Written by: Cory Doctorow
Publishing Info: 2008, Tor
One Line: When 17-year-old computer hacker/gamer extraordinaire Marcus gets detained and tortured by Homeland Security after a terrorist attack in San Francisco, he makes it his mission to outplay Homeland Security at their own game.
Brief Summary: When 17-year-old Marcus and his friends are skipping school to play an internet-based game that has them running around town chasing clues, there is a horrible terrorist attack in San Francisco. Caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, he and his friends are detained by Homeland Security, who discover that Marcus is not only a technology genius but is also reluctant to talk to them. They suspect him for wrongdoing and torture him. Days later, he and two friends are released, but one friend, Darryl, who was injured, is not, and they fear him dead. They’ve been told not to speak of what has happened, so they don’t
Thoughts: While this book has problems plot and pacing-wise, it is a science fiction technological thriller that will appeal to many readers, and it has interesting themes about the dangers of trading freedom for security, and what will happen if we continue to allow our privacy to be invaded. It also describes, in detail, some of the technology and hacking methods used, in a way that is relatively easy to understand, even for technophobes. However, this is part of the problem: the book gets bogged down in these explanations and descriptions, and it often seems as if Doctorow just wants to tell us his thoughts on subjects through the character of Marcus, rather than tell an organic story. The characters are not always believable, nor are the situations. Homeland Security picks up the kids for no reason when Marcus steps into the road in front of them to get help for the injured Darryl. Why would a terrorist step in front of an official vehicle and flag it down? Presumably, the kids would not have been picked up at all had Marcus not done that. The way Homeland Security treats Marcus is extreme, especially towards the end, when they begin waterboarding him (to prove that he is the internet sensation who has mildly fouled them up?). In addition, Marcus is a selfish character, more focused on beating Homeland Security than on finding Darryl – he and his friends assume Darryl’s dead, but really have no reason to, and Marcus does not even go see Darryl’s father until months after the terrorist attack. Marcus let's Darryl's dad believe that Darryl actually was killed in the terrorist attack, even though he was actually detained by Homeland Security and now they have no idea where he is. Despite these problems, this is a very popular book for teens, and one that is entertaining and interesting enough to have in a collection.
Author Info: From www.craphound.com: “Cory Doctorow (craphound.com) is a science fiction author, activist, journalist and blogger -- the co-editor of Boing Boing (boingboing.net) and the author of young adult novels like HOMELAND, PIRATE CINEMA and LITTLE BROTHER and novels for adults like RAPTURE OF THE NERDS and MAKERS. He is the former European director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and co-founded the UK Open Rights Group. Born in Toronto, Canada, he now lives in London.”