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  • gilwilson 10:18 PM on September 12, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , big brother, , cyber fiction, , hacking, homeland security, little brother, san francisco, , , , totalitarianism,   

    “Little Brother” by Cory Doctorow 

    “Little Brother”
    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.

  • gilwilson 2:04 PM on February 2, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , cyber fiction, , , robert j. sawyer, , , www:watch,   

    “WWW:Watch” by Robert J. Sawyer 

    by Robert J. Sawyer
    Multi-Voice Performance
    Produced by Brilliance Audio
    Approx. 12 Hours

    I think I may have listened to one of the most fun, nerdy, geeky, adventurous audiobooks I’ve ever heard.  The premise of the story is out there yet almost a reality, the characters are all believable and have depth and the pop culture references are timeless (yeah, I know, timeless pop culture?).

    First of all let me say the use of multiple voices was perfectly done.  This wasn’t an audio drama type of performance but rather the different voices read the different sections, the main characters each had a separate voice (Caitlin and WebMind) and one voice was reading when the government agencies were involved and another voice was reading when the section referring to the subplot was being read.  Each voice was perfectly cast and definitely keeps the listener enveloped by the story.

    Let’s talk about the story.  When looking for an audiobook to hear next, I was intrigued by the description of the story.  A girl is born blind and is enabled to see with a retinal implant which when first connected is also connected to the internet so the doctor/scientist that created the technology can monitor it from overseas, enables the girl to view webspace.  The ether in which the world wide web inhabits.  She sees the web as a series of circles (the websites) connected with multi-colored lines (links).  Upon further examination she discovers a presence in the background of the web, this presence turns out to be an artificial intelligence created by lost packets of information on the internet.

    Very intriguing description, so I gave it a shot.  I was not ready for the excellent book that came out of “WWW:Watch.”  This book is an adventurous journey through the internet that discusses the benefits of sentience and humanity.

    Caitlin Decter, born blind, receives a retinal implant that allows her to see.  The doctor responsible is from Japan and creates the ability for her to not only see the real world but accidentally see webspace.  Caitlin notices the presence in the background of the web and begins to explore.  The doctor keeps Caitlin connected to the internet through her eye via a connection through her iPod.  Caitlin soon discovers the presence is an accidentally created artificial intelligence which she dubs WebMind.  WebMind is actually helped into being when Caitlin begins trying to communicate with the being.  For a while WebMind and Caitlin maintain an online relationship as he learns about the world.  WebMind is only limited to text so all he knows is what he reads, and he’s read the entire internet.  WebMind asks Caitlin to get her doctor to try and make an algorithm that can enable him to view graphics and videos.  To do this Caitlin must first tell her parents of the entity, after all she’s only 16.  Her parents at first think WebMind is an online predator and when Caitlin’s father, a somewhat autistic former physics professor, now employed by the world’s largest think tank, forms a series of tests, he learns WebMind is what he says he is, an emergent A.I.

    Once this starts to happen the U.S. Government begins to discover the workings of the emergent A.I. and under command of the President begin to try to destroy WebMind before he can destroy the world.  It’s at this point when references to “Terminator,” “The Matrix” and other such movies start to arise.  Caitlin is even reading the George Orwell book “1984” and even notions of Big Brother begin to be discussed.

    Once WebMind is capable of viewing graphics and video he begins searching the internet for more information.  He comes across a young girl in Australia who is committing suicide via webcam.  Out of curiosity he watches.  When Caitlin learns he just watched and didn’t do anything to stop the girl, she begins to teach webmind morality.  WebMind can learn and know what is right and what is wrong but  that doesn’t seem to be enough.  Using gameplay theory the devise a plan in which WebMind will help humanity when it is a win/win for all involved.  WebMind wants to go public.  To do so Caitlin’s family devise a plan to help WebMind introduce himself to the world.

    WebMind destroys all spam e-mail.  This alone would have me sold, but that’s just me.  The government realizes that this is a perfect example of how WebMind can encroach upon privacy issues.  The government then decides to up their attacks on WebMind and try to end his existence.

    WebMind and Caitlin team up online in a battle to determine whether or not Caitlin’s Big Brother is tougher than the government’s Big Brother.  In an exciting adventure through cyberspace and beyond.  This audiobook should be on your “must read” list.

