Archive for June, 2008


As I turned the last page of this book late Sunday afternoon, I began to contemplate the glowing review I was going to write about it. I envisioned a vast array of hyperboles and interesting comparisons, and then I’d end it all with saying “Yes, this is definitely the début of the year. Read it or die!”

This would, of course, not do. I had to put the book review away for at least a few days so that I could come to my senses and see the many faults this book certainly had. The only thing is though, I’m sitting here, more than a few days after, and I haven’t been able to shake the giddiness that overtook me as I delved into “The Gone-Away World”. It was a most singular thing to experience; kind of like I imagine the people who first saw a Shakespeare play and thought, “Damn, he’s good!”. Not that Harkaway actually bears any kind of resemblance to old William, aside from the delightful feeling you get when you just have to acknowledge that what you’re holding in your hands isn’t some day-fly or a passing fancy of critics around the world. No sir, “The Gone-Away World” is much more than that.

It’s an instant classic. It’s going to be republished in every language there is. People are going to write theses on it; teachers are going to hand it out as an together with “To Kill a Mockingbird” or “1984″. Does that sound promising?

It damn well should!

Life in the Liveable Zone is harsh, especially for mercenaries. There aren’t that many jobs around to begin with, and the only company that’s hiring is the one that operates The Jorgmund Pipe: A pipe which keeps the Liveable Zone, well… liveable by pumping a mysterious substance named FOX into the air. FOX is a lifesaver. Without it, everything would fall into chaos, and to keep pumping and distributing the FOX, you really need The Jorgmund Pipe.

Which is why it’s kinda sucks that the bloody thing is on fire. If it falls down, all kinds of hell would break lose. And the only one who can stop it is the hero Gonzo Lubitsch and his friends.

Now, as you can imagine, it would be quite easy for Harkaway to take an easy road of this book by pursuing this plot with all the tropes we’re used to. But he doesn’t. Instead, he takes us back to beginning, before the world got Gone Away, when our heroes were young. This makes this book so much more than a tale about some unlucky band of heroes, and suddenly you’re not reading the book you thought you were…

“The Gone-Away World” is something of a wild horse when you try to shove it into a specific genre; if you get too specific it’ll rear up and kick you in the face. I’m choosing to brand it “Science Fiction”, but I guess an argument could be made for just about any genre you can think of, ’cause this book has got it all. A really cool scientific premise? You betcha. Character development and love triangles? Yeah, that too. Dragons, centaurs and chimeras? Lots of ‘em! Okay, but I bet doesn’t have ninjas…? Sorry to disappoint, but this book has the highest quantity of the silly pyjamas clad killers I’ve ever read. And best of all: It’s got a slight apocalypse! I applaud you, Nick Harkaway!

Harkaway is also really funny. No, you’re not getting me. He’s really funny, and though-provoking and his prose is so effortless that you can almost read it with your eyes closed (once you first get used to it, that is). Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter:

There was a bad moment when four large shapes showed up on the infrared, moving in a rapid arc towards the rear of the Nameless Bar, and two sets of heavy weapons came online and tracked them: shwoopHUNKdzzzunn! and Sir, contact sir! followed by Soldier, if you fire that weapon I will stick it up your and guboozzznn as the turrets moved, probable field of fire going through Flynn’s living room and the saloon. Of course, the probable enemy was the desert pig generator system, currently labouring to produce enough power to run the kitchen and the TV all at once. So the pigs hovered on the brink of spectacular annihilation for a few seconds, and then were classed as zero threat, the guns went zugug-slrrmmmback and back to first positions.

Or from a later chapter, where the narrator discusses the pro’s and con’s of sheep in combat:

A war zone is a bad place to be a sheep. It’s not a good place to be anything, but sheep generally are a bit stupid and devoid of tactical acumen and individual reasoning, and they approach problem-solving in a trial and error kind of a way. Sheep wander, and wandering is not a survival trait where there are landmines. After the first member of the flock is blown up, the rest of the sheep automatically scatter in order to confuse the predator, and this, naturally, takes more than one of them on to yet another mine, and there’s another woolly BOOM-splatterpitterslee-eutch which is the noise of an average-sized sheep being propelled in to the air by an anti-personnel mine and partially dispersed, the largest single piece falling to earth as a semi-liquidised blob. This sound or its concomitant reality upsets the remaining sheep even more, and not until quite a few of them have been scattered over the neighborhood do they get the notion that the only safe course is the reverse course. By this time, alas, they have forgotten where that is, and the whole thing begins again. BOOM.

