Book Review – Homeland by Cory Doctorow

cory doctorow portrait

Cory Doctorow’s book, Homeland is the sequel to his best selling book Big Brother.  I grabbed the book off the new release shelf at my local library before the librarian’s hand had fully released it. Fortunately, the librarians all know that I always pick the table closest to the new book shelf and they are used to my shark-in-feeding-frenzy mode when they put out new books… she was not shocked or alarmed and just smiled.

“You think it’ll be any good?” the librarian asked.

“It’s by Cory Doctorow, if it is only good, it’ll be the worse thing he’s ever written.  Anything else by him come in?  And did that copy of Little Brother get here yet?” I replied.

Normally, I would never read a sequel unless I had read what came before.  However, having read the reviews for Big Brother, I was not willing to wait for the book to come in with the sequel sitting right in front of me.

It may seem strange, at first, that I, at nearly half a century old, am reading a young adult book.  However, if you take into account just how timely the author is with his fiction and how many real world items he includes in them, one could just as easily state that I am reading a “current events” fiction novel.  You don’t have to be a kid to appreciate Christmas and you certainly don’t have to be a young adult to enjoy this novel.  For the adults out there, I think there are a number of topics they will likely learn about in this novel.

I am one who is very much in touch with matters such as TOR and darknet.  That being said, I am also aware that the most typical adult response when I bring such matter up is “what the heck is that?”.  This lack of knowledge and unwillingness to care are the precursors for adults judging people like Snowden as traitors and not whistle-blowers.  I also feel it is another reason why many adults don’t get many youth these days.  If you are an adult and the only name you recognize from above is a former Star Trek actor, you should seriously consider reading this book.  Don’t let young adult fool you, the story is good.  Not only will you enjoy it but you will learn a thing or two about the new cyber world we live in.

“Hackers” are not just the folks who loot bank accounts and IDs.  Yahoo.com was started by a few youthful hackers.  Water boarding was exposed by hackers.  In short, hackers can be good guys or bad guys.  Personally, I am all for “hacking the planet”.  I am all for encouraging all of us to have and entertain new thoughts.  The worse thing that can happen is that we try something new and screw things up. Then again, haven’t we already screwed things up enough by doing things “the way we always have.”?

Beyond what I have already revealed, I am not going to go into how good the plot, characters or any other aspects of the book are.  Cory Doctorow is an award winning author.  He is a prolific writer, a sought out speaker and a Fulbright scholar. Those aspects of the work are going to excel.  I am certain you can find reviews written on that topic with just a few keywords in Google.  In my opinion, if it is by Doctorow, it is going to be worth the read.  So why go this route with my review?

I don’t think many of the American educational institutions are going to encourage our youth to read anything that might even remotely have “hacking” as part of the story.  This is not to say that there are not exceptions and have not been positive things said by educators and institutions about this book but, especially based on my primary school experience, I do not see the majority of the American institutions putting this on a reading list anytime soon.  (However, since I was one of those kids who was almost expelled for bringing a few manuals by a certain Gary Cygax to school, I am far from unbiased on this topic.)  In fact, I think your average educator in your average school would likely discourage a book of this type.

Unfortunately, it seems like the majority of our educational system is still focused more on making conformists out of the masses and not encouraging free thinking.  I am of the George Carlin school of thought when it comes to youth, “Don’t just teach your children to read…teach them to question what they read, teach them to question everything.”  If we are to apply that, we should have them read books that question the way things are… better yet, why not let them chose what to read and decide for themselves.  I bet you high odds, they will not only like what Cory wrote but it shall inspire thought and questioning.

For my review, I am simply state why young adults should read this book.

  • First off, it is a good book.  It is a great story and well written.  If youth are to read well written books to learn to write better, this should be part of their homework.
  • The story about things going on in the world right now.  Important things that the youth of today should be aware of.  The author even uses real world people such as Wil Wheaton and David Gilmore as characters, even if they are only a cameo.  If the youth of today are not made aware of the events of this book (in the context of how they apply to the real world today), they are under-informed. It is also about a certain period of history in the world. If the works of Mark Twain and Shakespeare are part of what youth should read due to representing a historical period, we had better get this one on the reading lists as well.
  • The story is a call to action and, in my opinion, the story is intended to motivate the youth of today into action.  The book is more than a story for it is inspiration and motivation as well.
  • The Afterword by Jacob Appelbaum of WikiLeaks
  • The Afterword by the late Aaron Swartz
  • Cory’s bibliography at the end of the book.  I follow Cory almost to the point of stalking.  I still found 7 more sources that I was unaware of previously.  I also feel that his advice on how to use Wikipedia is something that all of us should reflect on… especially, checking the source and the debate.

If you are going to buy a copy please use my affiliate links below.  Thanks for reading and feel free to leave a comment below.

In case you do not like to read sequels out of order, here is a link the first book in the series.

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