Hot on the heels of Pirate Cinema, here’s another teen fiction special from blogger/journalist/activist Cory Doctorow. Homeland is a sequel to his earlier book Little Brother, in which a teen hero fights back against invasions of privacy in the name of terrorism prevention following a nasty attack on San Francisco.
Doctorow, as we’ve mentioned before, is on a political mission. There are a bunch of important themes which, as he sees it, are going in a worrying direction (excessive copyright enforcement, surveillance, invasion of privacy) and which most of us don’t pay much attention to because they are things we maybe don’t understand, or don’t understand the implications of. So what better way to influence the situation than by writing for teens – they have grown up with the Internet, they understand technology, they have the time and the energy to contest the things they don’t like. Doctorow’s books fill the dual role of framing the problem and providing the tools to do something about it.
Homeland is set a few years on from Little Brother, with an older, slightly wiser and still traumatised Marcus has dropped out of college and failed to get a job in the post terrorism police state economic slump. His parents are unemployed too, and money is tight. So when he simultaneously gets offered a dream job supporting a high profile political campaign, and gets dumped with some incriminating leaks about the Department of Homeland Security, he finds himself with quite a moral dilemma. The solution involves some highfaluting technology jargon (darknet, TOR routing, paranoid phone OS) which no doubt the next generation will understand better than we do, and loses Marcus his job at the same time (yes I know I’m spoiling it, but I’m guessing that readers of this review are going to be buying this for someone else rather than reading it themselves).
I’ve reviewed several of Cory Doctorow’s books recently, and if I’m honest I started on Homeland with the feeling it was going to be one too many, so it’s to the author’s credit that I got through it pretty quickly. There’s plenty of action to keep the teens reading: kidnapping, demonstrations, illegal incarcerations, tear gas and of course girls (/boys). Behind the action it’s also a pretty pertinent book. As the afterword states, a lot of the stuff is actually happening already, and it’s a gentle introduction to a lot of hardcore tech concepts, what they are used for, and how to find out more.
Any Cop?: Zeitgeist teen fiction which adults could learn a thing or too from as well.