by Cory Doctorow
Read by Kirby Heyborne
Produced by Listening Library
11 hours 53 minutes
I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into when I started this audiobook but It turned out to be a fun ride. This book was offered as a free summer read from AudiobookSync Young adult summer audiobook program. This program always has great weekly free audiobooks and they pair up a modern YA literature with a classic piece of literature. When this book came out it was teamed up with George Orwell’s “1984.” The books are always teamed up with a theme and knowing that I loved “1984,” I thought I’d give this book a try.
The target audience would probably be a freshman in high school or older, but I started listening with my son who was in 5th grade at the time in the car with me on a trip. He got so engrossed in the story that he insisted that I only listened while he was also listening and only on long trips. So here I am a year or so later and finally finished this book. I had to actually finish it up on my own, because I was eager to find out what happened to, Marcus a.k.a. W1n5ton a.k.a. M1k3y.
The subject matter of this story, at the time of its release, was very topical. After terrorists strike, the question arises, “How much of our freedom are we willing to give up to be safe?” All the time I was listening to this book the Benjamin Franklin quote, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety,” kept coming to mind. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11 here in the U.S. many of our liberties were taken away under the name of freedom and that controversial P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act. So the events in this book parallel the real world events of the early 21st century, and while you never know what is going to happen, you will keep saying, “hmmm…that could happen.” The big question is, “Did it already happen?”
Okay, before I go and try to demystify this book I do have to say that the reader, Kirby Heyborne was the perfect voice for this audiobook. His voice captured the emotions and spirit of the main character Marcus perfectly. He was also able to perfectly alter his voice just enough to signify changes of characters’ dialogues and keep it consistent through the book.
The beginning of this book introduces to the tech savvy high-schooler Marcus who already has experience “fighting the man” in his high school, by being able to deceive the gait recognition software on the school’s surveillance system and able to do all sorts of tricks with his public issued phone. This story takes place in the near future and cell phones are a must and in order to make sure everyone has one they are sponsored by corporations. Marcus hacks his phone and does things that the average user cannot do. One of the things he does is search for wi-fi networks to play the game Harajuku Fun. Harajuku Fun is a type of role-playing game where while skipping school the kids can get clues through various wi-fi hotspots.
One day while skipping school and playing this game with his friends in downtown San Francisco, the Oakland Bay Bridge is bombed. At the time the kids don’t know what is going on and the same goes with the rest of the population. While fear grows everyone makes their way to the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit subway system) to try to head home they are jostled by the crowd. Knowing the overcrowding of the subway stops is not going to be the safe way to go Marcus and his friends head the opposite direction. In going against the grain they look suspicious. Homeland security finds them and sweeps them up and into the unmarked van.
The friends are kept separate in a prison area and question about their motives and reasons for being in the area. When Marcus refuses to give the officials his password to get into his phone they see him as a terrorist or at least working with the terrorists, and you may remember the great quote from the U.S. president at the time of 9/11, “You’re either with us or against us.” This puts Marcus on the “against us side.” After weeks of torture with no contact with the outside world Marcus breaks and gives his password. Eventually he and his friends (except for one) are taken home. The problem is where’s Daryl? the one left behind. Marcus and his friends are warned to never speak of their imprisonment or they will be brought back in with no hope for release.
Soon Homeland Security begins taking away the populations few liberties by monitoring where everyone is at all times and when something seems strange average citizens are arrested. The department uses the toll passes that people use in their cars to travel the many toll areas in the Bay area, monitoring BART passes and all public transportation passes. If someone looks like they stray from the norm the local police sweep in and incarcerate the suspects. The department even starts monitoring private citizen’s internet usage.
As a bit of rebellion, Marcus combines the gaming system of the X-Box with a linux operating system to create an anonymous web experience called the X-net. The X-netters soon organize under Marcus’ online identity of M1k3y and create RFID spoofers and change the data stored on toll passes, BART passes and create total anarchy with the average citizen having no idea of what is being done, thus keeping Homeland Security busy arresting nearly everyone, creating a bottleneck of investigations.
Homeland Security gets wise and is now out to catche M1k3y, unaware it is Marcus. Marcus soon has to become more paranoid than the government and try to find a way to find out what happened to his friend Daryl.
In an exciting cyber-adventure this story will keep you enthralled until the climactic ending. Great story and nice anarchist mixed with hippies attitude about keeping us in a free world.