Seventeen-year-old Marcus studies at a normal school in San Francisco set in the very near future. In this case normal school means total surveillance over the students, complete control over their movement and what they read. Marcus is knowledgeable and rebellious enough to fool the system into giving himself some freedom and privacy. One normal day at school follows another until Marcus and his friends escape it during a break and almost perished in a terrorist attack.
The survivors are rounded up by the Department of Homeland Security and sent to an old prison to sort them out. Marcus refused to cooperate initially still thinking the standard justice procedures are applied to terrorist suspects and as a result earned himself a status of one. I do not need to say about the state of surveillance after a terrorist attack (hint: it increased to the level of that of Big Brother), but Marcus does not like it and thinks he can fool the system by his usual methods and discredit it. Can he really?
I am sorry, but this review would be much more political than my usual ones. It is impossible for it not to be. For starters let us just say that the terrorists won:
If you think I exaggerate, just try crossing US/Canada border to see that I talk about, and these are two friendly neighboring nations which are very close to each other.
I would be the first one to admit that Cory Doctorow preaches in this book. He preaches a lot. However his preaching is related to very important subjects that fall under the radar for a lot of people: internet privacy, cryptography, snooping, false positives paradox, and other related things.
He does provide a crash course for all of these from technical point of view and while he tries to keep thing simple the amount of information can still be overwhelming at times. It is still a good idea to read it to get the most general idea on the topic, at the very least.
I cannot stress the importance of the lessons in the book enough. In my opinion this book should be a must read for anybody with an IQ higher than that of an average potato. Do not expect an easy read and it does get depressing the way the classic 1984 gets depressing - this novel has some similarities with the latter, except that it hits way too close to home quite often - too often to qualify for a comfort reading.
The plot combined with the importance of discussed subjects yields 4.5 stars