Saturday, January 10, 2009

#5 - Little Brother

Sometimes, even before I begin, I've got to digress. We've been watching The Wire, and after I finished reading and blogging on Tuesday I had no idea what to read. Pulled down a few books from the shelf, looked at them, and was not inspired. I gave up, put a novel beside my bed, and then started to watch "Dead Soldiers." The teleplay was written by Dennis Lehane. The literary lightbulb went off and, when we paused for a moment, I grabbed The Given Day down and read before bed.

The next morning was snowy, cold, miserable and full of bad news. I read the book waiting (an hour plus, weather delays and general mayhem) for the Super-Fancy Disease Doctor, and then went in to hear my fate. When he was asking me about the dose of one of my meds, I had to pull the book out of my bag. He picked it up, started going on about how a "buddy" had been raving about it, and that it's the best book he'd read in a long time. I said, "You can have that copy."

SFDD said, "Really?"

I said, "I have another one in my office, it's our book, we publish him."

He looked a little shocked for a moment, thanked me, laughed, said that he never takes gifts from patients and winked, "But I will take this though." Heh.

So, there goes my copy of The Given Day. On the way into the office via the TTC, I started reading The Picture of Dorian Gray on my Sony Reader until I got into the office. I had to run into a meeting the moment I got into work; afterwards, Liza (the key person for kids books in sales) pulled me into a little meeting and said, "You have to read this book." She handed me a copy of Cory Doctorow's Little Brother. So suddenly, in the span of 12 hours, I've been through three different books and not finished a single one.

And I loved it, Little Brother. In some ways it reminded me a little of War Games, but for this century. Marcus and his friends are out and about in San Francisco, bunking off school to play in a large-scale game organized online and played in the real world. And then a giant bomb goes off in San Francisco -- a terrorist attack upon the city. Marcus and his friends, Darryl, Van and Jolu, are scooped up and taken to a form of Guantanamo Bay. Eventually they let Marcus go, but after five days inside, the entire world has changed and DHS (Homeland Security) has taken over everything, tracking people by their public transit cards, their internet access and all kinds of other complex and unseemly stuff. While three of his friends get out, Darryl's left behind, and this spurns Marcus on to buck the system. To force his freedom as far out as humanly possible to make the point that living in a police state means the terrorist win.

There's a lot of complex material in the book, loads of interesting tidbits of information, and Doctorow dispels them in ways that pull you further into the story without making you feel like a dolt because you've never heard of arphids or Kerouac. There's a sweet love story, a kid with a great relationship with his parents, and a brain big enough to have DHS running around in circles until it all comes crashing to a head. Writing intelligent, engaging fiction for young adults isn't easy, the tone has to be just right, the subject matter can't alienate the audience, and if it has cross-over appeal to the adult market, all the better. Little Brother hits all of these points and then some. But mainly, I had fun reading it, completely unexpected, totally giddy fun.

And because Kerouac's one of my favourites too, I couldn't help but mark this lovely passage:
There was a rhythm to the words, it was luscious, I could hear it being read aloud in my head. It made me want to lie down in the bed of a pickup truck and wake up in a dusty little town somewhere in the central valley on the way to LA, one of those places with a gas station and a diner, and just walk out into the fields and meet people and see stuff and do stuff.
Me too.

READING CHALLENGES: Doesn't count toward a single one. In fact, knocked me off course completely in terms of my reading but when someone at work says, "you've got to read this," really, you don't have a choice.

WHAT'S UP NEXT: Finishing The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Given Day.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

If you liked this, and crave something similar, I suggest Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. It's a quick read, but excellent material- I couldn't believe how much I enjoyed it. A great book to take with you on the subway

Sandra said...

Great doctor story. :) I look forward to your thoughts on the Given Day. I haven't got to it yet but I've read every book Lehane has written so far and liked them all.