Read it! — 5 years ago
This book was all kinds of awesome… and for so many reasons. The basic premise is that Marcus and his friends ditch school and head to downtown San Francisco to play an alternate reality game. In the midst of the game, terrorists attack the city, and Marcus and friends are picked up by the Department of Homeland Security as suspects. After being interrogated and tortured, the teens are released, and Marcus decides to take on the DHS.
This story pays homage to one of my favorite books, 1984. What makes it so much more creepy is that its easy to see this plot happening in the world right now – from the methods DHS uses to monitor citizens to the false sense of security Marcus’s dad feels to the ease with which the teens break the system. It also using LARPing and even makes it look cool, which is nigh-impossible.
Several of the quotes on the cover encourage people to make this book required reading – and I agree. I love a book where I end up learning about and enjoying something I would never voluntarily read about. This book is chock full of history lessons about the U.S., political movements, and technologies ranging from cryptography to RFIDs to the xBox. Doctorow takes the time to explain the tech his characters use to break the system, showing that nothing is hack-proof and that we need to be aware of it. I wonder, though, if someone who has no experience with tech would get all of these explanations – I know I felt a little lost with the tunneling bit. However, if you’re feeling out of sorts with the Xnet and jamming and gait-recognition, you’ll still understand the sense of outrage and desperation that Marcus feels as he watches the Bay Area become a police state where teens and minorities are always suspects.