Review: Homeland by Cory Doctorow

Homeland by Cory Doctorow is the sequel to Little Brother, the thrilling and terrifying story of the overtaking of San Francisco by the Department of Homeland security following a terrorist attack. A group of technologically brilliant teens is missing one of their own, who is being held without reason by the DHS. Their attempts to free him include unveiling some very dirty secrets about the federal organization.

Homeland picks up a few years post-attack. Marcus is a college drop-out, following his parent’s unemployment and his own streak of bad luck following the 2008 economic crash. He and Ange are typical twenty-somethings until a not-so-friendly character from Little Brother returns and asks a huge favor of Marcus, one that leaves him struggling to stay out of the feds’ sight all the while staying true to the ethics he has lived his life by.

It would definitly be difficult to read Homeland without first reading Little Brother, so read both. Now. I was obsessed with the first, and will forever sing its praises. The second brought up even more scary ideas: our student loans are being bought up by private firms who are charging extravagent interest and late fees, even going after family members (read: not the person who took out the loan) if payments are late. Literally, people are paying thousands upon thousands more dollars because their loan happened to be purchased by a private firm.

Yeah. This is real. According to Elizabeth Warren, Senator from Massachusetts, the federal government will make $51 billion off student loans this year. Yeah. Billions.

I did not love Homeland the way I loved Little Brother but it is (almost) just as motivating a read. There is a boatload of technical jargon, so prepare yourself for a lesson in 3D printing and securing your Android phone. The most motivating part came at the end, the afterwords from Jacob Applebaum of Wikileaks and Aaron Swartz of Reddit (who sadly committed suicide in January…reading his name on the byline of the afterword stopped me short). He wrote of his own experience with challenging the status quo:

This is not how the system is supposed to work. A ragtag bunch of kids doesn’t stop one of the most powerful forces in Washington just by typing on their laptops! But it did happen. And you  can make it happen again.

I appreciate this kind of motivating talk from guys who’ve actyally done it. Swartz, Doctorow, and so the many techie-activisitst whose faces we will never see on book covers or websites. Their anonymity ensures their safety from the bad guys.

Recommended for:
Anyone who needs a kick in the butt. You cannot read this book and stay de-motivated and lazy. Also, for anyone interested in technology, activism, or hacker/makerspaces.

How to Lead a Life of Crime
by Kirstin Miller. Flick sees an injustice and fights against it. What begins on a small-scale (the revenge of his brother’s murder), becomes much larger when he sees how bad the bad guy’s influence actually reaches.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman is the story of a group of rogue teens who run away from the organ farm their parents sent them to. Teens see an injustice and fight against it. A bit dystopic, but proves that teenagers can take a stand and make a difference.

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