Now, I won’t shy away from the fact that some of these tangents and musings about life, war, personality and what-have-you, can occasionally go on for a bit too long (just like my reviews!). This book is 544 pages long, and it could easily have shed at least a fifth of that without losing the point. Joseph Heller has much of the same style in his masterpiece, “Catch-22″, but Yossarian’s musing never seem to lose track just for the hell of it. They serve a purpose and they don’t hinder the momentum unnecessarily. Some patches of this book, especially the middle chapters, rambles itself into delusion at more than once or twice, but they’re easily forgiven when Harkaway manages to pull all the little threads together with a very well thought through plot. But still, a little trimming could only have been nice.

Another thing I was going to pin-point as a flaw was the way Harkaway dealt with his supporting cast, but then I thought about it some more and decided I was wrong. No one gets a lot of lines in this book, so it’s easy to draw the conclusion that the characterization is lacking, but I soon realized that dialogue isn’t really necessary to provide depth to a character. A simple line or two might be enough, granted of course that it’s the right line. I’ve read sprawling fantasy epics with poorer characters than “The Gone Away World” (hmpfJordanhmpf). You just need to adjust your gauges to his distinct style.

Because this is a fantastic book in every way, and there’s barely a fault to be found. The plot and how it’s handled is outstanding, the premise is utterly believable and rings more than a few bells back in the real world. “The Gone-Away World” also manages to tackle a whole host of different themes, some of them quite silly and entertaining, and other more serious, like racism, war and the dangers of capitalism. This is “Catch-22″ for a new generation, and if you don’t read it you’re – yes, you know it’s true – going to suffer a horrible death. Horrible, sheep-on-a-landmine-like death, in fact.

“The Gone-Away World” is all a geek ever wanted and more. Some of you won’t like it, and I don’t expect you to. It’s not a very welcoming book, like “The Lies of Locke Lamora” by Scott Lynch is. But if you get into it, you’ll discover what happens when guys in balaclavas explode, why mime squads are deadly or what happens when a martial arts master gets hold of Tupperware.

Trust me, it’s not nice.

9.5/10 (strong)

Amazon, I Love Thee So!

Amazon is a fickle bitch. Two days ago I put down an order that they’re masterful system managed to disappear without a trace, like it somehow decided that this particular mixture of books and comics was too awesome for my mortal mind and decided to enter the goodness into its very own version of the Witness Protection Programme.

But I don’t really care about that anymore. Why?

Well…

Greetings from Amazon.co.uk,

We thought you would like to know that the following item has been sent
to:

1 Toll the Hounds (Malazan B… £10.99 1 £10.99

Shipped via Royal Mail (estimated arrival date: 26-June-2008).

“Toll the Hounds” by Steven Erikson isn’t supposed to be published ’till the first of July! Hooray!

Do you ever feel like the world conspires against you, that there are sinister powers that sometime twitch your little puppet strings to make you adhere to their dance macabre?

Well, do you?

Because I don’t. Believe, that is, that there is something like faith that goes into this phenomenon. It’s called marketing, people, and a lot of people have been getting very good at it lately. In fact, they’ve gotten so good that I decided to pick up “Wanted”, a graphic novel by famous comic scribe Mark Millar, solely because I had just watched an entertaining trailer for the upcoming movie (with a very hawt looking Angelina Jolie) and happened upon a cool piece about the film (TBR 27th of June) in my latest copy of SFX magazine.

So yeah, I admit that I danced to the preferred tune of capitalistic bosses everywhere when I bought “Wanted”, but you know what? I don’t really give a rat’s ass, ’cause this was a very enjoyable read, even if it didn’t contain any naked pictures of Angelina Jolie (damnit! Foiled again!).

“I am John Wayne in True Grit. I am Charles Bronson in Death Wish. I am Clint Eastwood in all five Dirty Harry flicks and all the best spaghetti westerns.

