Book Book Book Book
Commentary Commentary RSS Reviews Podcasts_Audio Podcasts RSS Blog Links Archives Indexes
Cory Doctorow
Tor Teen / Tor / Tom Doherty Associates
Us Hardcover First Edition
ISBN 978-0-765-33369-8
Publication Date: 02-05-2013
400 Pages; $17.00
Date Reviewed: 02-10-2013
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2013

Index Science Fiction, General Fiction Mystery  

"Attending Burning Man made me simultaneously one of the most photographed people on the planet and one of the least surveilled humans in the modern world." The seeming paradox that opens 'Homeland,' Cory Doctorow's sequel to 'Little Brother,' is indicative of the delightful mind-twisting gymnastics that await the reader within. Effective both as a sequel and as a standalone novel, 'Homeland' offers up a vision of a murky disaster and its difficult-to-discern consequences. Marcus Yallow, Doctorow's engaging narrator, finds himself in what seems to be a better place after the events in 'Little Brother.' He's got a steady girlfriend, Ange, and a great reputation thanks to the combination of tech savvy, common sense and moral clarity that helped him take down military thugs who tried to silence him.

But that clarity is easily diluted when he's handed a cache of information that makes the documents in Wikileaks look like yesterday's news. The days of easily-made decisions are quickly put behind him, and soon enough Marcus finds himself up against some of the same forces that tried to take him out before, but with no clear path of escape. The Internet is not longer a source of clarity; it's been replaced with the Darknet, and Marcus is one of those who helps set it up. The dividing line has dissolved, and with no demarcations, solving a problem that is both too big to comprehend and too diverse to corral requires a new set of skills that's not so obvious as to require mere common sense or tech savvy. When the problems involve solutions that promise injury to those we love, those solutions themselves become problematic.

'Homeland' may be marketed to the Young Adult audience, and it is certainly suitable, but not limited in appeal. Marcus Yallow tells the story in the first person, and he has an engagingly didactic voice. You'll have a hell of a good time learning all about the Darknet, cell phone tracking, and lie detector technology, to mention just a few topics that speed through the pages. You'll also see a character grow up as he is forced to face a crisis that is nebulously defined and morally unclear. No matter what is happening, there's an upbeat, page-turning tone to the prose.

Doctorow's challenge in this novel is two-fold; he has to remind readers of the events in 'Little Brother' while writing a novel with a new and different problem. His solution is really quite ingenious. He uses the events that precede this novel as elements to build the world, referring to them as a science-fictional backdrop. Without the data-dumps, or scroll-rolling, we're immersed in a new post-'Little Brother' San Francisco, where Marcus, now a smallish celebrity, becomes embroiled in a new thriller plot. Once Doctorow has his readers immersed in the new plot, we're hooked.

'Homeland' offers up the same combination of humor, how-to and snark that drove 'Little Brother,' as Marcus is called upon to confront the fallout from the slow motion disaster that is boiling the American frog, so to speak — the financial fiasco that makes an excellent front for all sorts of corporate and governmental malfeasance. Doctorow ratchets up the paranoia with incredible ease and, without lecturing, makes a variety of observations that are chilling and informative. 'Homeland' works equally well as a thriller and a mission statement. It's certainly going to rile up its readers.

Like 'Little Brother,' 'Homeland' includes two Afterwords. Jacob Applebaum of Wikileaks provides the first and the late Aaron Swartz provides the second. Swartz tells us, "This stuff is real." It's a powerful, poignant finish.

Technology, morality and economics have us in a grip that seems inescapable. Everywhere we turn, something seems to set limits on what we can expect and what we can achieve. The charm of 'Homeland' is that Doctorow takes us to a tomorrow that feels like today, only worse than we can imagine, but shows us, all of us, as better than we believe.

Review Archive
All Reviews alphabetized by author.

General Fiction
Non-Genre, general fiction and literature.

Supernatural fiction, supernatural horror and non-supernatural horror.

Science Fiction
Science fiction, science fantasy, speculative fiction, alternate history.

Fantasy, surrealism and magic realism.

Crime, thrillers, mystery, suspense.

Non-Fiction, True Crime, Forteana, Reference.


Archives Indexes How to use the Agony Column Contact Us About Us