Sunday night I was up until 1 AM reading. Last night I finished the book at 2 AM. That probably tells you all you need to know about my opinion of the book. Breck read it in one sitting the day it came in. I handed him the book at 1:30 PM and he was done at dinner time.
My thoughts on the book in no particular order.
First and foremost it's a damn entertaining yarn. Even if you ignore the message (which I'm not sure is possible) it's just a great story.
The message is important. The author, Cory Doctorow, used to be the European Director for the EFF. He is clearly trying to influence teenagers to take civil rights seriously, to not lay down and let the government continue to erode our freedom in the name of safety. It's not a fair trade, and they are not making us safer anyway. He demonstrates that line of thought brilliantly in the book.
Cool technology and civil rights issues aside, at it's core this is a coming of age story about a 17 year old who through the horror of a terrorist attack on San Francisco, his imprisonment and torture by the Dept. of Homeland Security, his success galvanizing some action against the government oppressors, and falling in love for the first time, figures out who is he and what is important to him in life. I wish I'd figured that stuff out at 17. Hell, I'm not sure I have it totally figured out today!
The book contains an epilogue by noted security guru Bruce Schneier, and a bibliography of resources for teens interested in learning more about the issues raised in the book.
Given my diverse readership, I should probably offer up a mild content warning. Our hero is a 17 year old computer and gaming geek. He may be thinking about PKI encryption way more than the average kid, but he isn't thinking about sex any less often. It may be a YA book, but it's a YA book that treats teens like young adults, and not over grown children.
That said, I think every 14 year old in the country should read this book. Their parents too. You don't even have to buy it. Cory gives all his books away for free online. For a traditional bound copy, try Amazon. 20 years from now, we make look back at 2008 as a turning point. The year we turned away from a jingoistic selfish view of the world. It may be also be the year we stopped trading freedom for security, and ending up with less of both. If that second one comes to pass, it won't surprise me at all if many of our leaders in 2030 reference Little Brother as a major influence in their life.