I am Jean-Claude van Damme. I am Sly Stallone. I am Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon and Chuck Norris in Way of the Dragon. I am Lee Marvin. I am Sean Connery. I am Arnold Goddamn Schwarzenegger.

… And you, my friend, are fucked.”

– “Wanted”, Assassin’s Edition, written by Mark Millar

“Wanted” is, for good and for worse, deliciously over the top in everything it does. The plot? A normal, average Joe working stiff with a piss-poor excuse for a girlfriend, job and life in general, is one day approached by a woman named Fox, who tells him that his father was one of the world’s greatest super-villains. Wesley Gibson, our protagonist, is the only son and heir of ‘the Killer’ and all his fortune, but his father set one condition that Wesley has to fulfil to gain access to his father’s estate: He has to train and work for the Professor as his personal bodyguard/assassin. Naturally, not everything is as it first seems, and Millar actually manages to tell a quite entertaining tale with a nice twist towards the end.

The best thing about this six-issue long graphic novel though, isn’t the snappy dialogue, nor the aforementioned plot or the way Millar actually has a squalid pass at tackling themes a bit over this book’s head. He tries to make it as if “Wanted” is a shout-out to its audience that there’s more to life than reading comics, watching movies, yada-yada-ya, but really, come on! Not only does the format pretty much solidify that anyone who reads it will take it as the escapist piece it is (no shame in that), but the plot elements are so far removed from reality that I think the average reader would end up stuck even further down in the swamp of apathy. However, I do feel like “Wanted” deserves a clap on the shoulder for the attempt, even if it’s attempt was half-hearted.

Oops. Seems like I got carried away for a while there. I was trying to tell you the best thing about this book, which is the way it tackles its superhero mythos. In “MillarWorld”, the superheroes aren’t commonplace sights for the average New Yorker, mostly because they’re all dead. Yeah, that’s right. Ever wonder why you never see these myseterious crime fighters about any more? It’s because the super villains got tired of getting pummeled by Superman and his compatriots and killed ‘em all back in the seventies. The reason you don’t know this now, is because the super villains, being the crafty bastards that they are, rewrote history in some unexplained way and made you forget all about it.

Hee! That’s a fun premise for a world, don’t you think? No heroes, only villains and humans and lots of shades of grey. Delicious. Add that JG Jones has made some very cool looking art for this book, and you should be just about convinced right then and there.

The characters are a little one-dimensional in the way they are portrayed, if not the way they are illustrated… Some of this can of course be excused, because, well… you just don’t expect characters like “Shithead” and “Fuckwit” to be masterpieces of ingenuity. Wesley’s transformation from sad-sack to full-on bad-ass isn’t especially convincing, but it does actually flow quite nicely into the whole over-the-top feel of the book, which I’ve mentioned before. I’m glad he had a couple of scenes where he started getting a little worried that, you know, killing everyone who has slighted him was maybe overdoing it a tad. It might have been too much if Millar hadn’t included it.

So to sum up, I’d say “Wanted” is well worth your money and time. It’s not “Watchmen” good, nor is it “Transmetropolitan” good, but it’s definitely enjoyable in its own guilty-pleasure kind of way. And, from what I can gather, the movie is actually true to most of the book, but have decided to not do the whole “super villain plot”, which was easily the one that I enjoyed the most…

But it does star Angelina Jolie, so who cares.

Right?

School's Out, Life's In

It’s always a weird feeling to walk out the doors, knowing that you won’t be back for two whole months. You can’t quite believe that it’s true; almost as if the teachers have managed to inflict a strange form of the Stockholm syndrome on you.

I stand there, wondering if they’re going to call me up tomorrow and say it was all a big joke. That I’ll have to go back and continue with the same old books, walking the same old halls and inhaling the asbestos looking stuff that’s been drifting around ever since they started renovating the cafeteria.

And you want to know what the worst part is? I’d probably be a outraged and thrown a fit or two, but eventually I’d pack my bag and put on my shoes. I’d plot the same old course through my shabby looking forest down to bus station and wait the accustomed minutes before the creaky old thing pulls up before me.