    One final note, there is a really interesting subplot in the book about a chimpanzee/bonobo hybrid that has been taught sign language and the trainers and a zoo are battling over who should have custody over the ape.  The ape must prove sentience and with the help of WebMind has an arsenal of intelligence that springs hope, and brings up some great references to the “Planet of the Apes” series of movies.

  • gilwilson 6:25 PM on August 21, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , constitution, cyber fiction, national security, , , , ,   

    “Directive 51” By John Barnes 

    Podcast (to listen to review click here)

    “Directive 51”
    By John Barnes
    Read by Susan Ericksen
    Produced by Brilliance Audio
    approx 21.5 hours

    All you cyber junkies, technophiles and just anyone enjoying today’s modern comforts, enjoy them while you can, because if John Barnes new novel “Directive 51” is a glimpse into our future we could easily find ourselves flung back to times where technology doesn’t exist. “Directive 51” takes a look at an America where terrorists, both foreign and domestic all attack at once and not only are the creature comforts threatened but so is the Constitution of the United States of America.

    The year is 2024 and many factions are tired of America’s slothfulness and reliance upon technology. This time they all band together in a movement called Daybreak and bring not only America but the world to its knees. Think about this in today’s political world, there are many factions of those that want things to change in America. You’ve got the potentially violent militias, KKK, and other political factions such as; the tea party movement, Greenpeace, PETA, and many more. Now picture that on one day all these groups got together and since the big picture was to bring down the government and big business they all “attack” in their own way, all at the same time. Throw into this mix a Muslim terrorist group that has secretly infiltrated this domestic movement, all at once and our government would be scrambling, not knowing which side the enemy was hitting from. Being slightly set in the future John Barnes has created some nasty domestic weapons that these Daybreakers use. Weapons such as nanoswarm, which are tiny microscopic robots that attack electronics using the parts to reproduce the swarm and get carried along in the wind destroying cars, computers, mp3 players and anything electronic. Next we throw in a bio weapon that destroys plastics and other man made compounds reducing them to a smelly pile of mush. That would definitely put a hurt on today’s society.

    In “Directive 51” this happens along with the kidnapping of the vice president. As the plane is hunted by the military, the nanoswarm and plastic eating biotes are wreaking havoc on the system. The V.P.’s plane is found flying back in to the U.S. through the Baja Peninsula in Mexico and just as the plane is being tracked Daybreak strikes again taking out the radar systems on the west coast. The plane is loaded with a super powerful nuclear fusion bomb and headed to the final game of the World Series in Anaheim, California. Before the plane reaches it’s destination it is shot down over the California desert, killing the V.P. (if he weren’t already dead.) This devastates the President who was lifelong best friends with his V.P. and the President loses his mental faculties and resigns. This is where the governmental structure of America begins to deteriorate much like the plastics.

    In searching for the next successor the turmoil begins. The actual next successor is not a natural born citizen so, according to the Constitution cannot hold the office, the next in line is a senator that has been around since the 1970s and is a cantankerous liberal Democrat. He immediately begins promising jobs soon and not listening to the reports of food riots, violence and the deteriorating infrastructure in America, instead he rides around in a limousine and makes promises. Thanks to technology getting destroyed by Daybreak, the only form of mass communication is a newspaper set up by a woman that remembers the days of newspapers, but when she begins supporting the Republican candidate in her paper (yes it is also and election year) the acting president sends his newly formed special group of guards to arrest her and cease the operations of the newspaper.

    This book goes on with many more turnovers in the government while at the same time Americans are having to struggle and reform without the use of any technology. Just when you think the book is about to come to a peaceful “happy” ending, the author throws another wrench into the works. Such as 5 strategically placed fusion bombs which destroy Washington D.C. and the new government, and Chicago, Jerusalem, Shanghai, China and most of Europe.

    This book takes what is best about the U.S. Government and people and puts them to the test, showing that the culture can survive but it is not easy. Even through a possible civil war it is the Constitution that keeps America alive. John Barnes shows this extremely well in what can be called a thinking man’s sci-fi novel.

    The reader, Susan Ericksen, has a tough job in reading this one, but she pulls it off beautifully. I’ve listened to other audiobooks read by Ericksen and have always been amazed by her ability to create many different characters with her voice and in this book she carries on with that same talent. Each character is given their own vocal qualities and not only does it make it easy to discern who is talking or thinking but also Ericksen makes the vocal qualities match the personality.

    This novel will have you entertained, enlightened and constantly thinking about society and politics. Great combination of social commentary, political debate and sci-fi are worked into “Directive 51.”

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