Homeland by Cory Doctorow

Posted by on Jul 9, 2014 in Book Reviews, Ontario | 0 comments

HomelandSummary: In the sequel to Little Brother, Marcus is mysteriously approached by Masha at an event called The Burning Man with a USB stick containing the key to unlocking secrets from the US government with strict instructions to release the documents if something happens to her. When he sees Masha being kidnapped and can’t stop it, Marcus takes some time to realise he must follow through on his promise. Uncovering over 800,000 files detailing horrendous abuses of power, Marcus teams up with some old friends to go through them and figure out how to leak them to the public. Living in San Francisco in an environment ripe for change, Marcus learns to stand up for what he believes is right and take steps to hold people accountable when needed.

Number of Pages: 396

Age Range: 15-17

Review: Reading a Cory Doctorow book is like reading a textbook. This may sound like an insult, but I mean it in the best possible way. Each book I read of his (I’ve read three now) leaves me infinitely more informed than when I started and inspires me to be more conscientious about my role in society. His books are educational and a call to arms for teen citizens to take personal responsibility in their communities and become a force for change, supplying them with the ideas and tools needed to do so.

From Homeland, I learned about the dangers of unauthorized surveillance, the need to be more paranoid when it comes to my electronics, and the best way to make coffee. I googled the punchline of the Spanish joke Doctorow mentions, and I agree it was pretty funny. I loved the appearance of Wil Wheaton(!) in the story, because like Marcus, he was also one of the first people I followed on Twitter.

But what I love most of all is that Doctorow always expands my knowledge with his well researched writing and continues to remind me of just how much I don’t know about how the world works. I enjoyed his follow-up to Little Brother, and find after reading it I am left with a profound feeling of gratitude toward my parents for paying all of my university tuition. Homeland is a book I would recommend to mid to older teen readers. At times it was a bit of a challenging read as I was figuring out technical terms, but I loved it nonetheless.

Memorable Quotes:

“As I helped the librarian roll up the scroll – she agreed that the Twain piece was really funny – and put it away. I ‘d said, unthinkingly, ‘It’s such a shame that they’re going to burn all these.’

She’d smiled sadly and said, ‘Well, sure, but that’s the point, isn’t it? Ninety percent of the works in copyright are orphan works no one knows who owns the rights to them, and no one can figure out how to put them back into print. Meanwhile, the copies of them that we do know about are disintegrating or getting lost. So there’s a library out there, the biggest library ever, ninety percent of the stuff anyone’s ever created, and it’s burning, in slow motion. Libraries burn.’ She shrugged. ‘That’s what they do. But maybe someday we’ll figure out how to make so many copies of humanity’s creative works that we’ll save most of them from the fire.'” – Conversation between Marcus and the librarian at The Burning Man from Homeland by Cory Doctorow, pages 26-27

“This all more or less worked, most of the time, and it meant that within a few minutes of copying any files onto my laptop, they would be encrypted, copied to my desktop drive, and copied again to Noisebridge’s array. That server was synched up with a massive storage farm run by and for hackspaces, located in an old nuclear fallout shelter somewhere in England (seriously!). So yeah, do your worst, steal my laptop, burn down my house, nuke San Francisco, and I’ll still have a backup.” – Marcus from Homeland by Cory Doctorow, page 79

“Either way, I wasn’t going to use my IP address to download that file. My parents got their internet through AT&T, a scumbag phone company with a track record of handing over their customers’ data to the cops without court orders. Grabbing sensitive files off the net through them was like calling up the director of the DHS and saying, ‘Hey, are you missing any sensitive data? Because I’m small, defenseless, and unarmed, and I got ’em. Want my address?'” – Marcus from Homeland by Cory Doctorow, page 81

“But lately, computer manufactors have been figuring out how to design chips to run VMs more efficiently, so the gap between a VM and the real computer it runs on keeps shrinking. This means that it’s easier than ever to try out new operating system and new programs. If there’s something you’re really paranoid about, you can just run a free VM program, install a free OS on it, and run anything you want in that little sandbox. Nothing that happens in that VM can affect your real computer – not unless you give it privileges to see your real hard drive and real files. The VM is like a head in a jar, and you can tell it anything you want about what’s going on in the world and it’ll have to believe you.” – Marcus from Homeland by Cory Doctorow, page 107 *VM means virtual machine and OS stands for operating system

“‘It’s pretty weak to dismiss it as a hoax until you’ve seen it yourself, don’t you think?’ I said. ‘I mean, why would you take some random Internet idiot’s word for it instead of checking it out with your own two eyes? Don’t you have a brain? Don’t you know how to think.'” – Marcus from Homeland by Cory Doctorow, page 233

“I’d heard that theory a few times and it just didn’t hang together – it seemed like the kind of thing you’d only believe in if you were looking for an excuse to distrust the government. I didn’t need any excuse to distrust the government. I didn’t need to speculate about the unlikely possibility that they’d blown up the Bay Bridge to find a reason to believe that there were people in power who were just waiting for the chance to set up a police state. I distrusted the government because when the Bay Bridge blew, the city of San Francisco became a police state in the space of hours. Either that meant that some evil genius attacked the Bay Bridge in order to send in all his authoritarian thug henchmen, or it meant that there were people out there who were just waiting for any disaster, standing by with a whole well-developed plan for unleashing their goons on people who’ve just lived through some kind of terrible emergency.” – Marcus from Homeland by Cory Doctorow, pages 288-289

“‘You need to get past this romantic idea of justice and realize that some stuff just is.’

‘I hate that,’ I said. ‘It’s like there’s no human beings in the chain of responsibility, just things-that-happen. It’s the ultimate cop-out. The system did it. The company did it. The government did it. What about the person who pulls the trigger?’

‘Yeah,’ she said. ‘Well, that’s a nice fairy tale.'” – Conversation between Masha and Marcus from Homeland by Cory Doctorow, pages 369-370

“But somehow, that little voice I knew to be my own, the little voice that told me all the time about the ways I’d screwed up, the way I’d let other people do the driving, the way I let life push me around – that little voice shut up the instant I did something. And not just something: the exact thing I knew to be right. Because if the system was broken, if Carrie Johnstone wasn’t going to ever pay consequences for her actions, it wasn’t because ‘the system’ failed to get her. It was because people like me chose not to act when we could. The system was people, and I was part of it, part of its problems, and I was going to be part of the solution from now on.” – Marcus from Homeland by Cory Doctorow, page 376

“Be the trouble you want to see in the world, above nationalism, above so-called patriotism, above and beyond dear and make it count for the betterment of the planet. Legal and illegal are not the same as right and wrong – do what is right and never give up the fight.” – from the Afterword by Jacob Appelbaum featured in Homeland by Cory Doctorow, page 384

Homeland by Cory Doctorow is published by Tor Teen, (2013).

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