I’d do it because I like to going to school. It is, after all, what I do best, and what I’ve done ever since I was six years old and thought Sesame Street or whatever was the apex of entertainment. Now I’m eighteen years old, and have decidedly different interests than I had twelve years ago, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t find the Cookie Monster as hilarious as back when the milk teeth were still struggling for dominion.

Come to think of it though, I seem to recall being frightened more than anything else by the blue-haired dude. I wonder what my six-year old self would think of Warren Ellis (whom I’m genuinly scared shitless of, but in that good, Cookie Monster kind of way)…

But there won’t be any phones calling of this summer vacation. I’m stuck here, in this weird place I call home and I have to find stuff to fill the hours that school usually stakes out. Work will take care of some of it, and extra sleep a good deal more, though the remaining hours are always in a constant flux between all those things you say you’re gonna do more of (i.e. training, writing, reading), the things you already do a lot of (i.e. books, films, TV-series). And blogging, obviously. I’m going to be a lot more active until I take a vacation to do something very different indeed.

I think it’s going to be a good summer.

And I hope the same will be true for you, too.

This is easily the best episode of anything I’ve seen in… well, since BSG was this good (and I don’t really know if it has ever been this good). And please note: Easily the best. Not just a tad better, or an inch or two. We’re talking miles here, people. Lightyears even.

I mean, holy frack; this episode contained so many awesome moments that I had to put on extra clothes to fight off the goosebumps! Tigh, Lee, Starbuck, Baltar, Roslin and Adama we’re all on fire in every fracking scene. And if you don’t believe me, take a gander at the picture above from “Revelations”. Adama clearly didn’t like what he was seeing in the mirror… Seriously though, Edward James Olmos should get his own religion after this series. He’d totally wipe the floor with that schmuck called Cruise.

No more BSG till 2009? :O

Re-watch time!

"Lost" So Far

(Those palm trees sure have some freaky looking shadows…)

Ah, the plot thickens! Or rather, the plot’s so thick that no one can quite figure out what is any longer. Four seasons and a shitload of more or less inexplicable events into the show, I’m kinda sitting here, *hoping* that the writers know where they’re going, but… you know, I kinda doubt it. Yeah, I know that they’re supposed to have the ending all planned out, but even if they do, the chances of the ending being sufficiently awesome enough to justify all this seems so unlikely that I nearly dismiss that option out of hand.

Note that I nearly dismiss it, but something inside me keeps whispering that “hey, with the quality of the last couple of seasons, they might actually pull this off!”. There are few things in the world that would please more than to see that happen, ’cause that would mean that I got to witness some of the most impressive storytelling ever. But lets tackle that bear when it gets here, and take a look at what we’ve got so far.

Season 1 is a very solid season of TV. You got to remember that at the time when “Lost” had its début, serious hour-long drama series were few and far between, and not one of them were especially successful. “Lost” practically revived an entire genre and gave TV execs new belief in the fact that good series can trump reality shows. It’s impossible to say what the current state of television would be in if it hadn’t been for “Lost”, but I think we can all agree that it was a good thing JJ Abrams got it off the ground (and made it crash… on a mysterious island…).

Season 2 had a lot problems. It struggled with its pacing and with the amount of filler episodes that went into it, plus some really poor story-telling decisions that ruined perfectly good episodes for me. Thankfully this problem is all but non-existent in season 3 & 4, and you really feel that the writers and directors have gotten comfortable with show and its direction. Sure, the plot’s probably a bit on the ambitious side, but I’d rather take a show that aims for the stars and spatters the Moon than a show that’s content with doing things like they’ve always been done. And a lot that genre-breaking is down to the fantastic writer staff.

The sheer quality and evenness in the last two seasons have been downright amazing. I mean, once I see Damon Lindelof or Drew Goddard’s (“Cloverfield”) name appear on the screen, I know that I’m in for a treat. My favourite episode for a long time was “Walkabout” (season 1) written by the incomparable David Fury, but when the geek dream team-up Lindelof and Goddard showed me their skills with “Flashes Before Your Eyes” (season 3), I was utterly blown away. “Desmond” has ever since that time been my hands-down favourite character on the show, and every episode that’s Desmond heavy makes me a happy fan boy. Sawyer and Ben are also superb characters; the former for his much-appreciated comic relief and great acting and the latter because he’s just… well, awesome. But Desmond is the only one that I found myself caring about and hoping all the best for. I blame that on Lindelof and Goddard.

