the information could save Masha, but if he’s found out, he’d lose his job in the process, and he can’t go anywhere near his old sphere without being recognized.  And the information Masha has is damaging to a lot of people.  Is it even the right thing to do?  But he has to decide fast, because dangerous forces (old and new) are closing in, and they have no compunctions about who they hurt.

Marcus was M1ck3y, the hacker who created the darknet and let everyone know what the government was doing to his friends and others when martial law was declared in San Francisco   Now, however, California’s economy has collapsed, his parents are struggling to find jobs and to hang onto their home, and he’s dropped out of college and is completely lost.  Escaping with his girlfriend Ange to Burning Man, his past comes back to him full force in the form of Masha, who is running from their old enemies and has a slipped Marcus a thumb drive and a mission: if she disappears, seed the information throughout the internet. And disappear she does, right with Carrie Johnson, who was responsible for Marcus’ torture years ago. 

Back in San Francisco, Marcus and Ange call in favors and start looking at what Masha has collected, and realize it’s extremely dangerous.  And Marcus has just taken his dream job as web master with a politician who wants to change everything, and can make those changes through legitimate channels.  Faced with moral and personal decisions, somehow Johnson has discovered that Marcus has Masha’s key, and now is again fighting for his life. 

Homeland is extremely gripping and fast paced, full of tech references and making the reader think about all the everyday things we take for granted. For really thought provoking discussions, mesh with Feed by MT Anderson, or Ghost in the Wires by Kevin Mitnick.  4.5 out of 5 stars.  (Goodreads currently has Homeland as 4.08 stars as of Feburary 26, 2013.)

I was gripped by Homeland, and could not put it down, even though it made me paranoid about all the tech in my house and made me bug That Guy about everything we own.  As well anyone should be- there are really spooky things that go on with tech, and people are too trusting. Do you really read your software agreements? Do you know what you agree to when you update your apps? Do you know that even when your GPS is off, your phone still knows where you’re at?

That is the underlying point within *all* his works: think.  If you think it’s a little far fetched, take a look at what Microsoft wants to do with its new Kinect rollout. Or google some of the stuff that pops up in Homeland. It’s there, and online even in the mainstream Internet.  Even as I write this, the US is getting new anti-piracy software through our INTERNET providers, who will evidently decide who are the pirates and who are not.  

The world Marcus inhabits is not very far-fetched, which is what makes it so creepy and riveting at the same time. You don’t know who to trust, and with the final betrayal near the end you get your heart broken just as you’ve put your trust in that character. It’s wonderful stuff, an excellent for teens and adults alike.  For more information, and to learn about Cory Doctorow’s views on Creative Commons for his works, check it out here.

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