Good story. Annoying political agenda.
The story is about seventeen year old San Francisco high school student Marcus Yallow, who in the wake of a terrorist attack is arrested, held and tortured by the Department of Homeland Security. Marcus is a techno-geek and a smart-aleck, but he’s no terrorist. Well, at least he’s not a terrorist until he comes close to crossing the line when he makes it his goal to thwart the increasingly repressive and totalitarian methods of the DHS in their abortive and draconian attempts to find and arrest the real terrorists.
If you’re a techno-geek, interested in web security, surveillance systems, privacy issues, etc., you’ll enjoy this book. Doctorow explains some of this stuff, but manages to keep the pace of the story moving for the most part. (There were a few pages about something called “keysigning” where my eyes glazed over, and I never did get it.) I was intrigued by the thriller aspect of the story, and I read the book in one sitting to find out what would happen to poor, mistreated, genius Marcus and his war on the DHS.
However, if you’re easily annoyed by an attempt to propagandize for liberal politics, don’t start it. You won’t be able to put it down, but you’ll find the exaggeration and mischaracterization and lack of nuance and balance irritating. Yes, this book is set in a fictional dystopian future, but it’s quite heavy-handed in its blatant attempt to make sure we get the message: “Be careful! This kind of repression could happen here! Especially if those right wing repressive Republican types are in charge!”
I don’t doubt that tyranny and the abrogation of our civil rights could take place in the United States of America, but I don’t see the moves in that direction coming mostly from the right. It’s the leftists who want to define certain words and ideas as “hate speech” and control what we can say and when we can say it. And it’s the Democrats who keep manufacturing and using crises to further their own agenda and take away our freedoms.
The Global Warming Crisis is being used to restrict our freedom of movement and our freedom to live our lives as we see fit, buying and using the energy resources that we want and need to make our lives easier and more enjoyable.
The Health Care Crisis is being manipulated to take away our commercial freedoms to see whatever doctors we choose and pay for whatever health care we can afford.
The Economic Crisis has become an excuse to take away the fruits of our labor in taxes and to mortgage the labor of our children and grandchildren in order to pay off massive debts to China and other lender countries and banks, debts that I did not want to incur and that my representatives in Congress did not vote to authorize. And my children and grandchildren certainly were not consulted about having to work for their entire lives to pay back money that they didn’t ask to borrow.
The So-Called Population Explosion has been for the last forty some odd years one justification for denying the basic right to life (without which there can be no liberty or pursuit of happiness) to millions of unborn babies.
And Doctorow is worried about The Patriot Act, which is, I agree, flawed, but quite under-utilized and largely ineffective?
OK I didn’t mean to get so politically strident in a book review, but well, my excuse is: Mr. Doctorow did it first!
George Orwell (whose novel 1984 is the obvious inspiration for at least the title of Mr. Doctorow’s book): “In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.”
“Liberal: a power worshipper without power.”
“So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don’t even know that fire is hot.”