I also found myself really liking “Faraday” (I wonder if they picked his name because of the “Faraday cage”) , the physicist in season 4. He was a peculiar kind of coolness, and really stood out in “the Constant”, which was easily one of my favourite episodes of the fourth season. I may be biased, though; there’s just something really appealing to me about a weird physicist on such a mainstream show.

One of the biggest problems with “Lost” at this point is its potential for drawing in new viewers. Things have gotten so complicated that you can’t really enjoy an episode fully without having seen the previous episodes, and so it becomes a very demanding show for the viewer, too. I personally really enjoy this approach, because it means that you get more unpredictable patterns to the episodes, but if the show suddenly takes a bad turn, it might mean that it’ll have a harder time of getting out of the slump.

But as I understand it, “Lost” is already signed on for two more seasons, and then that’s going to be that, so maybe rating won’t affect anything at all.

So, to sum everything up in a very tabloid way: “Lost” is now a very consistently good show that’s both daring and ambitious in nearly everything it does. It’s not an easy show to get into, mostly because of the comparatively poor second season, but once you’re hooked on the mystery, you won’t be able to stop watching. I can’t wait to see where this show goes with its fifth season, which begins airing in 2009 (why, God, why?). Until then, consider this show recommended.

Season 1: 8/10 (weak)

Season 2: 7/10 (weak)

Season 3: 8/10 (strong)

Season 4: 8.5/10 (strong)

When you buy as many books as I do, you always end up having to put some of them aside for later. “For when I have time,” you think, or, “when I’m in the right mood”. Well, I have a lot of such books that I really should get around to, but that never seem to get a fair chance in competition with all the new stuff that comes walking in the door every month. “The Amber Chronicles” by Roger Zelazny was one of those books that I bought, oh… three years ago now, and it’s just been collecting dust ever since because of its menacing appearance. I mean, this book is 1394 pages long – and that’s some undertaking when you’re completely unfamiliar with the author.

But I decided to give it a fair shot anyway. Zelazny is after all considered one of the great masters of the SFF genre, along with such names as JRR Tolkien, Jack Vance, Isaac Asimov, Mervyn Peake et cetera, et cetera. Any true fan of the genre needs to have read something by these writers to fully understand what came before today’s grand masters.

My initial plan was to finish the entire book in one month, but I soon realized that I’d need a lot more than that to accomplish this feat. It’s not that I’m a slow reader – I can tear through a Erikson book in a night if I set my heart on it – but ‘Amber’ is no where near as compelling as a new Malazan tale. So I read half of the ten books that are collected in “The Great Book of Amber” by Roger Zelazny, and found that this was more than enough for now. Let me tell you why:

Corwin, our protagonist, doesn’t know who he is, which is, you know, a bit of a problem. All he knows is that he’s been in accident of some kind (he’s in a hospital, you see), and that something is very wrong about all of this. He remembers something about a car and some lights, and getting hurt very badly, but when he tries to move he’s surprised to find himself totally healed. Which begs the question: Why is that nurse coming in his room with a giant needle full of drugs? Someone’s keeping him here against his will, and has to find out who they are and who he really is. He manages to escape the confines of the private hospital and tracks down the person who’s been paying his treatment bills. She claims to be his sister, Flora, and she mentions a name that sparks some memories. She tells him of “Amber”, and his brother Eric who’s currently holding the throne there. Flora, who doesn’t realize that Corwin is suffering from amnesia, asks him if he’s going to perform a coup against his brother, or perhaps kill him.

Earth, you see, is just a shadow of the One True City called “Amber”. The further away from Amber you go, the more unlike Amber the shadow becomes, and if you go far enough you reach a place called “Chaos”. Only men of the royal blood of Amber have the ability to bend shadows to their will, and since Corwin is a prince of Amber, he’s got the ability to do so. First though, he’s got to get back to Amber to walk the Pattern. Only then will he be able to control shadow and regain most of his memories… Anyway, that’s the gist of the plan that he comes up with. All he’s gotta do now is to travel to Amber and avoid getting killed by his more or less murderous siblings.

