Little Brother

Author: Cory Doctorow
Translation: Barbara Komorowska

Seventeen-year-old San Francisco native Marcus Yallow and hisUZUS Translation Agency. Poznań 2010 friends Darryl Glover, Vanessa "Van" Pak and Jose Louis "Jolu" Torrez are truant from school and playing an alternate reality game, when a terrorist attack destroys San Francisco Bay Bridge. Air raid sirens sound, and everyone in the area begins swarming toward a fallout shelter. Darryl is stabbed by someone in the crowd and the others try to find help for him, but since they didn't go into the shelter as expected, the foursome are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and held as enemy combatants.

After five days of interrogation at the hands of a woman that Marcus refers to as "Severe Haircut Lady", he is forced to sign papers that claim he was held voluntarily, and is released along with Van and Jolu. Darryl, however, is still being held prisoner.

Marcus returns home and lies to his parents about where he was, stating that the DHS had kept him under quarentine because they suspected that he had been exposed to a superbug. Heading up to his room, he discovers that the DHS has installed a bug on his laptop. Knowing that any attempt to disable or tamper with the bug will result in his arrest, he takes an Xbox and a heavily-encrypted version of the Linux operating system, and creates Xnet, an online network that is undetectable by the DHS.

The next day he discovers that the DHS is slowly turning the city into a police state, detaining and interrogating citizens on a whim. At school, he provides other students with the means to access Xnet. Those students begin spreading it to others, and it soon becomes an underground resistance movement opposing the DHS occupation of the city. Marcus, as its de facto leader, vows to use Xnet to bring the DHS to justice. Van and Jolu, fearing arrest, want no part in it. "Xnetters" as they are called, begin sabotaging the DHS's monitoring equipment, which causes embarrassment and mass confusion to the government organization.

However, while organizing resistance, he develops new friendships and a love interest, Ange (Angela Carvelli), that help support him during his doubts and fears over fighting the federal government. He helps develop a clandestine wireless network, Xnet, that avoids DHS monitoring using anonymity and encryption. Using the Xnet as a secure communications medium, he organizes teenagers and twenty-somethings who are upset with the police state tactics imposed after the bombing. They develop innovative uses of existing technologies to foil DHS monitoring and cause mass confusion and embarrassment to law enforcement.

After learning that his best friend, Darryl, is not dead, but still being held in a secret prison on nearby Treasure Island Marcus starts a series of events that culminates in his final confrontation with the DHS. Starting with his confession, to his parents and Darryl's father, of what really happened the three days he was imprisoned, he gives all of his information to an investigative reporter friend. This leads to his being imprisoned and tortured (specifically with waterboarding) by the DHS, personified by the Severe Haircut Lady. He is rescued by the California Highway State Patrol (CHSP) after the governor of California acts on the information provided in the news article. He finds his friend Darryl alive, if severely traumatized by his treatment, as well as his girlfriend Ange in the Treasure Island secret prison.

The novel ends with Marcus' life going back to "normal" and the DHS's losing power even though no one from the DHS is actually punished despite video proof of DHS personnel torturing him. Marcus seems to be happy with his life and relationships with both his girlfriend and parents. However, he dedicates a lot of his time to campaigning against the established political party that let this happen to U.S. citizens on U.S. soil.


Translation: 2011

Polish Publisher: Wydawnictwo Otwarte

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