The first thing you got to know about this book is that it is, despite its length and brick-like nature, a relatively easy read. They’re all just above a hundred pages long, which makes them more like novellas rather than full novels unto themselves. The books I read are as follows: “Nine Princes in Amber”, “The Guns of Avalon”, “Sign of the Unicorn”, “The Hand of Oberon” and “The Courts of Chaos”, meaning that I read all the books that feature Corwin as the protagonist. The next five are about a chap named Merlin, but I’ll save those for a rainy day.

The best thing about these chronicles isn’t the characterization, nor is it the convoluted plots and the crisp and clean prose. Zelazny does all of these things pretty well; the characters are a bit on the thin side if you don’t count Corwin, who obviously is very well developed and a great, if a bit stereotypical, hero-type. He’s handsome, he’s great at sword fighting, and he’s also got a sharp head on his shoulders. He’s pretty much flawless in and of himself, but his actions are what makes him human, and he’s made some pretty grievous mistakes through the millenniums he has lived. The plotting was also quite spectacular, and you can easily see why the likes of GRRM claim to be heavily inspired by this series. It’s of course no where near as gritty as “A Song of Ice and Fire”, but the Zelazny’s got a steady hand at dropping hints here and there that you damn yourself for missing when he’s pulling the rug from underneath you.

No, those are all enjoyable things, but the best thing is the world itself, or rather, the concept of Amber and its shadows. The fact that this incorporates Earth and a protagonist that had to stay there for several hundred years, means that Zelazny can use well-known metaphors instead of having to invent new ones to fit his world. Corwin can also through out random snippets from when he discussed war tactics with Napoleon or when Sigmund Freud tried to get him over his father issues. I loved all that stuff, and I bet a more well-versed reader would pick up tons more nudges and hints than I did. Here’s a full-out epic fantasy with court intrigues, bloody fights, magic, Arthurian myths and Shakespearian allusions. If you don’t love that, then I’m revoking your license to read!

They’re also pretty dense with information, so the author offers up pages-long info dumps that keeps you up to date on all the things that have previously gone down. I found this trait a little irritating, but thankfully it’s not exactly hard to skip over these occasional paragraphs and continue onwards with the story. I also think these sections have their rightful place, ’cause if you’re not reading the books back-to-back, then you’re bound to have forgotten all the little animosities between the siblings, the murky plots and pieces of vital information.

But all in all I thought these five books were well worth the read. None of them are especially good or especially wow-worthy, but they’re quality workmanship that influenced a ton of other books. So, if you interested in reading something light and fun in a potentially life-threatining package, then I’d recommend you “The Great Book of Amber”. Or at the very least the first half of it. When Zelazny changed protagonist I kinda figured that I’d done my duty towards this particular series for now. Maybe I’ll go back someday, but I doubt it. It’s good, but it’s not great.

It is a classic though. I’d vouch for that.

7.0 /10

If you’re remotely interested in blogging, science fiction or maybe just the internet in general, then you’re bound to have encountered Cory Doctorow. He’s like a the bespectacled little demi-god of the intertubes; even if you don’t worship him, you know he’s out there, looking down at you from somewhere… preaching knowingly about Creative Commons… linking your blog post from his hugely popular Boing Boing site… or getting blurbed by the omniscient being known as Neil Gaiman:

I’d recommend Little Brother over pretty much any book I’ve read this year, and I’d want to get it into the hands of as many smart teenagers, male and female, as I can.

Because I think it’ll change lives. Because some kids, maybe just a few, won’t be the same after they’ve read it. Maybe they’ll change politically, maybe technologically. Maybe it’ll just be the first book they loved or that spoke to their inner geek. Maybe they’ll want to argue about it and disagree with it. Maybe they’ll want to open their computer and see what’s in there. I don’t know. It made me want to be 13 again right now and reading it for the first time, and then go out and make the world better or stranger or odder. It’s a wonderful, important book, in a way that renders its flaws pretty much meaningless.

Neil Gaiman, on “Little Brother” by Cory Doctorow

Ever since I read that on Neil Gaiman’s Journal, I’ve been reeling to get my hands on this book, ’cause every book I’ve read that Neil Gaiman has vouched for have been remarkable reading experiences. “The Wizard Knight” by Gene Wolfe has got a Gaiman quote, and I loved it. “Heart-Shaped Box” by Joe Hill got a quote, and he’s now one of my favourite authors out there. So yeah, I was picking this up as soon as possible. And guess what? Neil was right about “Little Brother”, too.

Now there’s a shocker if I ever saw one.

The fact that this is a Young Adult book wasn’t going to stop me. I’ve read enough YA by now to know that the genre holds a lot of good books (“The Inferior” by Peadar Ó Guilín, “Under My Roof” by Nick Mamatas), and I know that Cory Doctorow is never going to write anything that falls short off wickedly smart. He’s just that kind of writer. Besides, when people on the net are going around saying it’s one the most important books of the century, I’m clever enough to sit up and take notice of it.

“Little Brother” is set some time into a future America. Exactly when is not specified, but stuff like 9/11 being fresh on people’s mind and the fact that people are still bitching about how bad the last president was seems to indicate that were not looking too far into the noughties. The story is about a high-school student named Marcus who’s forced to take notice of the way the government is disregarding old, fundamental rights, invading people’s privacy and in general not acting the way it should. All this escalates when terrorists decides to blow up some buildings in his home town, killing thousands upon thousands of Californians while they’re at it. The Department of Homeland Security seizes this opportunity to take away even more of the public’s privileges and practically turning Marcus’ city into a police state. Someone has to do something about this, and it sure as hell isn’t going to be the adults. No, it’s going to have to be Marcus and his friends’s job to take down the DHS, get their freedom back and save the country from destroying itself. No small feat for a guy who doesn’t even get straight A-s.

As far as Doctorow’s technical writing chops go, I gotta say that I’m not exactly impressed or awed in the slightest. His prose flows nicely from beginning to end, and the book is very well paced apart from a some missteps that were probably included to break up the rather heavy subject material into more digestible parts. The characterization isn’t very complicated, either; the bad guys are Bad and the good guys are without failure Good, and since this is Marcus’ show all the way, you end up with a fairly enjoyable, yet ultimately one-dimensional supporting cast.

Now, normally these would be things that took a lot of the fun out of the novel for me, but no so with “Little Brother”. I’m not saying that I totally disregard them either – flaws are flaws no matter how you look at them – but some flaws are easier to forgive then others when you’re given a context to understand them in. Besides, if you’re thinking of reading this book because of its literary qualities, then you’re in the wrong part of the book shop, my friend.

Because “Little Brother” is all about the Messages, and Doctorow is smart enough to go about them in a way that doesn’t feel like he’s hitting you over the head with his Mace o’ Politics. This book is about someone growing up in a world where the authorities lull they’re citizens into not thinking for themselves and taking everything without questioning the content. And that’s why it’s such an important book, because in a world that allows George W. Bush to get elected and prisoners of war to get tortured in Guantanamo, it could serve as a wake-up call to the new generation.

It’s also a really cool book. At least that’s why I thought, but then I’m generally quite interested in hacking, LARPing, ARGing, how to build computers and learning more about my security and how to protect my privacy. “Little Brother” teaches you about all these things and many more, and I felt genuinely enlightened after I put it down. I wanted to sit down next to my lap-top and google every single thing that Doctorow talks about. I wanted to learn how I could detect pin-head cameras by using toilet paper. I wanted to hack an Xbox.

That was the point with this book, and it got it across really well. I don’t normally do this with every good book I read, but I’m going to make sure that all my local librarians gets told of this book (I know three of them personally), and I’m going to make sure that every kid in my area gets the opportunity to read “Little Brother”, and maybe grow up a little smarter for it. If nothing else, it’ll be good for my cosmic karma.

This is not a literary masterpiece, but it’s rich in so many other ways that nothing should stop you from getting a hold of it. Who cares that it’s aimed at someone who’s younger than you? This book is more important that 99 % of the science fiction published this year.

I’m off to the library now.

I hope I’ll see you there.

9.0 /10

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